As written for LondonCalling.com
Fancy going somewhere different for your weekly tipple? Then why not head to one of London’s Speakeasy bars for something a bit more private. Originally Speakeasy bars popped up in the USA during the Prohibition between 1920-33 when alcohol was illegal. These bars rebelled against the law and sold your favourite drink anyway. In London, they’ve become increasingly popular as bars, some might even say de rigueur, here’s the best of the bunch…
Beneath the Breakfast Club, in Spitalfields, you’ll find a dimly lit bar with soulful music, twists on the conventional cocktails (including a Mary Berry Kinda Gateau) and bar staff that don’t take themselves too seriously. To gain entry you need to walk through a large SMEG fridge door. Open Monday through Sunday, be sure to get in quick as it’s pretty small and operates on a first come first served basis with no option to book ahead.
Hidden underneath One Aldwych Hotel is an intimate, LGBT friendly, bar small enough to ‘swing a cat.’ Previously an old public toilet, it is now filled with cabaret, drag acts and claims to be a ‘30s Berlin meets New York basement dive’. Home to the UK’s first SMS text jukebox, it’s also where Oscar Wilde, Joe Orton and John Gielgud used to frequent, in its previous incarnation of course… If you fancy having Cellar Door all to yourself with just your pals it’s available for private hire for up to 60 guests.
The Bar at Cellar Door
Identifiable by an outdoor lantern, this Speakeasy blends 1950s Italian Café style with a Film Noir feel. It’s also where Tony Conigliaro, known for his use of molecular mixology in cocktails, started out. The cocktail menu uses esoteric ingredients that have been developed in Drink Factory – the research and development laboratory located near Broadway Market. It’s best to call ahead to book your spot in this joint due to its acclaim, but you’ll be pleased to hear that with their reputation there isn’t a hefty price tag to enjoy the delicacies on offer.
One of London’s first Speakeasy bars, Barts was set up in the 1920s by Chicago gangsters. Back then Uncle Bart’s entourage operated their bootlegging activities from this hidden bar within one of the many apartments located on Sloane Avenue. It has become one of London’s worst kept secrets but there are still some quirky features, such as their menus being hidden within works of literature in a bookcase. Like many speakeasy bars you’ll be entertained with live jazz and you can also book onto one of their Cocktail Masterclasses for just £40 per person.
This bar is the trickiest of the bunch to get into. Tucked away beneath yet another Breakfast Club punters can gain entry through the locked door to the basement by saying to a member of staff “I’m here to get lucky”. You’ll then be led past a busy kitchen into this particular drinkery. If you want to gain quick entry then you can book one of three booths, but they’re in high demand so plan ahead! Hanging on the wall you will find a makeshift Wheel of Fortune, which if you dare to spin could win you a round of free shots.
Of course the above are but a few of the Speakeasies across the capital, so be sure to explore and discover your own top 5.