Hidden behind a clothes shop on Brick Lane, Back In 5 Minutes is an intimate restaurant and private dining room from the Disappearing Dining Club. The restaurant, which can be found down the shop’s stairs and behind a curtain, offers elegant European food, while drawing upon Head Chef Fredrik Bolin’s Swedish roots. Diners can enjoy potted meats with sourdough, smoked chicken hearts with apple and walnut slaw, and braised lamb shoulder with snail and red wine risotto. Pudding options include salt liquorice and lemon curd Eton Mess, boozy fruit crumble served with Swedish custard, and a white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake. Every Wednesday there is a Dinner Club where thirty seats are spread around three tables with one menu for all diners, creating a friendly get-to-know your neighbours evening; Thursday through to Saturday provides a restaurant menu with three starters, mains and desserts to choose from.
Recreate the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at this bar’s free members’ club.
65 Rivington Street, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3AY
Tube: Old Street Station
Often regarded as one of Shoreditch’s best cocktail bars, Callooh Callay is a popular venue with an ambitious, regularly changing cocktail menu. Examples include the Electric Ladyland, a blend of passion fruit vodka, fresh tarragon, raspberries and blackberries; Coca Kola Crocodile, reminiscent of Panda pops, this cocktail mixes rum with blue curacao, Kola tonic, chartreuse and bitters; and the Well Thymed, bourbon, lemon juice, rhubarb and thym liqueur are shaken with egg white. As well as the main bar and lounge, Callooh Callay also houses a hidden members’ bar: The Jubjub. Free to join, it’s well worth it just for the excitement of entering – hidden behind a Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe-esque doorway, the bar is a more relaxed affair and provides an attitude-free members’ bar experience.
A bar that’s off the beaten track and encourages creativity.
33 Parkgate Road, London, SW11 4NP
Tube: Sloane Square Station
Located off Battersea’s beaten track, within the ex-dairy warehouse Testbed1, the Doodle Bar is a venue ideal for the creative types. Found through a dark alley and across a car park, and with nothing but a small neon sign stating ‘Bar’ above the warehouse entrance, it takes word of mouth or just a lucky stumble for people to come across this gem of a venue. Originally a pop-up, the Doodle Bar concept was so popular that it succeeded in being granted permanent residency. The notion is for visitors to embrace their inner artist and doodle on the blank canvas that is the chalkboard walls and bar. The Doodle Bar also houses a ping pong table, serves organic food and hosts a weekly pop up bakery, life drawing classes, and comedy and music events.
Intimate restaurant that’s tucked away within Clapham.
409 Clapham Road, Clapham, London, SW9 9BT
Tube: Clapham North Station
It’s almost as if this restaurant above the Clapham North Pub doesn’t want to be found, with a private entrance tucked away as it is on Landor Road, flagged by a discrete blink-and-you’d-miss-it sign. It’s so private you even have to ring a bell to get in. All this gives the impression that Four O Nine wants to remain a well kept secret, only frequented by those in the know. The menu is an evolving selection of classic European food with a inventive flair. The calming purple hued interior, dimly lit and modern, is perfect for a romantic night out. It all adds up to a welcome refuge particularly when considering the usual chain options on Clapham High Street. After this, Four O Nine may no longer be the well kept secret it was but, when the place is this good, it’s only fair to share.
Intimate 1960s style restaurant hidden beneath Wardour Street.
187b Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1F 8ZB
Tube: Tottenham Court Road Station, Oxford Circus Station
Bucking London’s no-bookings trend, Old Tom & English is a reservations-only restaurant from co-owners of The Arts Theatre Club, Costas and Maria Constantinou. Hidden beneath Wardour Street, it has been designed by the critically acclaimed Lee Broom – responsible for the décor of The Nightjar – and brings together old Soho and new Soho, with the name referencing the 18th century British ‘Old Tom’ gin recipes. To gain entry guests must ring the doorbell of a heavy slatted wooden door and, if a reservation has been made, they will then be welcomed through a hidden hatch into an intimate dining space. Broom’s concept is a contemporary take on a 1960s home, with low lighting, a post-modern fireplace, sleek grey wool sofas and a vibrant red carpet. Served from bespoke decanters and glassware, the vintage cocktails are not to be missed. The menu includes two takes on an Old Fashioned, a smoked version and a barrel aged gin option; a Coffee Cocktail, made using fresh ground coffee and Tia Maria; and a Champagne Float, topping Cornish ice cream with gin and Pol Roger N/V. The food menu, meanwhile, consists of a number of small plates that allows guests to create their own tasting menu. Options include confit smoked guinea fowl, crispy cider braised pig cheeks and deep fried popcorn cockles.
An industrial underground cocktail bar with an impressive drinks list.
198 Shaftesbury Avenue, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 8JL
Tube: Covent Garden Station, Tottenham Court Road Station, Leicester Square Station
Despite being located on the busy Shaftesbury Avenue, Freud Bar does a good job at keeping its location under wraps. Accessed via a New York-style black metal staircase, which looks like it leads to a staff-only basement, this underground cocktail bar is far from obvious. Once inside, those in the know are greeted with a small, industrial style cocktail bar that has concrete benches for seats. With a generous menu of high quality cocktails and a dozen or so bottled beers the bar pulls in the crowds and often sees a number of drinkers seated upon its indoor staircase and any other space available. With its discrete location this bar has a ‘locals only’ feels to it and is an ideal spot for a cheeky after work drink or pre-club cocktails.