Top 5 Underground Bars in London
1. The Escapologist, Covent Garden
After a hard day’s shopping and sightseeing in Covent Garden, The Escapologist is the perfect destination for a few cocktails to round off the day. You can discover this trendy bar down one of Covent Garden’s elegant Seven Dials streets, and keep a look out for the distinctive sign. Once you’ve made your way downstairs, you’ll discover a sprawling warren of rooms, booths and cosy nooks bathed in soft lighting.
Unlike most trendy underground bars, however, The Escapologist comes with a fascinating backstory, based on a legendary Victorian Baron who escaped a death sentence by hiding out on the very same site. He then remained there, slowly building his power and turning the site into the decadent headquarters of a powerful secret society, which grew to run every aspect of London life in days gone past. While you’re unlikely to find many barons or overlords in The Escapologist these days, the theme is still referenced throughout the bar, with dark wood panelling, luxe furnishings and that spooky eye motif always watching.
A favourite with trendy Soho workers on weeknights, you’ll find more space on weekends. If you arrive hungry, make sure to try the kitchen’s signature handmade pizzas which come with simple but quality toppings. If it’s just a drink you’re after, you’ll find no shortage of your favourite cocktails on the menu. Alternatively, try one of the more unusual offerings such as the Toasted Popcorn Sour, for a taste of the cinema at the bar, or the Baron’s own Baron’s Smoking Jacket, a smoky combination of whisky, egg whites, and bacon.
Address: 35 Earlham St, London WC2H 9LD
Opening times: Monday – Thursday: 5pm – 12:30am, Friday: 4pm – 12:30am, Saturday: 2pm – 12:30am, Sunday: 5pm – 11:30pm
2. TT Liquor, Shoreditch
On the surface, TT Liquor might seem like just another hipster liquor store in trendy Shoreditch, complete with a converted police station location on the super-cool Kingsland Road. Inside, the vintage wooden shelves are lined with almost every kind of spirit imaginable, from popular favourites to exclusive, hard to find alcoholic beverages in elaborate bottles.
However, if you venture a little further though, you’ll discover the Cellar Bar, a dimly lit drinking parlour full of cosy alcoves and plush leather seats. And yes, those nooks are most certainly converted jail cells. The menu is designed around several different eras in cocktail history, meaning there will be something new to discover for even the most seasoned aficionado.
There are many different ways you can experience what TT Liquor has to offer. For an immersive experience, book yourself onto one of their subterranean tasting sessions, where a pro will guide you through the history and varieties of a particular spirit, expertly paired with mixers and food. If you prefer something a bit more hands on, why not join one of their frequent cocktail making masterclasses? Perfect for groups of friends, couples, or anyone looking to improve their mixological expertise, each class is taught by an in-house expert and promises full interaction and fine spirits.
Address: 17B Kingsland Rd, Hackney, London E2 8AA
Opening times: Monday: 9am – 8pm, Tuesday – Wednesday: 9am – 12am, Thursday – Saturday: 9am – 1am, Sunday: Closed
3. Cahoots, Carnaby Street
Continue your journey through time as you discover Cahoots and find yourself transported to yet another era. This time, it’s the 1940s, and a rollicking good time is the one and only way to shake off the shadows of World War II. Like all good bars, this one comes with a fascinating backstory. Cahoots’ founders have based it’s aesthetic around the defunct Kingly Court underground station, a hidden gem beneath busy Soho. Used as an emergency air raid shelter during the Blitz, the station lay dormant for years, containing only the abandoned belongings of those who sheltered there during the War, from old crockery, children’s toys and even furniture.
Inspired by this, the founders have fully embraced the post-war spirit of the bar to turn it into a jolly 1940s-style venue, complete with a vintage ticket hall, a buzzing analogue ‘control room’ broadcasting pirate radio, and a lovingly restored 1940s underground train car. Don’t worry about feeling as claustrophobic as those sheltering from the air raids did, as Cahoots’ friendly atmosphere and cheery lighting are enough to make any visitor feel instantly at ease.
On the menu expect puns galore with cocktails such as Eiffel In Love With A Soldier, and Keep Marm And Carry On, accompanied by all your favourite classic British rations, such as crumpets and steak and ale pie. Make sure you book in advance, as this venue is one of the most popular in the area.
Address: 13 Kingly Ct, Soho, London W1B 5PW
Opening times: Monday – Wednesday: 5pm – 1am, Thursday: 4pm – 2am, Friday: 4pm – 3am, Saturday: 1pm – 3am, Sunday: 3pm – 12am
4. Swingers, Liverpool Street
Crazy golf might seem an activity just for little ones, but Liverpool Street’s Swingers makes sure that this old favourite can be enjoyed by adults as well. This venue isn’t hard to miss; it’s just metres from the base of The Gherkin. Don’t let the smart surroundings fool you, however, because Swingers is all about relaxed fun and games. After making your way downstairs into a converted bomb shelter, you’ll discover two sprawling nine hole adventure golf courses themed around the idyllic English countryside, complete with hedgerows, rolling green meadows and even a lighthouse.
You’re encouraged to bring your drinks with you as you tackle the courses, and with five well-stocked bars, you won’t be short of cocktails. If the golf has tired you out and you fancy just sitting and chatting, the two storey Gin Terrace provides plenty of seating and a great view as you observe the course and decide on the best shots.
Don’t worry about overindulging on elderflower spritzers or gin and tonics, however, as you’ll quickly sober up when tackling the impressive selection of street food that’s on offer. From a rotating selection including wood-fired pizzas and authentic Mexican dishes, there’ll be something to soak up every drink and sharpen your golfing too.
Address: 8 Brown’s Buildings, London EC3A 8AL
Opening times: Monday – Wednesday: 12 – 11pm, Thursday – Friday: 12pm – 12am, Saturday: 10:30am – 12am, Sunday: 10:30am – 9:30pm
5. La Cabina, Haggerston
If Peaky Blinders has got you yearning to visit an old-style speakeasy, search no more. La Cabina offers a Spanish twist on today’s popular hidden underground bar. Getting in is the tricky part, but not because of any intimidating bouncers. Instead, visitors must locate a telephone box on the street and dial a secret number to gain entry. Once inside, the vibe is a combination of heady Barcelona drinking establishment and a hip local London bar.
The extensive food menu is what makes La Cabina really stand out from the crowd. It expertly blends authentic Spanish tapas with comforting British classics. Where else could you enjoy chorizo in red wine, roasted octopus, scotch eggs and pork belly on the same plate? If you’re just here for drinks, however, don’t worry, as you’ll be well catered for with beachy cocktails and Spanish-inspired favourites readily available.
Don’t worry about heading home too soon either, as La Cabina is all about the late nights. Tapas are served until the wee small hours, and resident DJs keep the party going all night long.
Address: 232 Kingsland Rd, Whitmore Estate, London E2 8AX
Opening times: Monday – Tuesday: Closed, Wednesday: 8pm – 3am, Thursday – Saturday: 8pm – 5am, Sunday: 8pm – 3am