When we asked Jason Allen, the Editor of Thrillist, for his secret London spots, he took our request at its word and delved underground to bring us his top five secret(ish) speakeasies. This is clearly a man who likes a nice cocktail (or two) in a tucked away spot and he doesn’t care who knows it.
The Mayor of Scaredycat Town
Outside: a perfectly unsuspecting Breakfast Club in Spitalfields. Inside: well, the same thing, except that they have a ’50s-styled Smeg chiller at the back which you can pull open the door of, and literally walk inside, down a flight of stairs and into a brick-walled, candlelit basement bar, where one can feast on a pear & cardamom sidecar, a chilli margarita, or just whatever else they have in the fridge.
The Jub Jub Bar
This amazing place is actually a bar-inside-a-bar — inside a bar. Woah, slow down there Leonardo DiCaprio! That’s right: head to the Narnia-styled wardrobe at the back of Shoreditch’s Calloah Callay (you’ll need a key, so get in touch with the venue first). Walk inside, and it’ll take you to a hidden, ’70s-vibed lounge – but wait – this secret bar is merely the distraction! It’s now that you pull back the subtle velvet curtain at the back of the place, and ascent a staircase to the Jub Jub: a cozy, and eccentrically decorated Victorian louche-den, wherein they procure a new barkeep, with a whole new cocktail list every week.
Calling itself ‘the worst kept secret in Chelsea’ (in other news: apparently some people still think ‘Made In…’ is a documentary), Barts thankfully doesn’t take itself too seriously. You first walk through a large anonymous ’30s apartment building to find yourself at an imposing, lantern-lit black door. Swing it open, and behold a decadent one-room watering hole, decorated with defaced paintings (literally bought at a car boot sale), and fancy dress box with which to decorate/deface yourself.
Hidden on Hoxton Square below a Thai restaurant, and with no sign outside, you simply have to know it’s there… and you’ll be extremely glad you do. More of a living room than a bar, books intermingle with bottles on its shelves, and they bus-in regularly rotating drinksmiths from similarly hush-hush US spots to rustle up some exquisite aids to both happiness & forgetfulness.
Not so much ‘hidden’ as just ‘really hard to find’, Nightjar earns its wings with its total dedication to the craft of speakeasyness: a beautiful bronze art deco ceiling, a wooden dancefloor powered by vinyl jazz & live ragtime, and an almost pathological devotion to re-creating pre-prohibition recipes; scouring ancient texts, and self-brewing anything long since forgotten by history, like ‘salt-pickled lime juice’, or ‘Virgin Cola’.
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