The Ultimate London Speakeasy Guide
Last Updated: 25th March 2020 | Main image: Kansas Smitty’s
What follows is a list of the finest tucked-away, secret, hidden, or otherwise nearly-impossible-to-find bars.
Or, if you’re reading this for a second time, what follows is a list of bars that were tucked away, secret, hidden, or otherwise nearly-impossible-to-find …but are now as familiar to you as the back of your own hand.
And you should visit them all.
NOTE: It’s important to clarify at this point that while most of these bars are hidden behind bookshelves, telephone boxes and fridges, some of them are simply very difficult to find. Such is the way of the speakeasy.
JUMP TO: EAST LONDON | CENTRAL LONDON | WEST LONDON | SOUTH LONDON | NORTH LONDON
EAST LONDON SPEAKEASIES
Lounge Bohemia | Shoreditch
This Soviet-styled, 50s era, underground Czech cocktail spot has some of the most interesting cocktails in the city; expect them to come in perfume bottles, toothpaste tubes, and more unexpected vessels. And expect them to be delicious, too. READ MORE
How to get in: First, book ahead (0772 070 7000). Second, don’t wear a suit and tie (they WILL kick you out). Third, find the unmarked door next to the kebab shop, and head down the stairs.
Details: 1e Great Eastern St, EC2A 3EJ | Open daily 6pm-midnight (11pm Sundays)
Nightjar | Shoreditch
Nightjar is an actual, bona fide speakeasy. It’s the type of place that all of the other speakeasies want to be when they grow up. It’s got rose-tinted mirrors, leather chairs, and illicit, darkened corners. You’ll hear the hum of live jazz emanating from the flat-capped jazz band on stage, and winding its way through the shadows to the bar where Nightjar’s award-winning cocktails are created. READ MORE
How to get in: The address should lead you to an innocuous-looking wooden door parked between two coffeeshops. Head inside, and down the staircase… and book if you can.
Details: 129-131 City Road, EC1V 1JB | Open Sun-Wed 6pm-1am, Thurs 6pm-2am, Fri & Sat 6pm-3am
Happiness Forgets | Hoxton
The staff at this candlelit, subterranean den of iniquity know their stuff, and are capable of magic. The list changes frequently too, so break with the tradition of the place and remember what you have each time so you can demand it again. READ MORE
How to get in: Look for the chalkboard next to an unmarked stairwell, and step into the candlelit boozehouse.
Details: 8-9 Hoxton Square, N1 6NU | Open 5-11pm every night
The Jubjub Bar | Shoreditch
A neat, music-inspired hidden bar, with a constantly changing menu of cocktails put together by one of the world’s best bartenders (officially). Plus, you can apply for membership (it’s free) for complimentary welcome drinks, your own personal door key, and more. READ MORE
How to get in: Walk into the wardrobe in Callooh Callay, and ignore the FIRST hidden bar – head past it, and stride up the curtain-covered stairs. That’s where the Jubjub’s at.
Details: 65 Rivington Street, EC2A 3AY | Tues-Sat, 7pm-2am (the main bar is open everyday)
Discount Suit Company | Spitalfields
Enter a dimly-lit neighbourhood cocktail bar entirely composed of exposed brickwork, scaffolding planks, Victorian floorboards and Motown records. There you’ll find head bartender Dorian – a man who returned from travelling the world completely fluent in the language of mixing killer drinks – serving up their signature cocktails. READ MORE
How to get in: Head for the black door next to an 1980s tailoring shop with a ramshackle wall sign.
Details: 29A Wentworth Street, E1 7TB | Open Mon-Thur 5pm-midnight, Fri & Sat 2pm-1am, Sun 5-11pm
Ruby’s Bar And Lounge | Dalston
Not to be confused with Ruby’s. Which is, confusingly, what this place used to be called. But now it’s three times bigger and does food and craft beer – but retains the hidden bar space that made the place
famous ahem, secret… READ MORE
How to get in: There’s movie-theatre-style signage above the entrance, spelling out some wisdom. As always, that’s where you’ll find liquor hiding.
Details: 76 Stoke Newington Road, N16 7XB | Open Wed & Thurs 6.30pm-12am, Fri & Sat 6.30pm-2am
By Appointment Only | Liverpool Street
By Appointment Only is an extremely well hidden bar set inside a stunning subterranean Victorian bath house, which is – no exaggeration – one of the most beautiful, unusual venues in this city. And aside from the cocktails, it’s got a bathtub filed with Champagne. READ MORE
How to get in: You’ll need an appointment. The clue is in the name. Make one, then head to the tiny, tiled chapel-like island in Liverpool Street.
