Where to find London’s best speakeasy bars
Discover London’s best hidden and not-so-secret prohibition-inspired cocktail bars.
London is world-renowned for its nightlife… and with good reason. While admittedly the nightclub scene isn’t what it was in the ’90s and 00s, the quality of its bars has certainly increased tenfold. Back in 2013, Metro Girl published a guide to London’s speakeasy bars to coincide with the release of The Great Gatsby movie. Over the years, this post has continued to get a lot of readers, but it’s time for an update. A lot can change in five years with cocktails bars opening and closing all the time. While many of these hidden drinking dens are 1920s themed and underground, some are on ground level, but are included on the list for their vintage vibe. Of course, in the capital, nothing stays secret for long so reservations are recommended for most of London’s hidden bars.
- 69 Colebrooke Row
Islington cocktail bar with a 1950s Italian café vibe crossed with Film Noir. Billed as ‘The Bar With No Name’, it’s a tight squeeze with only 30 seats. Includes experimental cocktails, food, cocktail masterclasses and weekly live music. Reservations highly recommended.
– 69 Colebrooke Row, Islington, N1 8AA. Nearest station: Angel. For more information, visit the 69 Colebrooke Row website.
In the true spirit of a speakeasy, this secret bar is hard to find. Barts is hidden away in a 1930s Chelsea apartment block behind an unassuming door requiring a password to enter. The venue is styled as a 1920s gangsters’ hideout with the cocktail menu inspired by Uncle Barts’ mob. Read Metro Girl’s review of Barts.
– Barts, Chelsea Cloisters, 87 Sloane Avenue, Chelsea, SW3 3DW. Nearest stations: Sloane Square or South Kensington. For more information, visit the Barts website.
- Beaufort Bar
Although not a speakeasy or a basement bar, the exquisite Beaufort Bar deserves to be on the list for its stunning Art Deco interior alone. While many visitors head to The Savoy’s American Bar, they often miss out on its sister bar. Expect stunning black and gold decor, fabulous cocktails and exceptional service. Read Metro Girl’s review of the Beaufort Bar.
Located hidden down a side street in Kingly Court, Cahoots is a step back in time to post-war London. During the Blitz, many of the capital’s tube stations were used as bomb shelters. Cahoots is essentially a post-war tube station, with plenty of vintage TfL memorabilia and furniture, 1940s-themed cocktails, and live swing and lindyhop. As well as cocktails, they also have late night music nights and boozy picnics. To get in, you are advised to make a reservation or try and talk your way in by getting into character and saying the right thing. Read Metro Girl’s review of Cahoots.
– Cahoots, 13 Kingly Court, Soho, W1B 5PW. Nearest stations: Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus. For more information, visit the Cahoots website.
- Callooh Callay
Without a doubt, this is one of Shoreditch‘s most popular speakeasy bars and regularly appears on lists of the world’s best bars. Having opened a decade ago, it has a quirky Lewis Carroll theme. It serves wine, beer and cocktails with names like ‘Love In Idleness’ and ‘Wise Guy’. It also hosts cocktail masterclasses. Over 21s only.
– Callooh Callay, 65 Rivington Street, Shoreditch, EC2A 3AY. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street or Old Street. For more information, visit the Callooh Callay website.
- Cellar Door
This is probably London’s smallest cabaret club. Cellar Door is a unique bar and club in a converted Victorian men’s toilet. Treat yourself to cocktails, bar snacks and even snuff as you are entertained by DJs and live performers. Read Metro Girl’s review of Cellar Door.
– Cellar Door, Zero Aldwych, WC2E 7DN. Nearest stations: Covent Garden or Temple. For more information, visit Cellar Door’s website.
- Clarendon Cocktail Cellar
A hidden cocktail bar in the cellar below the Cambridge Street kitchen. The drinks have been inspired by the staff’s favourite films, with concoctions such as the ‘Titanic’, complete with a huge ‘iceberg’ icecube, or ‘Kill Bill’. Reservations recommended for groups of four or more.
– Clarendon Cocktail Cellar, 52 Cambridge Street, Pimlico, SW1V 4QQ. Nearest station: Pimlico. For more information, visit the CCC website.
In my opinion, this hidden members bar in Soho is one of the most stylish of them all. Taking its inspiration a few decades later, you feel like you’re stepping into an early 1960s bar that Mad Men’s Don Draper would take one of his mistresses to. The intimate venue features plush velvet seating, low-lighting and an extensive cocktail menu. However, you need to apply for membership, with reservations advised.
– Disrepute, 4 Kingly Street, Carnaby, W1B 5PW. Nearest stations: Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus. For more information, visit the Disrepute website.
- Evans And Peel
This Earl’s Court speakeasy is styled as the Evans And Peel Detective Agency. As well as drinks, you can also enjoy dining and occasional live music. You’re advised to make a reservation in advance as you’ll need to say the right things to get inside.
– Evans And Peel Detective Agency, 310c Earl’s Court Road, Earl’s Court, SW5 9BA. Nearest station: Earl’s Court. For more information, visit the Evans & Peel website.
- Happiness Forgets
Cocktail bar in a Hoxton Square basement. Expect low-lighting, chilled music and bartenders who really know their stuff. Reservations recommended, although they keep half their tables free for walk-ins.
– Happiness Forgets, 8-9 Hoxton Square, Hoxton, N1 6NU. Nearest station Shoreditch High Street or Old Street. For more information, visit the Happiness Forgets website.
This bar is definitely hard to find and is located in one of the quieter parts of Smithfield Market. Oriole is a surprisingly large bar with plenty of tables, tropical and jade décor, a stage for live music and an extensive cocktail menu inspired by the continents. It also serves food with sharing plates or mains offered. Reservations strongly advised.
– Oriole, East Poultry Avenue, Smithfield Market, EC1A 9LH, Nearest station: Farringdon. For more information, visit the Oriole website.
- Purl London
This Marylebone speakeasy features cosy corners, low ceilings and comfortable leather seating. They serve classic and original cocktails served in some pretty amazing glasses. They also offer cocktail masterclasses.
– Purl London, 50-54 Blandford St, Marylebone, W1U 7HX. Nearest stations: Baker Street, Bond Street or Marble Arch. For more information, visit the Purl London website.
This basement bar on Old Compton Street in Soho is hailed for its large whisky collection and extensive cocktail menu. There is also live jazz music on weekends. Reservations only, but its ground floor bar accepts walk-ins.
– Swift, 12 Old Compton Street, Soho, W1D 4TQ. Nearest station: Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Swift website.
- The Bootlegger
This hidden bar in Leadenhall Market has a 1920s vibe, with low-lights, bathtub gin, creative cocktails, a gramophone and atmospheric jazz music. Cocktail masterclasses also available. Reservations recommended.
– The Bootlegger, 25-26 Lime Street, City of London, EC3M 7HR. Nearest stations: Monument or Fenchurch Street. For more information, visit The Bootlegger website.
- The Lucky Pig
A speakeasy-themed basement bar in a Fitzrovia backstreet. Featuring Art Deco décor, red velvet curtains and an extensive cocktail list. As well as drinks, there are live music evenings and weekend DJs.
– The Lucky Pig, 5 Clipstone Street, Fitzrovia, W1W 6BB. Nearest stations: Great Portland Street or Goodge Street. For more information, visit the Lucky Pig website.
Metro Girl likes: If you fancy going the whole hog and visiting a 1920s nightclub, check out a Candlelight Club party. Expect drinks, dining, dancing and live entertainment at different venues around the capital. Read Metro Girl’s review of a Candlelight Club night.