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Hidden bars and old-fashioned speakeasies

London’s best nightlife secrets

From an old-fashioned speakeasy to a secret disco hidden behind a refrigerator, London is packed with unique bars — but you have to know where to find them. We set out on a quest to put together a list of the most entertaining, exotic and adventurous ones for you.

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Mr. Fogg's Residence

Travel around the world in 80 days

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In other words, it’s wonderfully old-fashioned chic with leather sofas, a fireplace and articulate staff in uniform. The drinks are equally as creative and reflect each of the steps of Mr. Fogg’s 80-day journey, like the ‘Voyage aux Alpes’ with vodka, pine resin liqueur and vanilla syrup.

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Without detailed instructions, you would simply walk past the front door of Mr. Fogg’s Residence, located on a quiet street in Mayfair. Like the name says, this bar is furnished as the ‘home’ of Phileas Fogg, the travel-mad character in Jules Verne’s book. Once inside, the interior is filled with reminders of his fictive journey around the world. The walls are full of country maps and pictures, birdcages hang from the ceiling and there are the occasional stuffed tigers and crocodiles.

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Cocktails and dim sum in Chinatown

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It takes a bit of looking to find the green door that leads to Opium in the heart of Chinatown, but once inside, you are in for an exhilarating night. The steep stairs lead to three shadowy floors, each with its own theme. There’s the Apothecary Bar, where you can enjoy a cocktail that goes with your Chinese zodiac sign mixed from curious flasks.

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Even more creativity awaits behind a red curtain: in the Peony Bar you order a drink from a Chinese map. For example, the ‘Shanghai’ is an exciting concoction of Umami vodka, plum wine, habanero, peaches, celery, anise and tea. Also good to know: each bar offers a menu of dim sum (steamed snacks) and exclusive teas to bring the night in balance.

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Jade Nina Sarkhel

The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town

A visit to the mayor

After enjoying a delicious meal at the Breakfast Club in Spitalfields, and want to paint the town red? Whisper in the ear of a service staff member that “I’m here to see the mayor” and walk towards an old-fashioned refrigerator. On the other side of the door, the hidden bar The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town awaits you.

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In this charming brick basement, you sit on wooden barstools and watch bartenders make intriguing cocktails like the ‘Chiquita’ (with whiskey, eggnog and banana).

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Jade Nina Sarkhel
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Looking Glass Cocktail Club

Looking Glass

Mirrored world

The hip district of Shoreditch is crawling with unique boutiques, colourful street art and local bars that are equally as creative. You enter the Looking Glass through an enormous mirror that you step into to arrive at this secret cocktail bar. On the other side, a fantasy world awaits you complete with antique furniture, odd decorations and drinks from the world of Alice in Wonderland!

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Looking Glass Cocktail Club
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Looking Glass Cocktail Club

The Mad Hatter, for instance, may very well take a seat at your table to mix a fiery punchbowl with ‘Turtle Soup’. Magical things happen in your glass if you order a ‘Shrinking Violet’. Hopefully, you’ll be able to find your way back to the real world at the end of the night…

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Looking Glass Cocktail Club
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After enjoying a day of shopping and admiring graffiti in Shoreditch, Callooh Callay is the perfect place to kick off the night. Callooh Callay opened its doors in 2008 making it one of the first cocktail bars in Shoreditch. Nowadays, this bar is a mainstay in this trendy neighbourhood, and the stools at the lovely wooden bar are always filled.

The menu, decorated with street art, contains modern variations on such classics as the ‘Hoxtopolitan’ (with sherry) and the ‘Cold Brew Martini’ (with coffee). But for the real night owls, there’s more to come: the secret JubJub Bar, where you are only allowed to enter if you have a special key.

Callooh Callay

Put on your dancing shoes

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B.Y.O.C. City

Bring your own bottle

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True to tradition, the entrance is not easy to find. That’s because it’s hidden in the basement of the trendy Michelin-star restaurant James Cochran. To complete the experience, you bring your own booze (B.Y.O.C. stands for Bring Your Own Cocktail). During a two-hour session, your booze is used to serve you all kinds of creations like a cocktail, shot or punch bowl.

With its overflowing bookshelves, old piano and velvet seats, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the past in this central London basement bar. B.Y.O.C. is inspired by the roaring 20s Prohibition in the United States. This was the heyday of the speakeasy, secret locations where the thirsty could enjoy a cocktail under the radar.

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