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.
As demonstrated by the huge success of Netflix show Stranger Things, it appears the 1980s are more popular than ever. Living in a world overwhelmed by social media and technology, no wonder so many of us hanker for more innocent times with bad perms, no mobile phones and stone-washed jeans.
If you’re a fan of the Eighties, you have the chance to embrace the era’s extreme fashion and strange hairdos on a nostalgic night out. On Thursday 22 March 2018, KIDS Charity is hosting a fundraising ’80s themed bash at legendary nightclub Tramp. As well as giving you the chance to reach for the crimpers and blue eyeliner, it is also a rare opportunity to see inside the exclusive members’ club, which is normally off-limits to the public. You can expect themed cocktails, outrageous costumes and the best ’80s anthems. There will also be a competition prize for the best dressed. The venue and DJ have generously offered their services free of charge so all income goes directly to the charity.
Although the pre-party dinner tickets are already sold out, there’s still the chance to purchase party only tickets, which include a welcome cocktail and canapés. Tickets are £50 each, however, there’s the chance to snap them up for £35 in a special flash sale from Thursday 1 March until Friday 9 March if you use the code MARCH15.
The KIDS charity was established in 1970 and now provides over 120 different services and works with 80 local authorities across the country. In 2017, KIDS helped over 13,500 children and their families. Tramp is one of the capital’s most exclusive private members’ clubs with a wild and fabulous history dating back to 1969. Over the decades, Tramp has hosted royalty and entertainment legends Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Keith Moon, Rod Stewart, George Best, Jack Nicholson, Steve McQueen and Sir Michael Caine, among many others. Many celebrities have celebrated their wedding receptions at the club, including Peter Sellers, Joan Collins, Liza Minnelli and Ringo Starr. More recently, the likes of David Beckham, Rihanna, Drake and Kate Moss have partied the night away at Tramp.
- The KIDS 1980s Party takes place on Thursday 22 March 2018 from 10pm-3am. At Tramp, 40 Jermyn Street, St. James’s, SW1Y 6DN. Nearest station: Green Park. Over 18s only. For more information and tickets, visit the KIDs website.
Find out what else is on in London in March.
Fancy something a bit different than a house party or your local pub for New Year’s Eve? How about celebrating the dawn of a new year in a vintage nightclub and enjoying stunning views of the capital and its fireworks?
Returning to the Southbank Centre this month is A Vintage New Year’s Eve Party, an extravaganza of dancing, drinking, dining and more from HemingwayDesign. Curators Wayne, Gerardine and Jack Hemingway will transform five floors of the Royal Festival Hall into vintage nightclubs, dining rooms, a vintage hair and beauty salon and photo studios. At midnight, guests will have the opportunity to watch the capital’s iconic fireworks over the Thames from the riverside terrace (weather permitting).
Highlights of this year’s party include:
- The Torch Club
Enjoy the sounds of the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s with live big band music from Alex Meedham and his 18 piece orchestra. Meanwhile, DJ Daddy Rich will be spinning original vinyl and dance, while vintage dance tutors Mark & Hoc will be showing guests the moves from yesteryear.
- Bar Bonkers
Experience pure joy as you immerse yourself in the world of ’80s and ’90s, with the best pop, rock and dance anthems, musical bingo and karaoke. Cheer along to the sounds mixed by disco dancing DJ Anna Greenwood, Jess Indeedy, DJ Helix, while their dancing grannies deliver a special edition of Indeedy Musical Bingo.
- The TIKI Bar
Sip colourful cocktails while gazing over stunning views of the River Thames in a very tropical pop-up. Listen to the sounds of 1950s exotica Martin Green and DJ Martin Karminsky while revellers show off their samba and mambo skills, as hula girls do the limbo.
- The Studio
Explore the history of disco as The Studio revisits some of the greatest club nights from the mid ’70s to the early ’80s. Partiers will be treated to the sounds of funk and disco, to electro and Northern Soul.
Throughout the evening, top Jive teacher Andrew Hall will help guests learn the Jive basics, while DJ Mr Jinx will be hitting the decks and The Jive Romeros will be mixing classic American and early British rock ‘n’ roll in Let It Rock. After midnight, The Clore Ballroom will become a cabaret club with live performances and vintage dancing and music.
In addition to the wealth of entertainment, there are also some dining packages available to add on to your ticket. Guests can feast on a three-course meal and have the use of a reserved table by the main ballroom floor for the whole night and access to a dedicated bar. Or if you want something lighter, there is also a buffet dining option.
- A Vintage New Year’s Eve Party takes place on 31 December 2017 from 7pm until late. At Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 8XX. Nearest station: Waterloo. Tickets: Party £99 (second release), £119 (final release), Add buffet for £35, Add dining, reserved table all night and access to dedicated bar for £85. For more information and tickets, visit the Southbank Centre website or phone 020 3879 9555.
