Exposed! (Not so well) Hidden eats and drinks in London

13 08 2009

TimeOut LogoA couple of months ago, I had to stifle a giggle while reading the TimeOut London review of Barts, a ‘top secret’ speakeasy in Chelsea. Why? Well, not the writing – the writing was impeccable, adopting perfect speakeasy terminology and creative commentary like only the most trendy and in-the-know of London Listings can. It wasn’t the actual subject matter either – Barts had gone to immense lengths to create just the scene they desired, underground, exclusive, prohibition-era speakeasy, with the added hook that it was completely hidden. What was it? Oh, the Google Map on the right hand side of the page which detailed exactly where Barts is located, and then the blurb right above it describing in words the exact coordinates for the members of the illiterate map-readers society.  Timeout London has a print circulation of 76,356 making it one of the largest weekly titles in the UK, and who knows what their online numbers are. Barts, you didn’t stand a chance. They’ve owned up to it now as their website admits its the ‘worst kept secret’.

barts_lego

This came after another quite disappointing discovery that the once-hidden but now clearly marked Lounge Bohemia in Great Eastern Street had also lost its secretive touch.

(see update)

Lounge Bohemia

When I first went, we were to stick our hand through the mail slot of a non-descript black door, and ring a hidden buzzer that would open the door through which we would pass and descend down into a comfy communist 1970s Czechoslovakian watering hole. Now, you can pretty much just walk on in and go downstairs, and with the sign on the door indicating opening times, it looks like either someone exposed the secret, or the secret gimmick didn’t fly.

UPDATE: Lounge Bohemia have been in touch – could be that we wanted this to more of an underground place than it was ever intended to be. It seems that Lounge Bohemia had intentions on maintaining an exclusive location, but not underground or hidden. They have written to say: “Lounge bohemia is a by appointment venue so the going “pretty much downstairs” might leave you disappointed when turned away for not calling ahead. We never intended to be a hidden bar – it just happened to be this way because we’re downstairs. At the end of the day we’d rather be known for our drinks then for the way you get in.”

Either way, it makes me wonder about the underground/hidden location scene in London. It’s a concept so cool that all the budding entertainment/lifestyle/travel journos want to be in on the trend of reporting it. So how do they stay secret? Sad news is, I think they don’t.  Good news is – there are many that don’t mind being found – but remain fairly well hidden still. Some even duck and weave, moving around so that even if you did find them, you’d have to find them again! I have gathered the latest on the underground restaurant/hidden kitchen scene here in London for your reading pleasure!

missmarmitelover

First, we’ve got Ms Marmite Lover – foodie blogger-cum-chef who has opened her Underground restaurant at an undisclosed location in Kilburn, where she cooks mainly vegetarian food sourced from Portobello Road market. All the way over the other side o’ London, Horton Jupiter’s Secret Ingredient in Hackney is booming, Both give you directions once you’ve booked.

How about the Islington speakeasy with no name which sits behind permanently drawn shades, seats 30 and focuses on modern-retro cocktails until the wee hours of the morning.

There is the  Rambling Restaurant on held on various locations on Sundays, and the Moveable Restaurant, is also located, well, anywhere, serving up a variety of dishes based on anything from inspiring fresh market ingredients or inspiring sojourns of the two guys who created the concept, Joe and Steve.

The Pale Blue Door

The Pale Blue Door in the Hackney house of set designer Tony Hornecker, which seems very sporadic but has had a speakeasy environment with tranny waitresses, tarot readings, and lip-synching performers.

The Saltoun Supper Club in Brixton takes place on Wednesdays and Thursdays, offering four courses (always has a veggie option) for a minimum contribution of £25. September is already completely booked. Also in Brixton is the Salad Club on the first Saturday of every month. These ladies love their salads and all ingredients are allowed – it is very meat-eater friendly.

The Secret Ingredient

The Secret Ingredient up in Stoke Newington takes bookings on Facebook only it appears and then there is Green Onions, whose organized dinners and ‘food raves’ across londontown book up in minutes after opening.

How do you like them underground apples!

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3 responses

13 08 2009
Twitted by Jessica2point0

[…] This post was Twitted by Jessica2point0 […]

13 08 2009
Megan

Jess! Awesome blog! Keep ’em coming, girl.

24 09 2009
Tony Brown

I don’t know If I said it already but …I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. Thanks, 🙂

A definite great read..Tony Brown

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