Details: Victorian Bath House, Bishopgate Churchyard, EC2M 3TJ | Open Fridays only, 5pm-late
La Cabina | Dalston
This dark basement space may be small, but they somehow manage to fit in a cocktail bar, a DJ booth, a tapas restaurant, and several private curtained-off areas, too. It’s open ‘til 5am towards the end of the week. VIEW DETAILS
How to get in: “La Cabina” is “telephone box” in Spanish, see. So you’ll need to find the box in Kingsland Road, the one with “La Cabina” above it, and dial 2580.
Details: 232 Kingsland Road, E2 8AX | Open Tues-Weds 8pm-3am, Thurs-Sat 8pm-5am, Sun 8pm-3am
Looking Glass Cocktail Club | Hackney
The reason this Hackney cocktail bar is called the Looking Glass Cocktail Club is because of all the looking glasses (that is, mirrors) strewn around the place. And behind one of them is a second, secret, drinking joint filled with Victorian furnishings, bare brick walls, and a vintage piano. VIEW DETAILS
How to get in: To the right of the bar, you’ll see someone who looks exactly like you. Don’t panic, this is a mirror. Pull…
Details: 49 Hackney Road, E2 7NX | Open Sun & Mon 5pm-1am, Tues-Thurs 5pm-2am, Fri & Sat 5pm-3am
The Mayor Of Scaredy Cat Town | Shoreditch
The Breakfast Club Shoreditch houses somewhere within it a moodily-lit cocktail dungeon that has exposed brickwork, great music and a wide selection of cocktails, from the Peachy Keen to The Basic Kitsch. READ MORE
How to get in: Through a fridge door. Yep, really. Just ask a member of staff to see the Mayor.
Details: 12-16 Artillery Lane, E1 7LS | Open Mon-Thurs 5pm-midnight, Fri 3pm-midnight, Sat 12pm-midnight, Sun 12-10.30pm
Oriole | Smithfield
An epicurean jaunt around the globe through that lesser-known vehicle, the Cocktail. Also, nightly live jazz, bar snacks, and burlesque with a snake. READ MORE
How to get in: Head into Smithfield market after hours, and look for a door with a smart aluminium sign above it. If you get lost, try listening out for hissing.
Details: East Poultry Avenue, London Central Markets, EC1A 9LH | Open daily, 6pm-late
Kansas Smitty’s | Hackney
A basement bar serving up a potent mix of bourbon and jazz, courtesy of both the eponymous house band and visiting guest musicians. READ MORE
How to get in: Aim for the Off Broadway cocktail bar on Broadway Market. Then head downstairs…
Details: 63 Broadway Market, E8 4PH | Open Tues-Sun, 7pm-midnight
Below & Hidden | Clerkenwell
A hidden bar beneath the Bourne & Hollingsworth buildings, this place is everything that the light, airy upstairs isn’t. It’s small, the walls are covered in unicorn tapestries (and they light up at midnight), the cocktails are served in huge lego heads, and there are sparklers. READ MORE
How to get in: Head into the B&H buildings, and ask a member of staff to direct you to the spiral staircase. Furtively.
Details: Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, 42 Northampton Road, EC1R 0HU | Open weekdays 11am-midnight (1am Fri), Sat 10am-1am, Sun 10am-6pm
CENTRAL LONDON SPEAKEASIES
The Blind Pig | Soho
This slick-looking speakeasy sits proudly above Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House – it boasts both classic and themed cocktail menus, and they’ll bring you food up from the Michelin-starred restaurant. If you’ve ordered it. READ MORE
How to get in: Look for the “Opticians” sign on Poland Street, then push the door beneath it with the pig-shaped knocker.
Details: 58 Poland Street, W1F 7NR | Open Monday-Saturday
Experimental Cocktail Club | Chinatown
Hidden behind a scruffy-looking, easily-missable door in the bustling heart of Chinatown is this: a moody, legendary, Parisian, prohibition-style speakeasy cocktail den lit almost entirely by candlelight. READ MORE
How to get in: A booking helps. Otherwise, find a door that doesn’t lead to a Chinese restaurant, and smile politely through the peephole.
