London’s East End hipster neighbourhood of Shoreditch is full of quirky cafes, all-night raves, world-class street art and, of course, fabulously eclectic bars. Secret passwords, hidden entrances and incongruous names are the norm for its speakeasies. The best bars can be deliberately hard to find, so we have drawn up a list of favourites, to give you a helping hand.
The Book Club
With a name more fitting for a pensioner’s Tuesday morning rather than a twenty-something’s perfect Friday night, The Book Club is actually the ideal blend of the two. Full of London’s self-employed tapping away at their laptops and gulping coffee by day, The Book Club becomes a drinking den and a music venue come the weekend nights, with a wide selection of gigs and events every week. Weekday evenings it plays host to a series of art events from late night film screenings, to poetry readings, lectures, exhibitions, workshops and cultural showcases. There’s also a ping pong table and a pool table for those after a slightly less cultured affair.
The Book Club, 100 Leonard Street, London, England, +44 0 207 684 8618
Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town
There’s only one way to get into the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town speakeasy, and those not in the know won’t have a clue the bar even exists. Situated underneath the Spitalfields Breakfast Club, guests must enter as if they want a table at the Breakfast Club but upon arrival tell a member of staff that they are there to see the mayor. It’s the only way down. Once a table is available, the mayor’s visitors will be discreetly ushered inside an old Smeg fridge. What lies on the other side? Well, we wouldn’t like to give too much away but menus in cat food tins and carefully crafted cocktails are said to be among the delights.
Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, 12–16 Artillery Lane, London, England, +44 0 207 078 9639
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Worship Street Whistling Shop
Serving up an array of sparkling English wines, alongside hearty craft beers and completely unique cocktails, no drinker will be left thirsty at the Worship Street Whistling Shop. Created in the in-house lab using a variety of home-made ingredients, drinks on offer include the Exploded Martini, Illegal Mezcal and Malic in Wonderland. For those after a slightly more immersive experience, choose between the group Emporium and Dram Shop experiences. Participate in the world’s first Whiskey Theatre Show and blend your own signature whiskey or pick out a 100 year old bottle from the gin library.
Worship Street Whistling Shop, 63 Worship Street, London, +44 0 207 247 0015
For a drink with a view, the Boundary Rooftop bar is the ultimate romantic date spot in East London. Visitors can reserve a table for lunch or just take the risk and turn up in the evening for dinner or drinks. Share a bottle of wine and half a dozen oysters or go all out with a three course meal, alternatively simply order an aperitif or digestif and have a quick smooch under the stars. Slightly classier than most Shoreditch bars, the Boundary Rooftop has a relaxed, elegant atmosphere and is open year round, whatever the weather.
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Perfect for a quick after-work bottle of Sagres or a long night of amaretto sours, Bar Kick on Shoreditch High Street is a fun-loving bar complete with great hot dogs, cosy candle-lit date tables, televised football and a foosball table for competitive friends. There’s a happy hour from 4–7pm, friendly staff and a constant lively atmosphere. Special events take place in the basement and 3D football matches are shown down there too. Don’t be surprised if you arrive at 6pm for a quick drink, get completely drawn in and don’t leave until the lights come on in the early hours. It happens to everyone.
Bar Kick, 127 Shoreditch High Street, London, England, +44 0 207 739 8700
For a livelier night out, the Shoreditch Butchery is a bar-club organising live music and party nights whilst continuing to serve up an array of great cocktails including their signature rum-based Badman Cocktail. Attached to club XOYO, the Shoreditch Butchery is the perfect stop off for a finely crafted pre-gig drink before following the crowds into the club next door. While perhaps not the best choice for those after a quiet catch-up, it is undeniably a great venue and boasts that quirky, rustic décor that has become ubiquitous in Shoreditch bars.
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Made up of two bars and a hidden lounge, Callooh Callay is one of Shoreditch’s most elite yet bustling bars. Nestled down a cobbled lane, the bar is far from the swarming crowds and therefore the perfect spot for an intimate cocktail or an evening out with friends. Choose between a beer in the bar, step through the wardrobe to the secret table-service lounge, or find your way upstairs to the hidden bar for fine cocktails made from limited-edition spirits that can’t be found in the rest of London. Large groups can reserve ahead to have their own cocktail master class in a private bar, perfect for special occasions and birthday parties.
Callooh Callay, 65 Rivington Street, London, +44 0 207 739 4781
Cotton’s Rhum Shack
Having taken over a couple of old shipping containers at Shoreditch’s Box Park, Cotton’s Rhum Shack has quickly become the life and soul of foodie hangouts. With barbecue buffets and giant bean bags to lounge on by day, and wild dancing, conga lines and rum-fuelled cocktails to keep you going by night; visitors never quite know what they are going to walk into at Cotton’s Rhum Shack. The bar brings a big dollop of Caribbean culture to the heart of London serving up jerk chicken, salt fish fritters and curried mutton. But it’s the drinks that really draw the crowds in the evenings for the signature cocktails made from the perfect blend of sweet juices and bitter liquors.
The Strongroom bar and kitchen has a table-service restaurant, a downstairs lounge bar, a dance floor and plays host to a series of live music events and DJ nights. Located slightly off the beaten track, it’s another of those sought-after bars that not everybody knows about. As a platform for local music, the Strongroom is a great place to go to discover new talents and for visitors to London to experience first-hand the East End music scene. It makes for a great night out, and for those not too hungover the next day, it does a brilliant breakfast too.