Looking for the best speakeasy in London? We've done the tough job of trying a few (and a few more than that) to come up with our definitive list.
Once an escape for young people to secretly enjoy a drink or two when alcohol was illegal in the early 1920s, speakeasies were the place to be for a night of drinking dancing and debauchery. Nowadays, although still very secretive and usually underground, speakeasies have become a go to spot for people looking for something a little more mysterious and exciting when they go out for a drink.
From hidden entrances to secret passwords, there are speakeasies all over the city that you probably walk past daily without even realising. Since they are located all over the city and are definitely worth giving a try next time you go out for drinks, we have put together a list of the best ones and how to get a table at these secretive underground bars.
Why: Inspired by the Victorian poems of Lewis Carroll and the fantasy novels of C.S. Lewis, Callooh Callay features whacky coloured furniture and an actual wardrobe straight out of Narnia. The front bar is ideal for walk-ins but if you want to head to the more secretive back lounge you’ll have to plan in advance. The last of the three bars, the Jujub bar is perhaps the most exclusive with membership and a secret four digit code needed to enter. Some of its whacky cocktail creations include The Officer’s Mess with sherry and neroli oil and the Belladonna with gin, citrus and champagne.
Where: 65 Rivington Street, EC2A 3AY
Why: Before entering this Speakeasy, staff at Evans & Peel Detective Agency are on hand to give you a probing interview on your ‘case’ for the night, it is a top secret detective agency after all. If they are happy with your answers the secret bookcase will be opened and you’ll be let into the dimly lit bar to enjoy a cocktail and a few bar snacks.
Where: 310c, SW5 9BA
Why: Named after one of the most notorious boxing promoters in UK history, Jack Solomons is located on the site of his old boxing gym. Featuring the likes of darkly coloured crushed velvet and leopard print seating, cosy curtain covered booths and art deco lighting fixtures, this 1950’s themed speakeasy is the place to go if you don’t want to be seen, or equally if you want all the attention on you - depending on where you sit of course. The drinks menu specialises in whisky and gin cocktails and the food menu features just one main item, a classic hamburger.
Where: 41 Great Windmill Street, W1D 7NB
Why: Relive the glamour of the 1920s at this speakeasy in Shoreditch. With live jazz music as the soundtrack to your evening, a revival of lots of old-school cocktails and great lighting that makes everyone look good, it is the ideal spot to relax with a drink after a busy day in the office. We recommend you book your place at Nightjar in advance because there is a no standing rule in this speakeasy, so everyone must have a table.
Where: 129 City Road, EC1V 1JB
Where: Hidden within the trendy Fulham road restaurant GOAT, get your hands on the four digit code and you can enter the dimly-lit Chelsea Prayer Room bar. Sit back on its chesterfield sofas while listening to a soundtrack of classic jazz music and sip on some Absinthe cocktails, or if you want something a little less intense Rhubarb Bellini’s and Manhattans are on hand too.
Why: 333 Fulham Road, SW10 9QL
Where: Named after an old English drink of warm ale, gin and wormwood, Purl prides itself on its exciting and innovative cocktails creations. Using smoke, foams, fogs and food to create unique drink recipes that are sure to wow, you can sip on the likes of a Latino spritz and blue bayou with blue foam to top it off. These multi-sensory cocktails are a welcome change from the classics we all know, and will be the perfect addition to your Instagram grid.
Why: 50-54 Blandford Street, W1U 7HX
Why: Referred to as ‘the bar with no name’ the only way you’ll be able to know for sure where this bar is located is by searching for an outdoor lantern on Colebrooke Row. Once you’ve managed to hunt it down, you’ll feel like you’ve entered the set of a Hollywood crime movie with its Film Noir décor and themed menu. To drink, you can opt for the likes of Death in Venice with Campari, grapefruit bitters and prosecco, or try the barbershop fizz with gin, lime, vanilla and mint.
Where: 69 Colebrooke Row, N1 8AA
Why: Previously an old underground toilet, this space has now been converted into a burlesque bar complete with cabaret and drag queen shows. If you happen to stumble upon CellarDoor during a night on the town, you’ll be happy to know that walk-ins are welcome. Although, we recommend you book so you can get the best seats in the house for whatever weird and wonderful show you’ll be treated to each night. Cocktails range from classic martinis to slightly more out their cocktails like the Starbucks Must Die drink with cognac, Kahlua and a shot of espresso.
Where: Zero Aldwych, WC2E 7DN
Why: Big sister to the Nightjar bar, although a little more out in the open and perhaps a little less exclusive, Oriole is for the days when you want to grab a few drinks with a bigger group of people. With cocktails themed by old world countries, expect to receive your refreshment of choice in an envelope shaped glass (yes really), a glass with a thermometer running all the way through it or a cup with a dragonfly encased in the thick glass.
Where: Smithfield Market, London, EC1A 9LH
Why: Hidden behind a Smeg fridge in the super trendy Breakfast Club, you’d be forgiven for not realising The Mayor Of Scaredy Cat Town exists. For those in the know however, after entering the fridge you are greeted by exposed brick, industrial piping and vintage 1950s posters. On the menu you can enjoy a tipple of the Mayorjito, Wet Whiskers and Copper Sting which is made with a wild nettle tincture.
Where: 12-16 Artillery Lane, E1 7LS
Why: Seating around 30 guests, we can understand if the entrance to this Speakeasy may seem a little unsettling, a graffiti covered hallway with laundry and Chinese lanterns hanging from the ceiling in Kentish town doesn’t exactly scream cool and exciting bar. Thankfully the uneasiness you may feel will end as soon as you enter the bar and are met with mismatched quirky décor, with comfy seating and vaults for bigger groups visiting the low-key bar. Each cocktail at Knowhere Special comes with a specially paired snack and classic cocktails are very reasonably priced. You'll have to book in advance via email if you want a seat in this speakeasy though.
Where: 296 Kentish Town Road, NW5 2TG
Why: This speakeasy Masquerades as, you guessed it, a discount suit shop. If this quirky bar happens to be your local, you’ll be used to the slightly strange and ambiguous exterior. If however you stumble upon this place while trying to buy a suit, you’re in for a great surprise. On the drinks menu you’ll be able to order the likes of the aptly named Wooly Back, Bananarama and the sharing cocktail Harri-Booya which serves four.
Where: 29A Wentworth Street, E1 7TB
Why: Unlike all the other speakeasies on this list, BYOC asks that you supply the booze and it will supply its cocktail making expertise. All you have to do is bring in an un-opened spirit of your choice and watch as its mixologists add homemade juices, syrups and bitters to create something new and exciting especially for you.
Where: 11-13 Camden High Street, NW1 7JE
If exclusive bars and clubs are your thing take a look at our list of the best members only clubs