Details: 13a Gerrard Street, W1D 5PS | Mon-Sat 6pm-3am, Sun 6pm-midnight
Murder Inc. | Oxford Circus
The folks behind Cocktail Trading Company are at it again. Except this time they’ve decided to swap out the showy, theatrical cocktails for something a lot more stripped-back. An inconspicuous brown door on Hanway Street (a short walk from Oxford Circus Station), will reveal a staircase, at the bottom of which is the basement bar. Here – surrounded by a slightly mis-matched collection of memorabilia – you can enjoy the likes of a M’inc Coat (Bombay Sapphire, buttered nettle cordial, “tarte Tatin” sherbet, and egg white), or their Silk Punch (Chivas 12, walnut, Vermouth, coffee, and salted Horlicks cream) for £6 before 7pm, and not much more after. READ MORE.
How to get in: push your way through the brown door and descend the stairs.
Details: 36 Hanway Street, Soho, W1T 1UP | Mon-Wed, 4.30-11.30pm and Thurs-Sat, 4.30pm-1.30am | Walk-ins only
Peony | Chinatown
Opium in Chinatown is already somewhat hidden – you’ll need to find an unmarked jade-green door on the street. And then, once inside the labyrinthine restaurant, you’ll need to find Peony, also behind an unmarked door. It’s got old-school Chinese prints on the wall, intricately carved wooden statues, and delicious cocktails to boot. VIEW DETAILS
How to get in: First, find Opium, then ask the staff inside to direct you.
Details: 15-16 Gerrard Street, W1D 6JE | Open Tuesday 5pm-12am, Wed 5pm-1am, Thurs 5pm-2am, Fri & Sat 5pm-3am
The Vault at Milroy’s | Soho
Milroy’s was London’s first ever specialist whiskey store. And now, it’s London’s first ever brooding, underground, candlelit cocktail bar with bare brick walls, chesterfield couches, and handmade hardwood tables. That’s called The Vault. READ MORE
How to get in: Peruse the whiskey shop, and find the bookshelf at the back. Push it open, and head on down.
Details: 3 Greek Street, W1D 4BD | Open Monday 6-11pm, Tues-Sat 6pm-12am
Reverend JW Simpson | Fitzrovia
A vicar lived at this site 30 years ago, hence the name. And this is what he preached: “If you want retro cocktails from the team behind Bourne and Hollingsworth, you’ve come to the right place. There’s even a rye whiskey one from 1908.” Amen. READ MORE
How to get in: Yet another nondescript black door – but this one you can just pull open. And it does have its name above (albeit in small letters).
Details: 32 Goodge Street, W1T 2QJ | Open Tues-Thurs 5pm-midnight, Fri & Sat 5pm-12.30am
Meraki Bar | Fitzrovia
Image © Lateef Photography
Meraki are so determined to keep their bar a secret, that it’s not even inside the restaurant. Find it, and you’ll be rewarded with cocktails, acclaimed Greek food, and private bookable booths set in brick-lined vaults where you can control your own lighting. READ MORE
How to get in: Leave the restaurant, and head instead to the dedicated entrance round the corner, which will lead you to a bar. This is still not it. Seek the hidden entrance and head on down…
Details: 30 Foley Street, W1W 7TJ | Open Wed-Sat, 7pm-1.30am
The Lucky Pig | Fitzrovia
An artfully ramshackle drinking den filled with odds and ends, sumptuous Chesterfields and an array of concoctions harking back to the Prohibition era. READ MORE
How to get in: Look for the unmarked staircase with a gas lantern by the door.
Details: 5 Clipstone Street, W1W 6BB | Open Tues-Sat, 5pm-late (6pm Sat)
Jack Solomons Club | Soho
A surprisingly vast subterranean bolthole filled with velvet Chesterfields, whisky-leaning cocktails, raucous live music and DJs in the heart of Soho. READ MORE
How to get in: Look for the after-hours deli, and ring the buzzer. If you’re going past a lot of meat, you’re in the right place.
Details: 41 Windmill Street, W1D 7NB | Open Thurs-Sat, 6pm-1am
Cellar Door | Embankment
This tiny, low-lit lounge below Embankment has mirrored walls, purple seating, nightly live music, and even the occasional cinema night. VIEW DETAILS
How to get in: Just look out for the weird-looking unmarked staircase that descends literally into the pavement in Embankment.
