69 Colebrooke Row, Islington
In true London speakeasy style, 69 Colebrooke Row (or the 'bar with no name', as it would have it) is hard to find. Hidden away off the Essex Road, you could argue that were it not for the promise of fabulous cocktails and a cool, clandestine feel, a lot of people would have given up and gone home long before they ever crossed the threshold.
Mixed by Tony Conigliario – who also runs the show at ELLEuk favourite, The Zetter Townhouse – utterly fabulous the cocktails are, too. On a weekend, a night out here is best tied in with an early evening drink and dinner at one of our favourite gastro pubs in London – the nearby Charles Lamb pub, which is owned by Tony’s partner, Camille.
69 Colebrooke Row, London, N1 8AA; 69colebrookerow.com.
Cellar Door, Covent Garden
'Cellar Door', so Dorothy Parker famously remarked (and Drew Barrymore equally famously told her students in Donnie Darko) is the most beautiful word in the English language. And it certainly is if you find yourself wandering the nightlife wastelands of Aldwych looking for a late-night watering hole. 60 covers is all this tiny basement space can squeeze in – leaving just enough room for the regular cabaret acts to strut their stuff.
Zero Aldwych, London, WC2E 7DN; Cellardoor.biz.
Callooh Callay, Shoreditch
Callooh Callay’s been a regular stop-off on ELLE nights out since it opened back in 2009. The Lewis Carroll reference is apt – there’s a wonderfully ‘through the looking glass’ meets Narnia feel to the place with its lurid splashes of colour, quirky objets and mismatched furniture (including, in one corner, an oversized wardrobe). Eccentricities aside, the most important thing, though, is that the cocktails are beautifully mixed and dispensed to a cool crowd.
65 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3AY; Calloohcallaybar.com.
Danger of Death, Brick Lane
Coming as it does from the people who brought you Milk and Honey (London and New York), Red Hook and Giant Robot in Clerkenwell, Danger of Death’s got fine members’ club form behind it. It’s also got some decent speakeasy pedigree – hidden away underneath a pizza shop on Brick Lane, having entered via some complicated, covert button pushing, you settle into gloomily lit booths to sip cocktails. Being a members’ club, you may just need that friend with the contacts – or a smile and a good line or two – to help you get in.
Brick Lane, London E1; Dangerlondon.com.
Experimental Cocktail Club, Chinatown
This place popped up recently in our pick of favourite ELLEuk hangouts with Marketing and Merchandising Editor Bonnie Rahkit counting the ways she loves it – from the ‘seriously seductive’ interiors with ‘dimmed lights and cosy corner sofas’ to, of course, the ‘experimental cocktails, some of which come in ready prepared old school medicine bottles and vials’.
Leaving all those lovely things out of it for a moment, however, the main reason it makes the cut of our favourite speakeasies in London is because of its unexpected location – with its hidden ‘entry through a scruffy little door off Gerard Street in the centre of Chinatown’ it’s like a cool nightlife oasis surrounded by the heaving fleshpots of Leicester Square.
13A Gerrard Street, W1D 5PS; Experimentalcocktailclublondon.com.
Like our pick of the best speakeasies in London? Pair a night out with one of our pick of the best new London restaurants.
Milk and Honey? Purl? The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town? We’ve had to leave out so many of our favourite drinking holes from this pick of speakeasies in London. Where else have we missed?