From not-so-secret speakeasies to retro-fitted Victorian toilets and themed late night drinking dens, here's what London has to offer below ground level.
An abandoned Underground station re-invented as a 1940s-themed cocktail bar, Cahoots is inspired by its history as a second world war air raid shelter. Everything about this venue has been carefully chosen to transport drinkers back in time; swish wooden escalators lead down to the restored tube carriage bar where guests can sip their cocktails from war time thrift hip flasks, old milk bottles and tins. Entertainment includes swing dancing, sing-a-longs around the piano, and jazz nights.
Cahoots, Kingly Court, 13 Kingly Street, W1B 5PG
If gin's your tipple, head to 214 Bermondsey (underneath Antico). They serve 80 different varieties of mother's ruin alongside their own hand-crafted tonic water. Themed tasting flights allow you to sample several different varieties at once: pick from The Great British Gin-Off and Tour of London, each offering three related drinks for £18, and tasting notes for proper gin geeks to pore over with glee.
214 Bermondsey, 214 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TQ
Evans & Peel Detective Agency, Earls Court
One of a veritable fleet of 1920s Prohibition era-style speakeasies popping up all over town. Evans & Peel Detective Agency comes with the added excitement of having to complete a role play through an intercom with a 'detective' in order to get in.
Shabby faded glory is the order of the day, with age spotted mirrors, cracked white tiles and filament bulbs galore, which make it a bit on the gloomy side. However, there's nothing shabby about the top draw cocktail list, which includes twists on old favourites such as 'The First Date' daiquiri, with added date and chilli syrup.
Evans & Peel Detective Agency, 310c Earls Court Road, SW5 9BA
South London's answer to Ronnie Scott's, Hideaway puts Streatham on the map. A spacious cabaret-style restaurant and wine bar a stone's throw from Streatham station, this popular local venue is one of the best places in London to listen to jazz, soul and blues music. Much less crowded than Soho, it's easy to get in, tickets are rarely more than £15, and the standard of performers is sky high.
Hideaway, 2 Empire Mews, Stanthorpe Rd, off Streatham High Rd, SW16 2BF
Merchant House, City of London
Embrace your inner Bertie Wooster at Merchant House on Bow Lane, an upmarket cocktail bar where all the drinks are themed around British history. Found underneath a hidden courtyard not far from Cheapside, this oak-panelled hideaway oozes old world class without feeling elitist.
The drinks menu is set out like a book with beautiful illustrations of each drink alongside intriguing titles such as 'Tarred and Feathered' (rum and salt) and 'Fields of Gold' (poitin, oat milk, house orgeat, buttered genever, malt). The sophistication extends to the bar snacks which include oysters and game terrine pot.
Merchant House, 13 Well Court, EC4M 9DN
Little Nan's Rio Bar, Dalston
Not to be confused with Little Nan's Tropical Den in Deptford, the super-kitsch Dalston version is tucked away in the vaults of the Rio Cinema. The zany decor is matched with a quirky ensemble of cocktails served in teapots, along with pick n mix, 90s music, fairground popcorn, candy vodka shots and a photobooth.
Little Nan's Rio Bar, The Rio Cinema, 107 Kingsland High Street, E8 2PB
A candlelit wine bar and charcuterie in the most unlikely of places... a former public toilet right next to Clapham Common tube station. Perfect for date night, the tiny venue retains the faded glamour of its original Victorian features, which have been up-cycled into bookable booths.
An ever-changing wine list encourages experimentation. We swapped the Sauvignon for some Gruner Veltliner, an Austrian wine that would go down very well with one of the cheese and charcuterie sharing slates which include such delights as duck salami and brie de meaux. With a similar vibe to perhaps the most iconic of all London's underground bars, Gordons on Embankment, you'll need to get there early to be guaranteed a spot.
WC, Clapham Common Southside, SW4 7AA
Trailer Happiness, Portobello
One for the rum lovers, this delightfully tacky Tiki bar wouldn't look out of place in an Austin Powers film. It has a well-deserved reputation for customer service, with knowledgeable bartenders. Groups can book a cosy booth and get companionably toasted with lethal sharing bucket the Don Zombie, which contains five different types of rum, maraschino, citrus angostura bitters, grenadine and (as if all that wasn't enough) absinthe.
Trailer Happiness, 177 Portobello Road, W11 2DY
The Natural Philosopher, Hackney
Technically it's possible to see the street from your table at this chic place on Hackney Road, but the bar itself is dug out of the floor. This provides the vertigo-inducing — but unique — experience of shouting your order down to the bar tender in the basement below. His head is about level with your feet.
Off the beaten track, it makes a great chilled alternative to nearby Shoreditch or Bethnal Green. All the cocktails are made with fresh natural ingredients (hence the name) and we can personally verify their whiskey sours are the real deal, subtly delicious and properly moreish.
The Natural Philosopher, 489 Hackney Road E2 9ED
Basement Sate, Soho
What is the one thing that can make a good cocktail bar better? Combining the drinks with gorgeous puddings of course. Founded on the same kind of ingenuity that gave us the Cronut, this Soho spot has hit on one killer USP. From tonka bean chocolate lava cake to marshmallow and ginger curd crumble, there are some impressive flavour combinations here for those with the sweetest of teeth.
The sugar rush continues on the drinks menu with such intriguing options as The Jessica Rabbit (gin, carrot juice, golden syrup and elderflower) and Not a Pornstar (Bourbon, Aperol, passion fruit, vanilla syrup, egg white).
Basement Sate, 8 Broadwick Street, W1 AHN