Details: Zero Aldwych, WC2R 0HS | Open weekdays 4pm-1am, Sat 2-5pm, 6pm-1am, Sun 4-7pm/7pm-1am
Blind Spot | Covent Garden
Housed underneath the St Martin’s Lane Hotel, this secretive, swank-laden lounge infuses many of its globally-inspired cocktails with tea and hosts regular live music nights (jazz, swing, electronic, dance, etc.). VIEW DETAILS
How to get in: Head into the hotel, and go to the boutique tea counter (hint: it’s where most hotels keep their boutique tea counters). Behind it, you’ll see a golden hand jutting out of the wall, inviting you to shake it. Do that. And it will reveal a hidden door.
Details: St. Martin’s Lane Hotel, 45 St Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4HX | Open Mon-Sat 5pm-1.30am, Sun 5-10.30pm
The Piano Bar | Soho
Technically hidden, though you might be able to track it down simply from the noise – the Piano Bar is named for the permanent ivory-tinkler they have installed. There are regular live bands besides, classic cocktails, and even a screening room. VIEW DETAILS
How to get in: If you’re not a member, you’ll need to make a reservation, after which you simply need to find the door at 16 Carlisle Street that looks a lot like someone’s house.
Details: 16 Carlisle Street, W1D 3BT | Open Mon-Sat, 6-11.30pm
Cahoots | Soho
A discreetly hidden, underground, Underground-themed bar serving Blitz-era cocktails alongside wartime singalongs, swing dancing and boozy afternoon tea. Or at least, as discreetly hidden as something like that can be. READ MORE
How to get in: Look out for a retro Underground sign saying ‘To The Trains’, and sweet-talk the lookout on the door. Book ahead if you can.
Details: 13 Kingly Court, W1B 5PW | Open Mon – Wed: 5pm-1am, Thurs: 4pm-2am, Fri: 4pm-3am, Sat: 1pm-3am, Sun: 3pm-12am
Milk and Honey | Soho
The original secret London bar, M&H has been hiding quietly in Soho for the last 17 years. It’s lasted this long thanks to excellent drinks, a beautiful candlelit ambience, and the fact that they let non-members in. READ MORE
How to get in: You’ll need to book, assuming you’re not a member. Once you have, just find the all-black facade on Poland Street, then press the intercom, and wait to be buzzed in.
Details: 61 Poland Street, W1F 7NU | By reservation only, before 11pm
WEST LONDON SPEAKEASIES
Cambridge Street Cellar Bar | Pimlico
A subterranean basement bar serving up cocktails inspired by cult films, including sippable incarnations of classics like Lost In Translation, Anchorman, and Titanic. Just watch out for the ice.
How to get in: First, head to the The Artist Residence boutique hotel in Pimlico, inside which is located The Cambridge Street Kitchen, and Cambridge Street Cellar Bar.
Details: 52 Cambridge Street, SW1V 4QQ | Open Mon-Thurs 5-11pm, Fri & Sat 5pm-12am, Sun 5-10.30pm
Evans & Peel Detective Agency | Earls Court
One of the most genuinely undercover-feeling speakeasies in London. A bar filled with exposed brickwork, beaten white tiles, dickie-bow-clad bar staff and soft lighting, where you’ll be served bottles of booze in brown paper bags, and illegally good cocktails. READ MORE
How to get in: Buzz the door, head down to the detective’s office and state your case…
Details: Earls Court Road, SW5 9BA | Open Tues-Sat, 5pm-12.30am
The Chelsea Prayer Room | Chelsea
GOAT Chelsea has three floors of industrial-meets-vintage glamour, and hidden on one of them is a low-lit cocktail cubby hole, with alphabetical cocktails to work through (with your own personal tracker behind the bar), and plush leather sofas beckoning your behind. READ MORE
How to get in: You’ll have to call (0207 352 1384) and book a table in advance. Then, when you check in at reception they’ll give you today’s code to punch into the keypad-protected door.
Details: 333 Fulham Road, SW10 9QL | Open Sun-Wed 5pm-1am, Fri & Sat 7pm-1am
Barts | Chelsea
Proundly declaring themselves “London’s worst kept secret”, Barts is made up of one modestly-proportioned room, which is filled with peculiar pictures, alternative ornaments and a dressing up box – plus live speako-style singalongs every Wednesday. READ MORE
How to get in: Wander through the Chelsea Cloisters until you see the Mickey Mouse wallpaper. Then ring the bell, and hope that the person on the other end of the peephole likes the look of you.
