London’s full of nooks and crannies to explore, which is definitely one of my favourite pastimes.
There’s an incredible amount of hidden gems scattered across the city and discovering them is all part of the fun.
But we’re running out of space for new venues, that’s for sure, but that may not be a bad thing, as some adventurous entrepreneurs have dug deep and looked outside the box, finding suitable space for bars and restaurants that you wouldn’t expect…
Initially, it looks like nothing more than a public telephone on the Kingsland Road. Believe me when I say nothing more than a public telephone, I walked past it every day for a month before realising it was much more.
This old telephone is attached to an industrial looking metal door, which is actually the entrance to La Cabina, a tapas bar in the evening which then transforms into a nightclub until the early hours of the morning. Open until 6am, this venue attracts all sorts of characters to say the least, and has great DJ’s on Thursday right through until Sunday, playing House, Disco and Techno.
The venue has a lot of character, the steep stairway leads you straight onto the dance floor from the entrance, you then wind through the crowd to the lounge area with a well stocked bar. The venue has a surprising amount of floor space for what was probably a dingy little basement in its previous life. So if you’re keen to surprise a date with a quirky tapas dinner or party all night beneath the Kingsland Road La Cabina should be just the spot for you.
Next up, probably the most wittyly named venue in London, is WC (wine and charcuterie) in Clapham Common. WC is attached to Clapham Commons underground station in a derelict, yes you guessed it, 120 year old water closet, or toilet to most people. Owner Jayke Magion was the lucky winner out of the 450 applicants who bidded for this amazing venue. It’s such an easy spot to miss, as you walk past it without noticing after exiting the tube station. The venue has clung onto its roots, with the interior being barely touched, maybe apart from a little bit of a scrub!
There are three fantastic booths for group parties which used to be the cubicles, and a row of stools and tables against the ‘pee wall’. The venue itself has a lot of history, being locally know as a gay meet up spot back in the sixties and seventies and there is evidence of this throughout the restaurant. In the actual mens bathroom, there are original love letters stuck to wall which were found in the rubble when the contractors moved in to clear the place out. There is also some explicit man on man graffiti in one of the booths, not leaving much to the imaginations of the diners! This place is a real hotspot for tinder dates, and you can see why with the low lighting, fine wine and sharing plates. Definitely one of the more special underground venues that London has to offer!
So we’re starting to get the idea that there’s a lot more than just a network of trains and sewers underneath our city’s surface, and the diversity continues with this incredible venue based under Leake Street in Waterloo, The Vaults. The venue mysteriously states ‘We are here to feed your curiosity and open your mind. Let The Vaults’ maze of underground tunnels swallow you whole.’ The Vaults host a whole array of different events, from pop-up cinemas to musicals, and they really go all out to impress guests with the decor for each event, dressing the place to the max.
The venue looks like it used to be an old storage space for train carriages among other things. The sheer size of the place is outstanding. They weren’t messing around when saying you could get lost in the maze of tunnels. This venue has gained more attention than the previous two, winning several awards such as Business of the Year 2014 and Start Up of the Year, and there is a whole list of awards it has been nominated for, such as Best Events Venue 2015. This is a real standout spot, offering something for everyone with such a wide range of events, and you know it’s going to be a night to remember in somewhere a rare as this.
Brunel Museum Thames Tunnel
Finally, the veteran of London’s underground venues, the Brunel Museum Thames Tunnel, the worlds first underground theatre. This place is mental, simple as. After opening in 1843, this venue was described as the Eighth Wonder of the World, with people travelling from all over to visit. On the opening day 50,000 made their descent into the tunnel, paying a penny for the experience. The tunnel soon became the most successful visitor attraction in the world.
Initially built to transport cargo, nearing the end of completion, the government ran out of money to build ramps to get the cargo in and out, so it became a visitor attraction. Today, the tunnel has been transformed into a museum, with a one of a kind function room that plays host to events such concerts, opera and plays. These events are only on a few times a year and sell out very quick so keep an eye out to cop a ticket before they’re all gone. If you aren’t lucky enough to get an event ticket there are guided walking tours and flootlit thames tunnel tours on every week, which is a great opportunity to see one of London’s true hidden gems.