It seems to me that usually the best-kept secrets tend also to be the best things, and places, in life. And this is certainly the case in terms of luxury cocktail bars in London…

The relatively new arrival of hidden speakeasies in the basements and back alleys of Shoreditch and Hackney are part of the incessant trend in London of reviving the rebellious and subversive attitude of the ‘roaring twenties’. From bars that are hidden behind fridges or menus made from playing cards, these venues are anything but mainstream.

In America, speakeasies became prominent in the 1920s following the ban on alcohol in 1919. These quirky, smoky dens would become regular hangouts for people to looking to listen to jazz and let their hair down in an environment of debauchery and booze. Think Bugsy Malone, but replace the kids with adults, and the custard pies with alcohol and guns.
The modern day speakeasies attempt to  recreate a sense of this secret and exclusive atmosphere, firstly by making themselves extremely hard to find (that’s where we come in) and secondly, by providing certain drinks and services that you won’t find in Wetherspoons.

One great example is the ‘Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town’, which calls itself ‘the ultimate London speakeasy’, a secret candlelit cocktail den hidden behind the door of a SMEG fridge in ‘The Breakfast Club’, an 80s themed café in Spitalfields. On entering the café you simply need to ask to see ‘the Mayor’ and you will be directed to the fridge and the eerie basement that awaits you below. The den has been decorated to give off a very vintage feel, with candles, trinkets, hanging lamps, flaking plaster and exposed brick creating a shady sort of mood. The cocktail menu is varied and unique. Owner ‘Henri’ explains that his establishment is ‘harking back to the desire for cocktail bars doing different things and not relying too much on classic drinks’.

 Another to look out for is ‘The Nightjar’, hidden between two cafes on City Road on the edge of Shoreditch. The bar boasts the ‘very best cocktails’, with the team creating their own house ingredients and infusions, and the cocktail menu is available as a complete deck of playing cards. The Nightjar claims to offer the best in vintage music from the 1920s-1940s as well as delicious snacks and specials prepared by the house chef at your table.

 Finally I want to mention ‘Whistling Shop’ on Worship Street, on the outskirts of Shoreditch, claiming to be the ‘next big thing to hit London’s drinking scene’. Combining Victorian charm with the grandeur of Victorian gin palaces, the bar promises a ‘completely unseen before approach to cocktails’, with two separate rooms and Victorian inspired food to accompany your drinking experience. The Cocktail Emporium at the Whistling Shop is referred to as ‘the fairground ride of cocktail imbibition’; a self-contained space in which you can experience taste, aroma, sound and vision amongst a mixed selection of themed drinks.

Other speakeasies to try out include: Lounge BohemiaCallooh Callay Bar and the Dead Dolls Club. Please note that all of the bars recommend that you reserve a table in advance or book before to avoid disappointment. More information can be found on each of their websites.

If you are interested in all things quirky and bizarre in London then why not try out Insider’s Quirky London Tour  or if finding out about different eras is your thing then try Insider’s Pop Culture Tour