Details: Chelsea Cloisters, 87 Sloane Avenue, SW3 3DW | Open Sun-Tues 6pm-12am, Wed-Sat 6pm-1am
SOUTH LONDON SPEAKEASIES
The King Of Ladies Man | Battersea
This secret 1970s bachelor pad-styled bar (located, Russian Doll-style, through a hidden wall inside a laundrette, inside The Breakfast Club restaurant) combines kitsch gold decor with Southern American foodstuffs. And cocktails. READ MORE
NOTE: There’s now a giant King of Ladies Man sign outside The Breakfast Club, which somewhat reduces its ‘hidden’ credentials. It’s still good inside, though.
How to get in: Head into the Breakfast Club, find your way to the laundrette at the back, and ask a member of staff to take you to the king.
Details: The Breakfast Club, Battersea Rise, SW11 1HG | Open Tues-Thurs, 5pm-midnight, Fri 5pm-1am, Sat 11am-1am, Sun 11am-10.30pm
The Drawing Room Bar | Southbank
Hidden within the BFI, The Drawing Room looks a lot like, well, a drawing room. A really fancy one. With parquet flooring, a huge bookshelf, leather seating, and a marble countertop. And cocktails. VIEW DETAILS
How to get in: Head into the BFI, head to their lounge area, and find the bookshelf. Yank it open, and head down the short corridor…
Details: The BFI, Belvedere Road, Southbank, SE1 8XT | Open daily
Casa do Frango | London Bridge
A low-lit, moody cocktail den with eclectic furnishings, all hidden within a giant warehouse-styled restaurant dedicated to peri peri chicken. READ MORE
Details: 32 Southwark Street, SE1 1TU | Open Tues-Sat from 6pm
Confession Box | Peckham
London’s premier arcade-game themed bar – The Four Quarters – has a secret level. It’s a concrete-filled basement space which boasts 40+ Belgian beers, and tables made from old arcade games. READ MORE
How to get in: Head into The Four Quarters, and waltz straight past the arcade games (or, like, play one of them). Look for the unmarked staircase on the right at the back.
Details: The Four Quarters, 187 Rye Lane, SE15 4TP | Open daily
Call Me Mr Lucky | London Bridge
Found deep within London Bridge’s Breakfast Club, the music’s loud, the lighting’s low, the drinks are strong… and there’s a makeshift Wheel Of Fortune on the wall which – when someone spins the arrow to land in the right place – wins a round of shots for everyone else in the bar. READ MORE
How to get in: Tell a member of staff you’re “here to get lucky”. You’ll be immediately whisked Goodfellas-style through the private door, down the stairs, past the chefs and straight into the secret drinkery.
Details: The Breakfast Club, 11 Southwark Street, SE1 1RQ | Open Mon-Wed 5pm-midnight, Thur-Sat 5pm-1am
NORTH LONDON SPEAKEASIES
Ladies & Gentlemen | Kentish Town & Camden
What looks like a simple staircase leading to a toilet is actually a staircase leading to a secret bar with candlelit tables, jazz singers, cocktails, distillery equipment producing bespoke spirits on-site… and a toilet. READ MORE
How to get in: Find a public toilet in Kentish Town or Camden. Hope for the best.
Details: 2 Highgate Road, NW5 1NR | Corner of Royal College Street and Camden Road, NW1 9NL | Open daily from 5pm-late
Jellied Eel | Walthamstow
On Friday and Saturday nights, L. Manze – an old school pie and mash shop in Walthamstow – transforms into a late-night cocktail and corquetas bar. Settled in one of their many dark wood booths, or al fresco in their concrete yard out back, you can sip on the everything from a Sailor’s Old Fashioned (black spiced rum & pepper syrup) to a Spring In Tokyo (sake, red wine, and vermouth), alongside triplets of crispy croquettes, stuffed full of spinach, blue cheese, and more. READ MORE.
How to get in: Look for the 100 year old pie shop.
Details: 76 High Street, Walthamstow, E17 7LD | Open from 7pm-midnight, on Friday & Saturday nights
BYOC | Camden
Know what you deserve – a break from the modern world; from the 21st Century. And while we’re at it, you deserve a break from having to pay for cocktails too. READ MORE
How to get in: Just make a booking, then find the unassuming door on Camden High Street…
Details: 11-13 Camden High St, NW1 7JE | Open Tues-Sat from 5pm-late
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