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London’s best secret speakeasies.

by Holly on September 8, 2011

London’s best bars tend to be hidden away and have a slightly underground feel to them…inspired by the illicit pleasures of the Prohibition Era in the US

Nightjar, Old Street

You wouldn’t know Nightjar existed unless you know it – in fact I lived a two minute walk from it for months before learning of its existence.  The bar’s unassuming exterior – it doesn’t even have a sign – conceals a far more exciting interior.  It plays host to a programme of live jazz, swing and cabaret and serves some excellent prohibition cocktails.

Need a place to lay your head nearby?  Try the Hoxton Hotel

A mere five minutes walk from Nightjar – or an easy stumble if the cocktails have taken hold – is the Hoxton Hotel.  It’s the perfect spot to accompany a visit to uber-cool Nightjar, being possibly Shoreditch’s hippest hotel.

Check rates at the Hoxton Hotel

The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, Spitalfields

In the basement of Spitalfields’ perennially popular Breakfast Club is secret speakeasy The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town.  You enter via a Smeg fridge door which cleverly disguises the staircase down and are greeted by a quirky little haven, far from the crowds.  It may sound a bit pretentious, but this is utterly offset by the friendly service and laid back atmosphere.

Need a place to lay your head nearby? Try 196 Bishopsgate

Within spitting distance of The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town is 196 Bishopsgate Hotel, which houses 48 contemporary apartments.  It’s the perfect spot to recover from a little over indulgence in the bar, with all the comforts of home and more privacy than a hotel.

Check rates at 196 Bishopsgate Hotel

Cellar Door, Aldwych

Previously a public mens’ toilet – stick with me here – Cellar Door is a rare thing; an intimate, tourist-free bar in the heart of Covent Garden.  Entered through a staircase which literally disappears into the pavement, once inside it’s hard to believe the bar’s previous incarnation.  Tiny but with impeccable 1930s style decor – and serving some of the best cocktails in town – it’s one secret I’m not sure I should be sharing.

Need a place to lay your head nearby? Try One Aldwych

It would be impossible to find a hotel more perfectly placed for Cellar Door – the entrance to gorgeous One Aldwych is almost directly in front of the bar!  One Aldwych is also renowned for its excellent service and stunning interiors, including a swanky in-house cinema.

Check rates at One Aldwych

Experimental Cocktail Club, Chinatown

The ultimate speakeasy – with an unmarked door so discreet you’d be forgiven for missing it entirely.  This joint is an extension of a bar that took root in Paris and does its own twist on classic cocktails as well as crafting many of its own inventive concoctions.  The vintage cocktails are tempting but will set you back a three figure sum each, so watch your wallets.  Drop by early or on a weekday to sidestep the unpredictable door policy.

Even after finding the secret door to Experimental Cocktail Club, you’ll still need to blag your way past the bouncers!

Need a place to lay your head nearby? Try the Soho Hotel.

This stylish Soho sanctuary is just a short walk from Experimental Cocktail Club – and has a rather good hotel bar of its own.

Check rates at the Soho Hotel

The Soho Hotel – a good place to recover from your exploits at London’s secret bars!

And if you feel the need for a drink somewhere less underground, you could always make a beeline for one of the top 10 London hotel bars.

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Photo credits: ambernambroseFokko Muller, Ewan Munro, Josanna Sutka, Experimental Cocktail Club, Soho Hotel.

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September 15, 2011 at 4:44 am

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