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LONDON'S TOP TEN SECRET BARS

08.10.14

As skies grow hostile, there are few things more comforting than taking refuge in the capital's best bars. Ever the intrepid explorers, we've asked the experts at Barchick to scout out London's best blink-and-you'll-miss-them watering holes. Through bookcases, vintage shops and unassuming staircases, we present London's top ten secret bars to discover.

LITTLE RED STAIRCASE

Straight out of the backstreets of Saigon, Little Red Staircase rocks the kind-of Colonial cool you wouldn't expect to find beneath the smiley, wallpapered Viet Grill on Kingsland Road. Yes, you’re in London’s Vietnamese dining district, but who knew that a short tumble down a little red staircase would land you here? Diners tuck into the same menu as upstairs, while the dedicated boozers get stuck into the 13 strong oriental cocktail list.

Viet Grill, 58 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8DP

LOUNGE BOHEMIA

Leave the suit and tie at home and head to Great Eastern Street, you’ll struggle to find Lounge Bohemia even if you know what you’re looking for. Head round and down the stairs into the Prohibition style lounge bar and you’ll be shown to your table by the 1950s styled ladies. You might be shown to a shared cove (unless you’re in a group of 6), but don’t sweat it, just make friends.

1 Great Eastern Street, London, EC2A 3EJ

OPIUM

A former China Town gambling den has been transformed into something shadily decent; step forth Opium. Climb multiple flights of stairs all leading to rooms with their own personality. Hide away for hours here shrouded by incense and mystery as you sip cocktails inspired by the Orient.

See what happened when Reiss visited Opium

15 -16 Gerrard Street, London W1D 6JE

PELICANS AND PARROTS

A vintage clothes shop to the untrained eye, hit the garms 'Paris is Burning' style before sashaying down the secret staircase to the changing room and discover Pelicans and Parrots which lurks below. This barely-converted basement bar boasts a crowd that looks like something out of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the kind of place that will make you want to wear a wind breaker and parachute pants every day. Drink up and get down to the sickest 90s RnB, the DJ can be found voguing at the decks in the corner.

81 Stoke Newington Road, Dalston, London, N16 8AD

DISCOUNT SUIT COMPANY

A very badly kept secret, the Discount Suit Company is a sexy, secret den which can be found between the neighbourhoods of city slickers and the East London cool-kids. Easily missed (it’s hidden beneath a disused city suit tailor's), it’s all candlelight and exposed brickwork, Victorian floorboards and very low ceiling beams (tall dates must duck). There’s a real Parisian Prohibition vibe to the place and the cocktails are A class.

29A Wentworth Street, London, E1 7TB

EVANS & PEEL

You’ll be quizzed upon arrival at Evans & Peel and if you want to make it through that bookcase you’re going to need to need to be armed with a decent amount of lies. Once inside it’s dark and sultry, the mood is set with crackly Boardwalk Empire style music, walls are dark green and crumbly and a stag’s head looks on. An old sewing machine awaits use and if you creep behind the bar you’ll find the beer dispensed through an old radiator. Seriously, Evans and Peel couldn’t be more secretive if it tried.

310c Earls Court Road, London, SW5 9BA

KNOWHERE SPECIAL

Even once you've located Knowhere Special (which is a funny little place) you’ll need to work your way past the graffiti-lined hallway, dodge the hanging laundry and wind down the little staircase into the coolest living room-esque bar. Settle into a massive sofa, grab a perch at the bar, or if you’re looking for something a little more intimate head into one of their little arched nooks – the kitchen, bedroom or the astro-turfed garden.

The basement, 296 Kentish Town Road, London, NW5

THE MAYOR OF SCAREDY CAT TOWN

Climb through a Smeg fridge and announce that you’re here to speak to the Mayor. That ought to see you downstairs into the bar, The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town. Ian the owner says it was inspired by New York City’s speakeasies, but there is definitely some British humour going on down here; it’s all kitsch chic and amusing with “No Heavy Petting” posters and cat bowls on the floor. Cocktails are brilliant and the bathrooms are decorated with a My Little Pony theme, but we had you at Smeg fridge right?

12-16 Artillery Lane, The Breakfast Club (behind the Smeg fridge), London, E1 7LS

PURL BAR

Purl Bar is certainly not the easiest bar to find, but that’s the point; look out for some black railings and a small lit up sign. Owned by Bryan and Matt, the Willy Wonkas of the cocktail world, expect some seriously decent cocktails. Sundays are all about the jazz, and nooks and crannies mean stealing tender moments with your Tinder date is easy.

50 Blandford St, Marylebone, London, W1U 7HX

5CC EXMOUTH MARKET

5CC Exmouth Market provides grown up, classy chaos all hidden above a perfectly ordinary pub on Exmouth Market. With 30 seats and no standing it’s waitress service all the way. This looks like the sort of place you should sit with an old book or a pipe; there’s deer skulls, old photography, leather chairs, brass table tops and a set of antlers above the brick fireplace. Order oysters and drink your spirits strong. 23 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4QL   For more bar and restaurant suggestions, head to Barchick.com or get the app here.