By Luke Sillett, Editor at DesignMyNight.com
When visiting a city for the first time, you’ll no doubt find out pretty quickly where you can locate the most popular bars, clubs and pubs – but what might be a little harder to come by are some of the UK’s best (but secret) drinking dens.
Hidden in the nooks and crannies of a city near you, if you look hard enough, you might just spot one of these hidden gems in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow…
Secret bars in London
‘Speakeasy’ has been bandied around a lot over the past year, but Ruby’s in East London’s Dalston is about as close as you’ll get to the prohibition era bars of 1920s America. Laced with kitsch lampshades, mix-matched furniture and some seriously good cocktails, Ruby’s is a hidden basement bar only found once you locate the ‘Fortune Favours the Brave’ sign above an unassuming open door and a seemingly abandoned cinema…
76 Stoke Newington Rd London N16 7XB
The Blind Pig, City of London
This little piggy went to the market, this little piggy stayed at home, but THIS little piggy went to London, and hid in a retro speakeasy beneath another bustling bar in the heart of the City. Lucky thing. A tip of the hat to the 1920s prohibition era, The Blind Pig is a secret drinking den made for escapism, experimental cocktails and a roaring good time. Though only open on Thursdays and Fridays, if you can find it, good times are guaranteed.
58 Gresham Street, City of London, EC2V 7BB
Boasting a healthy mix of Dim Sum and cocktails, Opium Lounge is a hidden gem located in London’s busy Chinatown district. Once you find the entrance through an otherwise normal-looking green door, climb the stairs to the bar and be greeted with three floors of Asian décor, cocktails and food. Enjoy the experience among mismatched furniture, unlabelled spirit bottles and a trendy crowd.
15-16 Gerrard St London W1D 6JA
BYOC, Covent Garden
Where would you least expect to find a bar? In a school? At a hospital? How about underneath a juice bar? Give the guy behind this smoothie shop a knowing nod and he might just lift up the counter and lead you down a spiral staircase into a basement full of character, atmosphere and great drinks. But here’s the catch; at BYOC (Bring Your Own Cocktails) they won’t sell you a drop of alcohol. Instead, you bring your chosen spirit leaving the wandering, dapperly dressed waiter to mix you up pretty much any creation you want (with the help of his trusty arsenal of bitters, juices, mixers and other weird and wonderful drinking utensils).
Underneath Juice Club, 28 Bedfordbury, London WC2N 4RB
Secret bars in Manchester
Dusk til Pawn, Northern Quarter
This Manchester bar takes its secrecy so seriously that it’s even got an alias; as a pawn shop no less. Stand outside Dusk til Pawn and you’ll see only old TVs, instruments and general brik-a-brak, but step inside and it’s a whole other story. An ever changing cocktail menu keeps Manchester’s finest mixologists on their toes, concocting all kinds of crazy but wonderful drinks for your pleasure. Choose your tune on the jukebox, soak up the retro vibes or just enjoy your expertly made drinks – but whatever you do, just make sure to keep the secret schtum, okay? Good.
Stevenson Square , Manchester, M1 1FB
In this list Corridor is undoubtedly the most difficult to find. But is it worth searching for? (spoiler alert: it is!). Even with an address and your trusty google maps, you’ll have a job finding the seemingly plain ‘corridor’ – but once you walk through to the bar, it’ll all seem worth it, promise. Low red lighting, an impressive drinks list and an interchangeable relaxed/party atmosphere make this one hidden treasure worth routing out.
6 Barlow’s Croft Salford M3 5DY
Secret bars in Birmingham
The Lost and Found, City Centre
An ode to Victorian explorer, Hettie. G. Watson, The Lost & Found is a uniquely quirky bar located in Birmingham’s city centre. The bar boasts an inside botanical garden, birdcages, Birmingham’s best cocktails…and a secret hideaway bar located behind, yep you guessed it, a bookcase! If you’re lucky enough to find the entrance, you can relax in this concealed Victorian drinking lounge whilst enjoying the bespoke but affordable drinks; just make sure you tug on the right book or you could be there for hours…
8 Bennett’s Hill Birmingham, West Midlands B2 5RS
The Prince of Wales, Moseley
On entry, you could be forgiven for thinking The Prince of Wales is just another old man’s pub in need of some quality love and attention. But truth is you’d be wrong. Oh so wrong. Take a walk into their beer garden (which is pretty special in itself) and not only will you find a cigar shop and a cocktail lounge, but also a secret Tiki Bar! Who needs Honolulu when we have Birmingham! Now who’s for a Mai-Tai?
85 Cambridge St Birmingham, West Midlands B1 2NP
Secret bars in Glasgow
The Flying Duck, Sauchiehall Street Area
Wander down a staircase near to the Sauchiehall Street razzamatazz and you might just find yourself in Glasgow’s quirkiest bar; The Flying Duck. Adorned with bunting, Sega Megadrives, boom-boxes and more. Though secret and cool, The Flying Duck is exceptionally well priced too – result! Enjoy gigs, club nights or pub quizzes at this relatively unknown Glasgow fun-nugget.
142 Renfield St Glasgow G2 3AU
Chinaski’s, Sauchiehall Street Area
Named after the alter-ego of famous author, poet and all-round literary bad-ass, Charles Bukowski; Chinaski’s is a secret (and well concealed) bar in Glasgow with an aptly good cigar and whiskey offering. Located next to one of Glasgow’s liveliest clubs, you wouldn’t expect the chilled out and unpretentious vibes that can be found at Chinaski’s. This could be down to the fact that you just wouldn’t think it a bar unless you knew. Well now you do.
239 North Street Glasgow G3 7DL
Out of sight, out of mind? I don’t think so…
About the author: DesignMyNight.com, the UK’s fastest growing nightlife site, operate in various cities across the country and try out the best pubs, bars and clubs to give you the inside scoop on them all. Discover and book the UKs best bars, pubs and clubs with @designmynight.