Secret bars and nights out in London

Find secret bars, hidden nightclubs and more of the capital’s best underground nightlife in the Time Out guide to hidden bars and nights out

Enjoy a night out somewhere different this weekend and discover the capital’s best hidden bars and nightlife. Sink a drink in one of London’s secret drinking dens or spend an evening at an underground event. Check out our guide to hidden bars and nights out in London.

For a so-called ‘secret’ speakeasy, there’s been an awful lot of publicity about this new basement bar beneath the new Breakfast Club in Spitalfields. According to the booze bloggers, in order to gain exclusive entry, you need to embark on clandestine correspondence with a chap called Henri who gives it the big hush-hush and may, if you’re lucky and tap the side of your nose, reveal the covert entrance to a cloak-and-dagger drinking den.

Don’t believe the hype. The entrance is the one that looks like a big SMEG fridge door. We didn’t discover it because we’re cooler than a retro fridge – we discovered it because they had revealed its location on a blackboard outside, which somewhat undermines its status as a ‘secret’ speakeasy.

Once you’ve navigated all that nonsense, you’re left with a quirky dimly lit cocktail bar clad in exposed brick and wood. It’s reminiscent of a ‘Twin Peaks’ cabin with moose heads, mirror balls, retro wallpaper and a clock with unnerving, oscillating eyes. It’s not the best place for a date with its high stools, wooden tables and, on this occasion, lack of toilet tissue in the ladies’ loos. Despite this the lighting is low, and a sign forbids ‘heavy petting’.

Refreshingly for a so-called speakeasy, the staff didn’t take themselves too seriously and the drinks menu makes an amusing mockery of more vain ‘underground’ venues. The cocktails, consisting of classics and house specials, are well-crafted on the whole – especially the chilli and lemongrass twist on the Tommy’s Margarita. With Timothy Taylor and Modelo Especial, the beer list is also better than some. Wines cost from under £15 and there are simple sandwiches and platters on hand to soak up the suds to a soulful soundtrack.

Address: 12-16 Artillery Lane
E1 7LS
Opening hours: Open 5-midnight Mon-Thur; noon-midnight Fri, Sat; noon-10.30pm Sun. Food served 5pm-midnight Mon-Sat; 5-10.30pm Sun
Transport: Tube: Liverpool Street tube/rail or Shoreditch High Street rail
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