London Bars That You'll Probably Never Visit

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 16 months ago
London Bars That You'll Probably Never Visit

London's not short of bars that are difficult to get into, from members' bars with eye-watering prices, to those tucked away behind fridges. But what about bars that no amount of money or (legal) stealthing can get you into? Yeah, London's got a few of those too.

The Keys (AKA the Beefeaters' pub)

Photo: Londonist

The Tower of London has its own pub, but it's not teeming with tourists as you might expect. That's because The Keys is only open to the Tower's 37 resident beefeaters and their guests. We managed to sweet talk a beefeater into taking us for a pint and found it to be as much a museum as it is a watering hole, with various uniforms and themed gimcrack on display — oh, and a framed signature of Adolf Hitler's deputy, Rudolph Hess.

Beefeaters themselves take it in turns to volunteer behind the bar.

How to get in: The only way into this one is on the invitation of one of the Tower's beefeaters. If you do manage to wangle an invite, note that they take their dress code seriously. Very seriously. We found ourselves on the receiving end of a beefeater's frosty glare for our mismatching suit and shoe combo.

The Sutling Room at the Honourable Artillery Company

The HAC Officers' Bar. Photo: Matt Brown

The castle-type complex on City Road hides all sorts of secrets, not least a bar that's only open to members of the Honourable Artillery Company and their guests. Its located within the Sutling Room.

How to get in: Again, it's a case of befriending someone who has access — so a member of one of the regiments associated with the HAC — or waiting until the annual open day when the public is granted rare access. Other parts of the facility are available for private hire, but unfortunately the Sutling Room isn't one of them.

The Houses of Parliament

Inside the House of Parliament's Sports and Social Bar during our 2010 visit. According to The Guardian it's used "mostly by younger passholders, some reputedly 'on the pull'" rather than MPs.

The Houses of Parliament has a myriad of bars, restaurants, cafes and members' rooms, but who's allowed in which isn't as clear cut. We offered up this pub crawl around the Houses of Parliament in 2010, but at least one of the venues has since closed (Bellamy's was turned into a creche for the children of Westminster staff). According to The Guardian, there were 23 parliamentary bars, restaurants and cafes remaining in 2013. Some are open to most people who work in the Houses of Parliament, while others have very limited access (the Members' Dining Room is notoriously difficult to get into). Moncrieff's Restaurant, named after journalist Chris Moncrieff, is open to members of the Press Gallery and their guests.

How to get in: For most of these venues, it's a case of befriending an MP or member of staff with the right level of pass, and tagging along as a guest. Others though, such as the Members' Dining Room, Members' Tea Room and Members' Smoking Room are open to MPs only, so you'll have to go through the rigmarole of getting yourself elected. The Jubilee Cafe is open to everyone, including non pass holders, or visitors can take a tour with afternoon tea.

Alternatively, have a pint in St Stephen's Tavern instead. It's across the road from the Houses of Parliament, and although it's open to the public, it still has a bell which rings to warn MPs that they only have a few minutes left to cast their votes in any current parliamentary debates.

The Pregnant Man pub

Photo: The Pregnant Man

The Pregnant Man pub is the brainchild of advertising company Saatchi & Saatchi. It originated in the company's Charlotte Street offices in Fitzrovia, exclusively for the use of employees, but it was announced in 2011 that the pub would be demolished in a redevelopment of the site. In 2017, the company relocated to new offices in Chancery Lane — and the pub, it seems, went with them. It can now be found at 40 Chancery Lane.

And the name? It's after Saatchi & Saatchi's 1970s advert for the Family Planning Association, showing a pregnant man, with the strapline " Would you be more careful if it was you that got pregnant?"

How to get in: It's a bit sneaky of us to put this one on the list, as it is now open to the public — but it began from more private origins, so we're having it.

Know of any other bars that are notoriously tricky to get into?  Let us know in the comments.

Last Updated 06 October 2017