In a city home to millions, it can feel like everything has been done before. But some of the best bars that London has to offer aren’t always right in front of you, and we’ve compiled a list that is guaranteed to show you a different side to the capital.
1. La Cabina – 232 Kingsland Road E2 8AX
A little covert operation to get started? The entrance to La Cabina goes through a phone booth, which you’ll have to pick up to deliver the tagline: “From Sevilla to Shoreditch.” This (literally) underground bar is a mix of London dive bar with the bodegas in Barcelona. The perfect choice for the late nights that you want to start with a bang.
2. The Vault of Soho – 3 Greek Street, Soho, W1D 4NX
Another hidden corner of the city, this time behind a bookcase at the back of Milroy’s, a whisky specialist in Soho. The bar can be found downstairs in the store through the bookshelf and into the basement for some dangerously good cocktails. If not for the cocktails, you at least need to visit the bar’s very own Jack Russell terrier. Word of warning: you may want to make a booking, especially after lockdown.
3. The Natural Philosopher – 489 Hackney Road, E2 9ED
For a more vintage feel, try the Natural philosopher, situated in the storeroom of an old repair shop. The décor is deliberately warm and intimate, with burgundy walls straight from your Gatsby-led speakeasy dreams. Keep this one on your radar for when you want to escape the times.
4. BYOC – 11-13 Camden High Street, NW1 7JE
Inspired by the speakeasy culture of the 1920s, this little corner of London brings a sense of exclusivity. BYOC stands for ‘Bring Your Own Cocktail,’ and they mean exactly that. The premise is that you bring your own spirits, and the bartenders will take care of the rest. Perfect for those hunting for a unique underground experience from another era. The entrance fee is a little pricey at £30 but comes up to an average night of spending since you BYOC.
5. The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town – 122-16 Artillery Lane E1 7LS
The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town is hidden underneath the Breakfast Club of Spitalfields – which we recommend after a night at the basement bar for a hangover brunch. If you enjoy being in the know, and perhaps a touch of theatrics, tell the staff at the Breakfast Club that you would like to see the Mayor. Then follow the way past a casual fridge door into a cool cabin-inspired secret bar.
6. Looking Glass Cocktail Club – 49 Hackney Road, E2 7NX
Through the looking glass and out to a very vogue bar in a secret room. This bar is a very well-kept London secret, with a mix of charming period furniture and subtle mood lighting for an air of mystique and decadence. You can start your night with a bar-recommended Pool of Tears, a shot from their new menu to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Alice in Wonderland. Not to mention the bar prides itself on its incredible variety of entertainment every week.
7. Blame Gloria – 20 Bedford Street, WC2E 9HP
Perhaps not as hidden as some of the other members of this list, but the unassuming storefront of Blame Gloria does not prepare you for the inside. The underground cocktail bar is in the heart of Covent Garden, with excellent detailing for your Instagram shots, as well as a reputation for having the best parties. Blame Gloria is a night you’ll never forget.
This Prohibition inspired bar is the secret of the financial district. Nothing says power player like enjoying a cocktail in this underground bar, complete with plenty of Instagram worthy pieces and entertainers. Whether it’s your longing to experience the flapper era or belt out Beyoncé in this hidden speakeasy, the Bootlegger has something for everyone in the group.
9. The Reading Room – 235 Upper Street, N1 1RU
Stepping away from the roaring 20s on the US, the Reading Room instead is a Parisienne-inspired speakeasy hidden away on the first floor of The Library bar. The décor is vintage and dimly lit to ensure a secretive atmosphere. The live music will appeal to anyone looking for a post-lockdown dance night. Also, it’s rumoured that they sell killer cocktails, as well as absinthe… but you didn’t hear that from us.
10. Beast of Brixton – 89 Acre Lane SW2 5TN
An unassuming door, followed by an unassuming staircase, followed by the party to be at. Brixton’s best secret is a hidden bar above this independent restaurant. If you get carried away on a Saturday night – and you probably will – be sure to head back on a Sunday to have the only thing more famous than their parties: their roast dinner.
London has plenty of secrets, from the speakeasies of the 1920s to password-protected underground bars that just have to be explored. Be sure to leave your best kept London secrets in the comments.