Londoners love being clued-up. From knowing exactly where to stand on the underground platform for the doors to magically open in front of you, to nifty routes around Soho or just understanding that M&M world simply isn’t worth visiting. But the best hidden secrets are the bars that the tourists don’t know about, often squirrelled away below ground or on rooftops. Here are a few of our favourites…
Tourists, like pigeons, flock to Leicester Square. But unlike pigeons, the tourists stay very much at ground level. So why not soar above the crowds and enjoy a unique perspective on this iconic London landmark. The Rooftop bar is accessed through the Trafalgar St James hotel, take the lift to the right of reception and waft your way straight to the 7th floor rooftop bar. With amazing views, both across the square and over Whitehall toward Parliament, it’s a hidden gem not to miss. Sip a cocktail and sit back in the knowledge that nobody taking selfies below has any idea you’re up there.
Where: 2 Spring Gardens, St. James's, SW1A 2TS
Go To The Goat
Goat in Fulham may seem like a pretty standard pub, but ask to go to the Chelsea Prayer Room and you’ll be led to a door protected by an ever-changing code.
Through the door lies a corridor with a room at the end dedicated to cocktails. The secret ‘prayer room’ offers an indulgent cocktail list (every 10th cocktail’s on the house!) and the tiny bar is the perfect secret hideaway.
Where: 333 Fulham Road, Chelsea, SW10 9QL
Bring A Magnifying Glass
The speakeasy vibe is taken to its logical conclusion at Evans & Peel Detective Agency, an immersive experience set in a 1920s detective agency. Go all film noir, enjoying the period decor and the American style food and cocktails. But come with a good alibi, you need to blag your way in at the unmarked door where a detective will be waiting to vet you on the way in. A fun evening well worth it; try the Not Your Joe Average Martini.
Where: 310c Earls Court Road, Earls Court, SW5 9BA
To sip a glass of decent red wine and a taste a selection of cheese is to become a part of London history itself at Gordon’s Wine Bar. It’s the oldest wine bar in London, if not the country, and as you behold its low vaulted ceiling, gently dripping with condensation and flickering in the candle light it’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer timelessness of the place. Hidden down a steep wooden staircase off a busy thoroughfare by Charing Cross Station it’s also easy to miss, but to do so would be such a shame!
Where: 47 Villiers St, Embankment, WC2N 6NE
Hooray for Callooh Callay! Long the mainstay of Shoreditch’s vibrant cocktail scene, Callooh Callay is an East London marvel. But it hides a secret, The Jubjub. The secret bar is accessed via a wardrobe, Narnia-style, and once inside the intimate space enjoy an excellent selection of exclusive cocktails hidden away from the world.
Where: 65 Rivington Street, EC2A 3AY
Beast From The South West
It’s a beast, this one. The Beast of Brixton is a door behind a door up a flight of stairs, which opens out into an extraordinary space with sofas, a fire, wallpaper adorned with skull motifs and all washed down with lashings of tequila. Brixton may have been the centre of gentrification over recent years, but two floors of live music, cocktails and food is sold as ‘a house party round at The Devil’s’. Look out for their frozen Margarita!
Where: 89B Acre Lane, Brixton, SW2 5TN
How do you get in? Through a fridge. Riiiight… But really. Mayor of Scardey Cat Town (full marks for the name, by the way) is accessed by passing through a full-height Smeg Fridge, innocuously placed at the back of The Breakfast Club cafe. But once inside (or through) the fridge things open out into a hidden club, as playful as it is enjoyable and in the true speakeasy style. Great cocktails and a fun concept make this a hidden bar worth noticing.
Where: 12-16 Artillery Lane, E1 7LS
House Party Time!
Most houseparties are people’s houses, pretending to be a bar. But Little Blue Door flip the concept, it’s bar pretending to be a houseparty. And doing so very effecitively. Brand new from the team behind Little Yellow Door in Notting Hill, Little Blue Door is hosted by a fictional flatshare, so join the housemates, enjoy the cocktails (sipped out of a cafetiere, if you’re lucky) and dance on the tables!
Where: 871-873, Fulham Road, Fulham, SW6 5HP