For a guide to what else is on in London in December, click here.
For a guide to London’s other New Year’s Eve events, click here.
This October, the team behind Cahoots are taking their underground revelry to a whole new level. The secret Soho basement bar is bringing their special brand of 1940s fun and frolics to an underground party at The Vaults in Waterloo.
In the Victorian arches below Waterloo station will be an evening of vintage post-war fabulousness, with live music, 1940s costumes, food and plenty of cocktails. Upon arrival, guests will be checked in at a 1940s ticket office with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut Champagne. To line their stomachs, there will be war-time rations of classic British grub, such as fish-finger sandwiches and sausage rolls. Among the all-inclusive drinks on offer will be Grey Goose, Jack Daniel’s and Bombay Sapphire black-market cocktails.
The Vaults will be transformed into a WWII bunker with plenty of fun and games going on in the coves and tunnels. The main Blitz Room will feature live bands, swing dancers and retro DJs alongside a flow of Cahoots cocktails. For a more intimate experience, people can cosy up and enjoy a Cockney singalong in the 1940s coffee shop, Grey Goose Espresso Martini Bar. If you’re really looking to let loose, head to the Swing House, with Cahoots DJ The Roustabouts keeping the party swinging. And finally, if you’re needing a breather, the hidden Gentlemans Jack Room will provide some respite and a quiet cocktail or two.
- Cahoots Underground Knees Up takes place on Friday 6th October 2017 from 7pm – 1am. At The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN. Nearest station: Waterloo or Lambeth North. Tickets: Early bird £85, Regular from £95 (includes all cocktails and food). Forties dress seriously encouraged. For more information and tickets, visit the Cahoots website.
For the latest guide to what else is on in London, click here.
The rise in Speakeasy and hidden bars in the capital shows just how much of an appetite we Londoners have for secret revelry. So why not take things once step further and immerse yourself in the 1920s spirit at The Prohibition Party. The long-running event is celebrating its 10th birthday with its most fabulous party yet. Expect flappers, cads and cocktails galore in a night of dancing, drinking and gambling.
Guests are invited to sneak into secret and intimate rooms with a password to keep the feds away. There will be live bands, gramophone DJs, silent cinema, dance troupes and gambling tables. To keep up the pretense of Prohibition, the cocktail menus will be hidden in books while drinks are served in teacups. Aside from the main venue, there will be hidden bars and a secret party room for you to seek out.
Revellers will be encouraged to dress in their finest vintage wares, with lots of tassels, pearls, Mary Janes, tuxes and spats for an evening of 1920s opulence. Early arrivals (7pm-8pm) can have the chance to learn the Charleston at a dance class with the gang from Swing Patrol.
The event is organised by Bourne & Hollingsworth, known for their fabulous parties, bars and restaurant. Along with their landmark The Prohibition Party – they are also behind The Blitz Party, Dark Circus, Cocktails In The City, SS Atlantica and The Chap Olympiad.
- The Prohibition Party takes place on Saturday 30 September 2017 from 8pm-2am. Tickets from £30. The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo SE1 7NN. Nearest station: Waterloo or Lambeth North. For tickets, visit the Prohibition Party website.
Why travel may be cheaper and more accessible these days, you can’t deny it was a lot more glamorous back in the 1930s. This Bank Holiday, why not sail back in time to the Golden Age of Travel on the SS Atlantica? On Saturday 28 May, the Silver Sturgeon will be transformed into a Thirties cruise liner for an evening voyage along the Thames. Hosted by Bourne & Hollingsworth, there will be live bands, cabaret acts, floorshows, dancing and drinks.
Think of Agatha Christie (without the murders!) as you don your finest garbs and quaff a glass of champers on deck as you watch the sun setting and cruise past London’s iconic landmarks. The river yacht will be given a 1931 makeover with curving balustrades, portholes and pristine white tablecloths. There will be three bars, serving classic cocktails and plenty of champagne.
The entertainment will follow a traditional 1930s ship itinerary when the elite would party the night away on the high seas. Guests will take to the dancefloor as live bands and singers bring the music of the era to life. Or step back and watch spectacular floorshows or cabaret acts.
Guests are expected to wear ‘At Sea Formalwear’. Men are encouraged to dress in dinner suits with starched collars, while the women should think of silk, fur and Art Deco jewellery as they recreate the glamour of Thirties screen stars Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn or Vivien Leigh.
- SS Atlantica sets sail on Saturday 28 May 2016. Embarkation 8pm at The Savoy Pier, cruise departs 9pm. Nearest station: Embankment or Charing Cross. Tickets: £35 (general admission) or £40 (general admission and dance class at 7pm). For tickets phone 0207 724 1617 or visit the SS Atlantica website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in May, click here.
