London’s Underground Bars
Published: January 2013
By Rocky Casale
<p>Mingle with in-the-know Londoners at these trendy underground bars.</p>
Some of London’s hippest bars pop up where you’d least expect them, say, behind a refrigerator door. That’s the way into The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, the city’s latest password-protected underground bar within The Breakfast Club restaurant. Ask the staff to see “The Mayor” for entry into this dimly lit brick and wood space with the requisite moose heads and vintage wallpapers. Drinks come strong, and the crowd is coolest on weeknights.
The Mayor is tucked away in Shoreditch, one of a few East London neighborhoods (see also Hoxton and Spitalfields) where creative industries have been setting up shop for the past decade, attracting Londoners looking for the next intriguing thing. Some eccentric underground bars live behind walls of bustling shops or restaurants while others take the underground concept literally.
One such basement bar and club, Vogue Fabrics, draws a raucous late-night crowd. Behind the unassuming façade of this former fabric store is a door check and a set of stairs that lead down into the basement. Don’t come here expecting fancy drinks; the highlight of Vogue Fabrics is the cutting-edge music. Some of London’s finest young DJs show up to play a set or two for a mixed scene of hipsters and cross-dressers in exaggerated wigs and twinkly dresses.
If you are hankering after a sophisticated cocktail, garnished with some live jazz or cabaret, slip into one of the leather booths at The Nightjar, a speakeasy-style bar in Shoreditch. There’s no sign, but if you get to 129 City Road, you’re at the right address.
Among this nightlife haze, Lounge Bohemia may be the trickiest underground bar to reach. Behind an unremarkable slim door between a news bodega and a kebab takeaway, this by-appointment-only bar takes its design cues from a 1960s Communist hideaway; the ceilings are low and vaulted; the walls gray; the furniture a mix-and-match assortment of comfortable midcentury couches and chairs. Snack on Czech canapés like bacon-swathed plums on buttered rye, and help yourself to a round of poppy-seed martinis served by a tribe of perky guys and girls in ’60s period costume. You’re in for a long night.