Gin-filled jam jars first chinked surreptitiously inside London’s speakeasy-inspired bars a few years back, but Ultra Vie knows that secret doesn’t mean select. We’ve chosen our top five hideouts for your confidential scrutiny.
The Luggage Room
You might think a bar fitted out in a disused hotel storage room might preserve a little of the dust and humility of its origins, but beyond the original doorway marked “Luggage Entrance”, the decorative luxury of The Luggage Room is absolute. As guests sip cobblers crafted by bar manager Abdulai Kpekawa (formerly of Roux at the Pembury), the sophistication and glamour of 1920s Mayfair is conjured. Honoured throughout are the Bentley Boys, famed motor-racing champions of that same era. Toast them with the Bentley Cup: gin, elderflower syrup, cucumber water, marmalade vodka and champagne.
Address: Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square, W1K 6JP
Evans and Peel Detective Agency
If you arrange an appointment with the Detective Agency in advance, you just might navigate through the inconspicuous doorway to the subterranean bar without hiring a private detective of your own. Upon arrival, an alert agent will subject you to a thorough grilling about “your case” before – fingers-crossed – granting you entry to the bar-proper. Evans and Peel takes on the speakeasy concept with candles blazing and the result is a delightfully immersive experience. Cocktails served in antique medicine bottles, a bar built from old church pews and the floating charcoal scent of a hickory smoker all lend to the exuberant ambiance.
Address: 310c Earls Court Road SW5 9BA
Chelsea Prayer Room (Goat)
Ultra Vie has previously admired the transformation of Chelsea pub the Goat in Boots into Goat, a multi-faceted bar and restaurant. Off the record to date, however, has been Goat’s speakeasy, open Thursday to Saturday. Called the Chelsea Prayer Room, the clandestine chamber is entered stealthily on the first floor by in-the-know members of “the congregation” using a daily pass-code. Non-members can join the coveted flock for limited two-hour slots. Prayer-book drinks menus offer cocktails with an old-school twist such as the Delicious Sour, fused with home-made marshmallow syrup.
Address: 333 Fulham Road, SW10 9QL
The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town
The huge popularity of this curiously named hideout means it’s a little less than secret, but it makes our top five through its clear dedication to fun. Tucked away in a corner of the Breakfast Club in Spitalfields, The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town is playfully accessed by stepping through a Smeg fridge. That fact alone might allow the bar to remain inconspicuous, were it not for a large neon arrow which points to the basement bar, flashily advertising “thrills”. Try the “Rosie and Gin” which comprises Bombay Sapphire, rosemary, pressed pineapple and lime.
Address: 12-16 Artillery Lane, E1 7LS
The Key is a new secret bar operating – we think – behind a concealed shop-front on Soho’s Margaret Street. Rumour has it that guests step inside a functioning Italian deli whose staff may or may not share the key to a door concealed inside a bathroom. If that last part sounds a touch Ally McBeal you can rest assured that the bar itself will not be. Dreamt up by a team including Diego Lijtmaer, co-founder of luxury entertainment company Bacanal Media and Entertainment Group, The Key is sure to offer high-class kicks to callers fortunate enough to find their way inside.
Address: Somewhere on Margaret Street, W1W?