To many of us, the chance of winning something in a sporting event seems rather far-fetched. How many of us would love to win the London Marathon, but the lure of another pint of cider and a five-course tasting menu at the new pop-up is just too powerful?
Well, for those lacking in athletic ability, The Chap Olympiad could be right up your street. Returning to London on 11 July, Britain’s most eccentric sporting event will celebrate ‘sporting ineptitude and immaculate trouser creases’. Hosted by The Chap magazine and Bourne & Hollingsworth (famous for Prohibition, The Blitz Party and 90s: The Playback Party), the day will feature sporting events, live music, side shows and traditional British food and drinks… all while dressed in dapper, vintage style.
The events for the 2015 tournament include:
– Gentlemen’s Club Golf: contestants must hit a bowler hat into a large fishing net using a walking stick.
– Swooning: one for the ladies. A line of chaps faces a line of chapettes, and the chaps have to induce the ladies to swoon through any means possible.
– Tea Pursuit: contestants cycle around the track transferring a cup of tea from one rider to the next. The winning team will be decided by the measure of tea remaining in the cup.
– Not Playing Tennis: gents or ladies seated in armchairs play a game of tennis without getting up. The tennis ball is suspended on a wire strung between two hat stands.
– Bread Basketball: 12 contestants are invited to dine at a table in the middle of the track. A team of servants at each end of the table engage in playing basketball with the bread and the breadbasket, across the table, while the dinner guests try to get served.
– Moustache Wrestling: two contestants must pluck a single hair from their opponent’s lip weasel. If the whole moustache comes off, the opponent is immediately disqualified for twirling under false pretences.
– Briefcase Phalanx: a line of ten chaps and chapettes, dressed for the office and clutching briefcases and handbags, creates a phalanx. Lone contestants must charge at them and try to break through to the secretary on the other side.
– Bakewell Battles: contestants fight it out armed only with silver cake slices and Bakewell tarts.
– The Pipeathlon: six contestants complete a 10-yard course using three disciplines – pipe smoking, cycling and being carried by their servants.
– Umbrella Jousting: two contestants, armed only with brollies and briefcases, must go at one another on bicycles and attempt to knock each other off.
When you’re not trying your hand at the events, guests will be entertained by big bands, quartets, pianists and cabaret singers, as well as radio plays, country fair side-shows and lawn games. Bourne & Hollingsworth will be providing their classic cocktails, as well as beer, wine and soft drinks, while lunch and supper will be served for hungry guests. Ticket holders will be encouraged to come in period dress and immerse themselves in a rather more gentlemanly and ladylike way to live.
- The Chap Olympiad takes place on Saturday 11th July 2015 at Bedford Square Gardens, Bloomsbury, WC1B 3ES. Nearest station: Goodge Street. From 12pm until dusk, games begin at 1pm. Tickets: £25 (sold in advance via Ticketporte or tel: 020 7636 8228). For more information, visit the Chap magazine website or Bourne & Hollingsworth.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
Retro has always been popular, with many of us revisiting former decades such as the 1920s, 1950s and 1970s. However, it is only recently that enough time has passed for us to be able to revisit the 1990s. However, unlike many of the other decades where we only have old photos and history books to guess what it would be like, most of us actually remember the 1990s. There were various big music movements over the decade – Britpop, grunge, R&B and of course, the Spice Girl’s cheesy pop, with many classic tunes of the time no doubt remaining on your playlists today.
Event organising supremos Bourne & Hollingsworth have already won over many fans with their Blitz, Prohibition and Dark Circus parties. With the ’90s dominating this season’s fashion trends, it’s the perfect time to revisit the decade in all it’s forms – music, fashion and drinks at Playback: The 90s Party.
Over the late May Bank Holiday Weekend, an East London warehouse will be transformed into a ’90s pleasure palace, inspired by hotspots of the decade such as The Viper Room, Ministry Of Sound, and Supernova Heights. The venue will be split into two large spaces, including a games room inspired by Nintendo, dance podiums and a screen showcasing classic films and VJ mash-ups from the decade. Guests will be encouraged to get down to their favourite tracks in a ’90s break dance-off.
DJs will be blasting music from the era so there will be something for everyone with pop, rock, and hip-hop all covered. There will also be special guests from the ’90s performing live. Dotted around the venue will be cocktail bars with Bourne & Hollingsworth bartenders serving up iconic concoctions from the ’90s including Frozen Daiquiris, Pina Coladas, Wibbles and Blue Lagoons.
Of course, the event will be fancy dress so revisit your old tribe – be it grunge girl/guy, rock God, preppy freshman, wannabe rapper or technicolour raver. Ladies, think slip dresses, body suits and high-waisted denim, while gents – it may be time to dig out the flannel, ripped jeans, Adidas tracksuits, acid brights and bucket hats. There will also be a hair and make-up stand at the bash should you need some help to create your look.
