Alice went down a rabbit hole and Harry Potter through a wall in King’s Cross Station, both driven by curiosity. If you are curious enough and also happen to like drinking exceptionally good cocktails, pick up a map and discover the best hidden bars and cafes of London. From the oldest music hall in the city to relaxing with a cup of English breakfast tea in a characteristic cafe, explore these hidden gems around the city.
Cafe, British, Vegetarian$$$
Extremely close to Angel Station, up some narrow stairs in an old building is the Candid Café. With its rustic wooden flooring and a huge dining table in the middle, the lounge is furnished with velvet armchairs, big comfy sofas, particular pieces of art and soft candlelight. A bit quirky in its decor but cosy and warm, this is the perfect place to sample delicious Mediterranean dishes or enjoy afternoon tea in the company of a friend or your favourite book.
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Pub, French, $$$
Tucked away in a lovely residential mews is the Grenadier. Near Hyde Park Corner Station, this pub is considered to be a London landmark. Built in 1720 as the Officers Mess for The First Royal Regiment of Foot Guards, the Grenadier took its name after a honourable battle fought against the French Grenadiers at Waterloo in 1815. This little pub offers refreshing ales or warm mulled wine along with delicious traditional pub food. With a fireplace, an incredible ceiling covered in banknotes and friendly staff, the Grenadier is worth a fight for a seat.
Wilton’s Music Hall
Bar, Market, Pub, British$$
Between Tower Hill and Aldgate East Station resides The Wilton’s Music Hall, the oldest music hall in London. With outstanding architecture, the Wilton’s Music Hall is not only a must for opera, concerts or theatre lovers but it is also part of the city’s cultural heritage. Starting off as an ale house in the first half of the 18th century, it was turned into a concert room later on until in 1859 when it became a music hall. From the end of the 19th century up to the present day, the site passed from being the East London Methodist Mission Hall to a rag warehouse and then it remained empty and left to decay for a long time. After many years of reconstruction, in 2004 Wilton’s Music Hall was finally opened to the public. Now a famous site for film and video shoots, it offers an incredible variety of entertainment in a retro atmosphere. Hosting the historical Mahogany Bar and Cocktail Bar, with swing music filling the air and delicious snacks to munch on, it is the perfect place for a happy hour or have a break in between shows.
Bar, British, $$$$
Truly hidden within the Chelsea Cloisters apartments on Sloane Avenue is Barts. Go through the reception, down the corridor and straight into Wonderland. With old paintings, stuffed animal heads and cuckoo clocks, this bizarre but elegant salon invites you to try its eccentric selection of cocktails accompanied by the sound of great music from the 1920s. Served in teapots or in cigar boxes, you can even drink absinthe. Entertaining customers with live music or performances every week, this old- fashioned bar is a true speakeasy.
Looking Glass Cocktail Club
Cocktail Bar, Pub Grub, $$$
Located in the heart of Shoreditch but in the yet not-well known Hackney Road is the Looking Glass Cocktail Club. As the name suggests, customers are invited to go through the sumptuous ‘looking glass’ to enter a speakeasy room. With candle light, portmanteau as tables and old leather sofas, the Looking Glass offers a mouth-watering cocktail menu, with drinks served by the friendly and ‘madly’ talented bartenders. Hosting performance art, live music, DJ sets and other brilliant events, the Looking Glass Cocktail Club is one of the coolest places in the East End and definitely a dream for your senses.
Food Court, Russian$$
Situated near Shoreditch on Old Street, there appears to be what looks like a shop window display. However, if you ring the bell and go up the stairs, you will find the Ziferblat. Originally from Russia, its curious name means ‘clock face’. Ziferblat is a coffee house where guests pay for the time they stay instead of the food or drinks – which there are plenty of in the free kitchen available. Eclectic furniture, instruments and board games to play, a record player and books spread everywhere make the Ziferblat a perfect second home. With highly entertaining events from yoga lessons to game nights, from creative writing sessions to art exhibitions, this place offers you the opportunity to work, play or relax. For only 5p per minute, it is worth spending time at the Ziferblat.