When a lady of London needs a stiff cocktail and a break from the world, she'd be wise to head for one of these hidden, underground bars that offer an intimate experience — not to mention drinks on fleek.
1. Bermondsey Arts Club & Cocktail Bar
The intimate hideaway Bermondsey Arts Club & Cocktail Bar is part of London’s recent flush of "loo bars." Yes, a loo bar is exactly that: a bar housed in a disused, below street-level public convenience. Several of such drinking establishments have popped up around London recently (above-ground real estate is hard to come by, after all), but the best of the bunch is this art deco-style beauty in the burgeoning Bermondsey neighborhood south of the Thames. Bartenders mix a mean Negroni, a "Negroni Wit Attitude" to be precise, and you can score invites to exclusive parties by applying for membership.
"High spirits, scoundrels, and swing!" That’s how Cahoots describes its 1940s tube station-themed underground bar that is, in fact, housed in a former air raid shelter in Soho. Staff are indeed in cahoots with the theme, and strut around the vintage décor-filled bar clad in glamorous period costume. If the novelty all gets a bit too much, retire to the intimate and dimly lit corner nook and get to work on the excellent cocktail list, presented in wartime newspaper format and featuring such interesting ingredients as OXO cubes and anchovies.
Odd ingredients (plankton, baobab pods…) are also on the menu at Nightjar, a sleek, sexy space with live jazz and a chic clientele. One of London’s very best speakeasies, Nightjar delivers its cocktail creations with an exciting sense of drama, with some arriving steaming, frothing, flaming or — in the case of the "Real Drink for Millionaires" — inside a piggy bank.
4. La Bodega Negra
Many neon lights throughout Soho promise "Live Girls," but the slinky figure beckoning passersby on Old Compton Street offers something even more exciting: a Mexican-themed cocktail den, known as La Bodega Negra, hidden behind a peep show façade. Hide your sheepishness and enter by the "Live Nude" sign; walk down the stairs, past the sex toys (authenticity is key!), and into the sexy photo-decorated lounge (filled with even sexier stylish Londoners). Stay a while and indulge in the impressive tequila and mezcal list.
5. The Hidden Bar at Chiltern Firehouse
There’s been much ado about the luxurious Chiltern Firehouse hotel — and the hot celebs who frequent it every night — but what you might not have heard about is the hidden space tucked away behind the dining room’s restrooms. Bravolebs and their ilk will have no problem securing a reservation at the exclusive restaurant (helmed by Michelin-starred chef Nuno Mendes); then it’s just a case of excusing yourself and making your way downstairs to the loos. Give the mirrored panel a little push and you’ll find yourself in an almost mythical realm of A-listers sipping champagne.
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