You never know what goes on behind closed doors...
I was chatting to a friend the other day who had just returned from Myanmar and he told me his highlight was one night being dragged through the back streets by his local guide, face to face with sewerage in gutters, fish guts being splattered across market stalls, beggars, and a stench he will never forget. And then, they entered a secret, completely unassuming door, that took them to another door, covered by an ornate flaming dragon, that led into one of the most opulent, up-market, spectacular cocktail bars he had ever seen.
It got me thinking about all the amazing secret entrances I’ve chanced upon across the globe and realized they are by far the coolest destinations you’d ever want to visit… not just because they are so dramatically different to their neighborhood surroundings, or because they are hard to get to unless you are in the loop or damned lucky… but because when you enter, you realise you’ve made it, to be a member of the secret door club. So, here are a few of my own personal gems. Listen carefully, and tell no-one.
PDT – New York City
Stands for “Please Don’t Tell”. You need to find Crif’s Hot Dog Café in the East Village. Enter and head towards the vintage telephone booth at the back. When you pick up the phone you’ll be speaking with the door man, who if they like the look of you, will open up the back of the phone booth and you’ll find yourself in a dimly lit, sexy speakeasy bar that’s serves some of the finest cocktails in the whole of New York City. My absolute favourite feature about this hidden bar is that you can order food from Crif’s hotdog menu, while sipping on your Manhattan in the coolest spot in town! Win-Win!
Image via Google+/Please Don't Tell
The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town – London
This sounds loopy and you may feel a tad foolish when first trying to enter, but this is one secret bar you won’t want to miss! It’s a quirky drinking den hidden beneath the Breakfast Club. When you enter you need to approach a staff member (be sure to get that part right!) and ask “To See The Mayor”. At which point, you’ll be led downstairs through a secret door, disguised by a SMEG fridge (clever advertising SMEG!). Inside you’re in a haven of beers, whiskeys and all-American style diner food like pulled pork sliders. I’d like to know what would happen if you asked to see the Sherriff?!
Image via Trip Advisor/julianaayu
Evans and Peel Detective Agency – London
If you have a penchant for theatrics then this is the secret bar for you! Found in Earl’s Court, you have to fist make a booking online. The only catch is that the website masquerades as a genuine detective agency. To make a reservation you must “submit a case”, which upon arrival the detective (doorman) will quiz you about and you need to be able to answer the questions about the case correctly. To enter you’ll be led through a secret bookcase and into a candlelit 1920’s style bar! Don’t forget your monocle.
Image via Facebook
Green Door – Outer Berlin
While this one isn’t impossible to enter, you may spend a while knocking on every green door you see in Berlin before you find it. Named after a famous quote from Shakin’ Stevens “Green Door, What’s that secret you’re keeping?” it is worth the hunt. Styled in an unusual retro 1970’s theme, you may wonder if you’ve wandered into Grandma’s house… except for the ornate timber bar that stretches the length of the room. Leave your tea cosy at home.
Image via Facebook
Blind Barber – Los Angeles
This is a genuine Barber shop frontage with traditional working barbers offering cuts and shaves, but if you’re after something a little more retro, head to the back of the shop and you’ll find a wood-panelled bar that’s reminds you of old Hollywood. Try the craft cocktail called Seriously Dangerously, bourbon, tomato, basil, lemon, and amber agave, a feisty take on the Bloody Mary. Best feature is the old school music and live DJ’s. No barber-shop quartets here.
Image via Yelp/Blind Barber
Noble Experiment – San Diego
Where would be the last place you would expect to find a hidden bar? Inside another bar! This little speakeasy is hidden next to the kitchen of a popular bar called The Neighborhood in Downtown. It’s inconspicuously tucked away behind a stack of beer kegs, and the only way in is to have a prior reservation. The feel inside is just as elusive as the entrance – a row of brass skulls hang over white booths and a crystal chandelier ads a touch of gothic glam. And if you can’t get in, you don’t have to walk far to find another bar!
Image via Yelp/Joseph F.
Ba Charlie – Melbourne
Head to the funky suburb of Prahran and find a dumpling take away shop called Charlie Dumpling Jr’s. The Takeaway window is a front for an awesome cocktail bar, that you can only access if you know where to find a special button the back wall. That’s all I can tell you.
Image via Facebook
Bar Exuberante – Melbourne
Again, a bar hidden behind another bar (still gets me!), but this one is with another twist! Concept of Matt Bax, you access it through a staff door at the back of Bar Economico. The staff must all be acting graduates because it’s part of their job description to maintain the charade that the bar is in fact a European Hotel.
Image via Facebook
Baxter Inn – Sydney
By day it’s a tatty door in an old loading dock in the city. By night, this tatty door has a line up to enter that stretches out and around the corner. The only giveaway! The whisky collection here spans an entire wall with labels from across the globe, many difficult to pronounce and many even harder to reach, which is why the bartenders glide effortlessly across the bar on rolling library ladders. And yet it remains true to its roots… you find it, you’re welcome. No bookings, no door list, everyone is welcome, as long as you’re prepared to wait!
Image via Trip Advisor/themattkim
Now, you may notice that I haven’t included any addresses or directions to these secret doors? There’s a reason for that. If I did tell you, they wouldn’t be a secret – and you’d fail to feel the joy at that moment when you do manage to find one and you realise you’re part of the secret door club. Happy hunting!