Digging Up London’s Top Underground Bars

London’s Underground—its century-old tube network—is famous worldwide. But there’s another subterranean grid in the city that’s becoming just as popular: its basement bars and underground cocktail clubs. In ancient times, London's underground world consisted of dungeons, prisons and wine cellars. Now, basement bars and hidden nightclubs are the coolest hangouts. The appeal of these watering holes lies in the fact that they are, well, somewhat secretive. Underground. Concealed. Hidden from general view. Clandestine locations and cool cocktails, now that’s a winning combination! Here are London’s top underground (oxymoron intended) bars. Go on, sneak in… 

Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town Location: Underground. Name: Weird. Popularity: Soaring. Cocktails: Variety. Four reasons why this basement bar is a hit with Londoners. Located on Artillery Lane in the bustling Spitalfields Market in East London, finding the venue is an adventure in itself. The website proclaims: To visit Scaredy Cat Town, go to the Breakfast Club in Spitalfields and ask to see The Mayor. Ah, the added appeal of a secret code, a password. The Mayor will then lead you to a door, which looks exactly like a fridge door, but which instead leads you to underground bliss. High bar stools, wooden tables, the décor nothing more than exposed brick and slabs of wood, it’s as perfect as a speakeasy bar can be. The range of delicious cocktails is the icing on the cake. (www.themayorofscaredycattown.com)

Happiness Forgets Another wacky name, but it’s not a place you’re likely to forget. This Hoxton-based underground cocktail bar is dark, dim and tiny, but then, isn’t that the essence and excitement of basement bars? There are no frills attached and it’s far from glamorous, but definitely inviting. The bartender knows his drinks, and makes sure you sip something as exclusive as the venue. Not surprising then, that Happiness Forgets has found a place in the top 15 bars of the world. (www.happinessforgets.com)

The Nightjar The nightjar is a nocturnal bird, making for an apt name for this cellar bar on Old Street. The entrance is discreet: a small wooden door between a café and a kebeb house, recognisable only by a picture of a nightjar on it. Once down below, it’s your typical dimly lit drinking den. Here, you get to listen to jazz, blues and rock n’ roll, sometimes even performed live.The drinks menu is interesting, divided into eras ranging from the Pre-Prohibition to the Prohibition and the Modern. The cocktails are as unique as the menu – don’t read too much into the ingredients lest you might not want to ingest them! Their taste apart, they are even more enthralling to look at – Nightjar prides itself in making a unique cocktail-drinking experience. So don’t be surprised if you see gold dust sprinkled atop your cocktail or quail eggs adorning the rim of your glass. Fascinating, fun and very, very nocturnal. (www.barnightjar.com)

Ninetyeight Bar and Lounge Located in Shoreditch, (the birthplace of the underground pub scene in the city), Ninetyeight Bar and Lounge feels more like an extended house party. The décor is arty-hearty, quirky too, and you’re likely to stumble upon the most random objects, some probably even from a garage sale! The ambience is chilled out, everyone talks to anyone, and everybody has a good time. The only  downside is that there are no other drinks on the menu except cocktails. However, these are rather unusual. If you’re feeling adventurous, opt for the Sunday Roast that is infused with oregano and rosemary. (http://ninetyeight-bar-lounge.com)

Waxy's Little Sister After finding the little brown door that is the entrance on a lively street off Leicester Square, just on the fringes of China Town, you are transported into another world. A massive tree protrudes from the centre, while you can choose a seat in the many little nooks and crannies around the three-storeyed venue (yes, it goes down three levels). The ambience is relaxed, but can get animated during their live entertainment nights, or when a football match plays out on the huge screen hanging from a branch of the tree. The food is value-for-money and a delight for the tastebuds. For those who want a dose of pub-hopping, its sister pub Waxy O’Connor is just across the street. But the Little Sister is where the real secret lies… (www.waxyoconnors.co.uk/index.php/welcome-to-waxys-little-sister)

Three Blind Mice Also located in Shoreditch, its plus points include great atmosphere and soothing reggae and soul music. It’s like your own hideout, away from the world above. This place has soul. (+44 20 7739 7746)

Cellar Door There are a number of intriguing things about this venue. It’s unique location—Zero Aldwych; the fact that it was previously a public men’s loo (yes, that’s how small and cramped this hideout is) and its entertainment acts that even include burlesque and cabaret. If you’re a big group, it is recommended to make reservations beforehand. (www.cellardoor.biz)

Bar 92 Just off Oxford Street, Bar 92 is chic, at least for basement bar standards. But despite the soft lighting and stylish interiors, it is cosy. There’s appetizing bar food and their must-try House Signature 92 cocktail—Tequila, Galliano, Passoa, passion fruit puree and cranberry juice with champagne. (+44 20 7486 9457)

The Medieval Banquet As the name suggests, this basement bar-cum-restaurant is an ode to the Medieval Ages. Located in the beautiful and historic St Katharine’s docks, a five-minute walk from the Tower of London, everything about this place spells medieval – it even claims to have its own resident ghost! If you don’t want to hang out at the spacious bar, be seated and treated like a Medieval king in a covert cave-like den. Waiters and waitresses dressed as Knights and Wenches will serve you a banquet-like feast, re-filling your glass with ale and wine. Enjoy a five-course meal, complete with bread dipped in hot soup in antique metal soup bowls. All this while medieval-themed dancers entertain your majesty. (www.medievalbanquet.com)

93 Feet East This iconic venue in the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane is not an underground bar, but is undoudbtedly one of the most popular venues for live underground music and events. A must-visit for the Underground-ers. (www.93feeteast.co.uk

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