- Playback: The 90s Party takes place at The Laundry, 2-18 Warburton Road, London Fields, E8 3FN. Nearest station: London Fields. Take place on Friday 22 and Saturday 23rd May 2015, from 8pm-2am. Tickets: £25 (strongly recommend buying in advance as likely to sell out). For more information and tickets, visit the Playback party website.
UPDATED: Playback: The 90s Party will return to East London on Saturday 4 July 2015.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
For a review of brunch at the Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, click here.
I’m always on a lookout for a bar with a difference and unlike the other themed drinking establishments in the capital, Soho‘s newest nightspot celebrates one of my favourite things – London itself. Playing up to the building’s history as a former World War II shelter, Cahoots is an underground basement bar which takes guests back in time to the 1940s. Located in Soho, Cahoots has been styled as an abandoned underground station in post-war London, where those in the know come to party.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the bar’s launch party recently as the premise really excited me. My blogging name is Metro Girl… the bar is underground themed.. surely it’s got to be a match made in heaven? The bar’s entrance is subtle from the street, but once entering and heading down the wooden escalator-style steps (which prompted flashbacks to riding the tube as a child in the ’80s) we were greeted by a doorman (who in character and in a rather spiffing accent, old chum), told us the station was ‘closed’. We played up to it and said ‘we had an appointment’ and were shown the way in. The interior of the bar is pretty amazing – along with a recreated tube carriage (where we subsequently ended up sitting in most of the night), there were vintage-style signs from both the London Underground and the post-war years. Sandbags, bunting, and waiters dressed in vintage clothing furthering the vibe. We parked ourselves in the carriage with our drinks resting on an old suitcase which doubled as a table. The theme continued through to the toilets, with 1940s street sound effects adding to the atmosphere.
The cocktail menu is extensive and unique, with influences from popular drinks from the 1940s, as well as unusual ingredients such as tea leaves, beetroot and Oxo cubes. Cocktails are served in a variety of vessels, such as tin cans, Thermos flasks and milk bottles, ranging from £7-£9. I tried quite a few cocktails, but my favourite was a ‘Vera Lynn’, a fruity gin concontion which came served in a lovely green china version of the wartime dame in her heyday. There’s also an impressive sharing cocktail for groups, the Tanqueray No.10 Station Clock, where you dish out your booze from a giant hollow clock.
As well as the interiors and cocktails, there is also great entertainment with swing bands and dancers performing on many evenings. We were encouraged to try a bit of dancing, but I politely declined over fears of making a fool of myself, but some fellow guests were game and did a good job. The music was a mix of jazz, swing and lindy-hop, so you really feel like you’ve stepped in a time machine. Although this may seem like an immersive experience, we enjoyed ourselves so much I could see Cahoots becoming a regular drinking den for me and my pals. For those looking for something a bit different for a night out, I can highly recommend Cahoots. As long as you’re looking for adventure and are open to embracing the strong theme, head underground. Just don’t tell everyone…
- Cahoots, 13 Kingly Court, Soho, W1B 5PW. Nearest tube [apart from Cahoots obviously… ;-)]: Oxford Circus. For more information, visit the Cahoots website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
To read about Metro Girl’s visit to the disused tube station Aldwych, click here.
There’s many high-profile cycling events in the capital like the Tour de Britain and RideLondon. But let’s face it, the Lycra cycling costumes aren’t the most stylish of ensembles. Well, for those looking for a cycle ride with a difference, April sees the return of The Tweed Run.
The Tweed Run is a must for fans of vintage and cycling, with the 7th annual event combining the two to create one of the most stylish events in the UK. Participants dress in their best 1920s and 1930s tweed attire as they cycle through the historic streets of London. Spectators can expect to see the likes of penny-farthings, vintage two-wheelers and contemporary pedal-powered contraptions. Speed demons need not apply, as guests will be stopping off along the way at various landmarks to enjoy a cup of tea and a picnic in the park before ending the day with a knees-up in an art deco ballroom for the closing ceremony.
Although places for the Tweed Run are now filled, you can join riders at the closing ceremony, hosted by Bourne & Hollingsworth at the Bloomsbury Ballroom on Saturday evening. In the stunning location, vintage-dressed cyclists and revellers will enjoy an evening of delicious cocktails and food and live music.
- The Tweed Run takes place on Saturday 18 April 2015, starting at Trafalgar Square at 11am. Although tickets for cyclists are now sold out, there are £20 tickets available for the Bourne & Hollingsworth’s Tweed Run Awards Ceremony on Saturday evening. For more information and tickets, visit The Tweed Run website or Bourne & Hollingsworth.
For a review of brunch at the Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, click here.