There’s a certain value to keeping secrets in a city jam-packed with booming tourism, brighter and bolder signage and the latest attractions. For those who think they know the capital’s best dining hotspots, they may need to look a little closer as it may be tucked away in an ancient crypt or locked behind an inconspicuous door. This week, play hide and seek with us as we take a peek into some of the hidden bars and restaurants of London, waiting for you to uncover…
La Bodega Negra, Soho
When you think of an illicit, tequila-infused, incense-smoking, subterranean Mexican restaurant, I’m sure your immediate thought isn’t a neon sign outside that reads ‘sex shop’. That’s what makes this restaurant in London so unexpected and one of a kind. As you descend down some stairs past the PVC gimp suit, you’ll find a dark and aromatic, candlelit cavern serving tequila-based cocktails and a menu that offers homely, Mexican cooking.
Examples of the delicious Mexican dishes they offer include crispy squid tostadas; soft shell crab and chipotle tacos; scallop and hibiscus ceviche; slow-roasted lamb and crispy pork belly. This hidden eatery is a definite must-try, one for the overall unique experience you won’t find anywhere else and for the array of delectable Mexican flavours.
Experimental Cocktail Club, Chinatown
Chinatown is lined top to bottom with Asian eateries. Well, almost that is. Smack bang halfway down its main street, strewn with the iconic red paper lanterns, you’d be forgiven for walking straight past the Experimental Cocktail Club or ‘ECC’ as those who visit know it as.
A plush, dimly lit cocktail bar hidden behind a somewhat rather bashed up black doorway, this two-story townhouse a great places to eat in London is open between 6pm-3am for a distinctive mix of unusual cocktails presented in beautiful glassware to match luxurious surroundings, with not a dim sum or chopstick in sight.
Dans Le Noir, Clerkenwell
Cited as one of the most original restaurants in the world is Dans Le Noir. Should you speak French, you’ll get the gist here: not only is this restaurant hidden behind a thick curtain, but its interior is entirely removed from any light making it a place hidden from all eyes!
A fine-dining experience that aims to heighten the other senses, such as taste, smell and sounds: Dans Le Noir is led by a team of visually impaired staff who, along with naturally heightened senses of their own, know the space like the back of their hands. Dishes have been expertly created for consuming blind and are tested and improved through tastings by sensory experts in pitch darkness.
Gremio De Brixton
This South London dining scene is known for its eclectic Caribbean cuisine. Tapas, though? From first glance… not so much. Look a little closer, and in a crypt under a church on Brixton Hill, you’ll find Gremio De Brixton: an authentic Spanish tapas restaurant located in the bare brick arches of the church which is lit up by candlelight. This hidden restaurant might seem creepy, but it’s balanced by warming Spanish classics from croquetas de jamon to patatas bravas and gambas. This ensures a delicious experience before transforming into a bar and club later on.
The Little Blue Door, Fulham
This bar come ‘flat party’ space in West London’s Fulham is the local’s go to place for intimate evenings hidden behind it’s blue front door on the residential street of Munster Road.
With a vision to create the perfect house party – a place where people could meet in an unpretentious environment and have whatever party they wanted, here either chill in the corner or go wild dancing on the tables! Partnering with a local pizza business to deliver the freshest dough on hand, it’s their buzzing brunch each weekend which steals the show.
Kebab Queen, Covent Garden
Don’t be fooled by its old kebab store front because as soon as you push back those long-draped curtains, you will uncover the critically acclaimed intimate dining experience of Kebab Queen. This chic, lustrous space holds a kitchen with a small bar installed in it, and as you hop up onto the cobalt blue leather bar seats, you’ll be able to watch Head Chef, Manu Canales skilfully scorching your food on a wood-fired grill.
This eatery is the master of exhibiting the most ambitious expression of our modern kebab, deconstructing and reconstructing kebabs. Expect delectable dishes like BBQ’d Foie Gras Kebabito; an intense lamb jus ‘doner’ risotto or a chargrilled shish kebab of monkfish & chicken skin. There is an optional drink pairing to your meal that you can pay extra for, featuring excellent wines, port and beer.
Mãos: translating as ‘hands’ in Portuguese, is a 16-seater luxury private dining establishment, unusually located inside Blue Mountain School, a retail/exhibition space on Shoreditch’s Redchurch Street.
Whilst you’re discouraged from taking photos, this private dinner party with a twist serves food in the form of 14 elegantly presented dishes that draw on European influences, but without ‘classical distinctions’. Prepared by critically acclaimed chef, Nuno Mendes, pick out your own wine from the cellar and wander into the kitchen anytime to hang out with the chefs. Feeling curious?