Finding a secluded spot in London can be a challenge – and never more so than on Valentine’s Day where every person organising a date is trying to fight over the already limited number of table-for-twos in the capital. If you’re struggling to find a place to go, don’t panic; there are some under-the-radar spots that can be relied upon to come up with the goods for an intimate night cap if you know where to look (and we do).
Here are our recommendations for the best secret bars hidden around the capital that make for impressive and intimate Valentine’s Day date venues. Now all you need to work out is what present you’re bringing along.
It’s all too easy to walk past Little Mercies without realising. Understated in a cool, downtown NYC-kind of way, Little Mercies is the new project from Alan Sherwood, previously Bar Manager at Scout, and Max and Noel Venning, behind Dalston’s Three Sheets and Bar Three. The cocktail menu is short and succinct, serving up clever twists on classic cocktails: the Cherry Negroni is a sharp, sweet take on the traditional serve, while caramelised white chocolate is added to the Old Fashioned for a sweeter finish. A destination guaranteed to impress your Valentine.
20 Broadway Parade, London N8 9DE, littlemercies.co.uk
Knowhere Special is the kind of bar that you usually only find by quite literally stumbling across it. Nestled between a pub and a coffee shop, this low-key subterranean haunt is easy to miss – indeed, you might have to walk past it a few times before you can even spot the doorman. Once inside, you’ll be taken down to the cellar and greeted with a living room-style space with warm lighting, a well-stocked cocktail bar and seats set out in cosy pairs. Be warned though: the cocktails are strong and the staff attentive, so you may come out a little worse for wear…
296 Kentish Town Rd, Kentish Town, knowherespecial.com
Call Me Mr Lucky
There’s just something about a secret bar. Whether it’s the vintage glamour of a speakeasy or the sense that you’ve got one up on your fellow Londoners, a mysterious venue that requires a password on entry is bound to impress your Valentine. Hidden behind a secret door beneath the London Bridge branch of The Breakfast Club, Call Me Mr Lucky is just that. Part of the Dirty Little Secrets collection of bars, this chintzy basement cocktail venue serves punchy cocktails with a twist. we’re fans of the Basil No Fawlty: a fruity blend of basil-infused vodka, lime, pineapple and strawberry.
11 Southwark St, Southwark, callmemrlucky.com
Hidden away off Broadway Market in Hackney is an underground jazz cave just begging to be your Valentine’s destination. Playing live music six days a week, Kansas Smitty’s only sells a concise menu of eight cocktails: four juleps, all infused in-house, and four bespoke cocktails. With a capacity of only 60 people, this as snug, steamy and intimate a date venue as you could wish for.
63-65 Broadway Market, London E8 4PH, kansassmittys.com
You wouldn’t think a secret bar could survive largely undiscovered in buzzy Shoreditch, but exist it does in the form of Found: an intimate underground bar that plays host to an eclectic crowd every night of the week. Run by Oskar Klimaszewski, who’s the bartender, master mixologist and manager, Found offers an extensive list of dangerous cocktails: the Desert Negroni with mezcal, Aperol, sweet vermouth and dry vermouth is a clever spin on the classic, while the terrifyingly named Corpse Maker is a concoction of Wray & Nephew rum, Chartreuse liqueur, triple sec, falernum liqueur and lemon. This is the perfect spot for a date, but be warned: you might spill more secrets than you’d planned.
5 Ravey St, Shoreditch, foundthebar.com
Chelsea Prayer Room
Chelsea’s Goat has more to it than meets the eye. Diners deemed worthy at the Fulham Road restaurant are given a secret code phrase, which then gains them entry to Chelsea Prayer Room, located somewhere in the upper reaches of the venue. Once in, you’ll be greeted by a snug speakeasy with only 30 seats, a soundtrack of jazz and a menu that runs through the A-Z of classic cocktails, created with unbranded bottles. Book a table downstairs for food, before heading upstairs for a Valentine’s nightcap.
333 Fulham Rd, London SW10 9QL, goatchelsea.com
La Maison Rémy Martin
This is the kind of place you head if you really want to impress this Valentine’s Day. Located in Michelin House, a 1960s Art Nouveau head-turner of a building, La Maison is the London résidence of French cognac house Rémy Martin – and next door neighbours with Claude Bosi’s two-Michelin starred Bibendum. Its speciality is cocktail pairings with dishes created by Bosi – we recommend trying the Raspberry and Tarragon Spritz with spinach ravioli on for size. It’s also updated its menu specially for Valentine’s Day with Strawberry Fields (above) a mouthwatering take on a bellini available till the end of February: freshly pureed strawberries, Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal, lemon and a dash of champagne. Juicy.
81 Fulham Road, Chelsea, London SW3 6RD, remymartin.com
68 and Boston
Opened in 2015 by London nightlife supremos Eric Yu, Martin Malley and Luca Cordiglieri, this Soho destination is a tale of two halves. The first is a chic wine bar that you’ll probably have come across – the ‘68’ bit – on the ground floor of 4-5 Greek Street. However, it’s upstairs where the party really gets started. In a snug, wood-panelled lounge is ‘Boston’, the late-night cocktail counterpart to the wine bar downstairs. Plenty of well placed nooks and crannies ensure that this Art Deco-furnished spot is the perfect place to while away the small hours, and the classics-with-an-edge cocktail menu is well suited to working through with a date.
5 Greek St, Soho, www.68andboston.com
The Luggage Room
Want to pull out the stops this Valentine’s Day? The all-out glamour of 1920s inspired speakeasy The Luggage Room is your best bet. Tucked away in a discreet corner of Grosvenor Square and accessible through the Marriott Hotel, the bar is a paean to the glamour of the Roaring Twenties, when London was alive with hot jazz and a never-ending supply of cocktails. The bar’s decor reflects the era, with marble floors, dark leather banquettes and a well-chosen jazz and swing soundtrack. In keeping with the spirit of the time, ice is carved for each glass from a huge block behind the bar, and the menu is a roll call of drinks that made the era famous: think highballs, martinis and Hemingway daiquiris. Chalkstriped suits and flapper dresses optional.
Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, luggageroom.co.uk