High 5: London’s secret venues

June 17, 2013

Books like Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five and The Secret Seven spawned a personal obsession with secret passages, bookcase doors and hidden rooms. The children’s adventure series were the reason I would knock on walls in my parents’ and friends’ houses. I loved the idea that I could sneak from room to room without anyone knowing how I got there.

I’d like to say I grew out of this… but now I’ve simply turned my attention to hidden bars and restaurants. Luckily for me, London has plenty of them. Here are my favourite five:

Breakfast ClubThe Breakfast Club, Spitalfields
Kitted out in colourful 1980s kitsch – including a neon sign printed with the words ‘Sex, drugs and bacon rolls’ – this is a must for brekkie-fiends who love nothing better than syrup-soaked pancakes and epic fry-ups. But the best bit by far is the white Smeg fridge at the back of the cafe. Just say to a staff member, ‘I need to see the Mayor’ and you’ll be transported through the fridge-cum-portal into a retro cocktail bar with moose heads and a mirrored disco ball!

Callooh CallayCallooh Callay, Shoreditch
There’s a hint to this place’s hidden secret on its web page. On a side street in East London, this cocktail bar has more to it than quirky decoration, delectable bar snacks and yummy cocktails. Step into the Narnia-esque wardrobe at the back and you’ll find a secret room for those in need of a quieter evening, tucked away from the buzzing bar.

Upstairs Brixton_FlickrUpstairs, Brixton
You could walk past this terraced house several times and be none the wiser about its delights. But, by its non-descript buzzer, you’ll spot a tiny little sign for ‘Upstairs’. Ring the bell and you’ll soon find yourself in a lovely little French restaurant, with a very tasty menu that changes every fortnight.


The Key, Marylebone
This new speakeasy bar in Marylebone has an intriguing entry policy – first you need to actually find the deli bar it’s situated in, and then you need a key. Tweet the bar and, once you have a secret password (which changes regularly), you’ll have to find your way to the deli’s bathroom to discover a large 1920s-decorated venue adorned with chandeliers and complete with a secret garden.

bodega-negro 2La Bodega Negra, Soho
Tucked behind the facade of a sex shop in Soho, many would miss this Mexican restaurant. Follow the bright neon sign that says ‘Come’ and a downward pointing arrow, and you’ll discover the unique underground bistro, serving Tequila, quesadillas and lamb tacos.


Laura Manning