Steam and Rye

Why go here:

It’s a one of a kind – there’s cabaret, railway carriage seating and a mechanical bull. The cocktails are pretty jazzy too. Oh, and it’s set up by model and actress Kelly Brook.

What it looks like:

Walking into the bar is a bit like walking into a movie set- very decadent and inspired by 1940s New York. Modelled on the New York Grand Central Station, there is a staircase leading to the mezzanine where you’ll find cabaret dancers performing. It’s all very Gatsby-style.

The drinks:

My ‘Mississippi Lullaby’ was made of a fruity lychee liqueur, peach and rum combo but what made the drink really stand out was the fire. Yes, the drink was literally on fire. Definitely one to have earlier in the night rather than later when you run a greater risk of burning your hair while downing your drink.

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The Monika Lewinsky was basically alcoholic ice cream while the ‘Mazie Balls came with caramel popcorn syrup and in a popcorn carton.

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The food served here is American style and the steak is supposed to be very good, but we never go to the food, so I’m unable to fairly comment on it.

Verdict:

The cocktails are mostly sweet, so those looking for sharp clean martinis should probably choose elsewhere. But for those like me who love unique combinations, flashy presentations and drinks that are so-sweet-you-can’t-taste-the-alcohol, this is the place to go. Plus, where else are you going to get a mechanical bull and Gatsby-esque performances thrown in for free.

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Happiness Forgets

Why go here:

For the well-crafted cocktails and for the speakeasy experience. It helps that the entrance isn’t as hard to find as for most other speakeasies.

What it looks like:

You go down some narrow stairs to this dimly lit basement in Hoxton. The place is small yet cosy with lots of wooden benches so you’ll be sitting squished right into your date – that may or may not be a good thing. The background music is jazzy and the lighting is oriental red. You could also choose to sit at the bar to speak to the very amiable and talented mixologists.

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The drinks:

The menu is short but the choices are varied enough to tick the fancy of even the hippest of cocktail snobs. Most of their cocktails have atleast 5 different components including 2 or 3 different liqueurs. So, if you’re not sure of what to order just ask the staff. I like sweeter drinks and was recommended the Dirty Sanchez which includes port, rum, sherry, banana liqueur and more, which lived very much upto the mark.

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Verdict:

Contrary to the name, you are likely to leave feeling happy and if there’s anything you forget, it’ll only be your name since it’s likely that you’ll have more of these superb cocktails than you intended to.

Milk and Honey

Why go here:

It used to be a member’s only club, that has now opened doors to all that are willing to follow the house rules. Some of my favourite rules include no ‘star fucking’ and women being asked to ignore all unfamiliar men. If all this doesn’t make it intriguing enough for you, perhaps knowing that it has been lauded as London’s best cocktail bar, will.

What it looks like:

Like every speakeasy, Milk & Honey makes sure its entrance is as inconspicuous as it could be. A plain grey metal door next to a busy pub just off the corner on Poland Street, there’s no sign and no bouncers. You simply ring a buzzer, tell them your full name (they insist on addressing you by your second name, so there’s no hiding your Facebook profiles from your dates) and are let in and led up the stairs by waiters who could well be your butlers, in the manner they address and treat you. There is a small rooftop bar but I prefered the cosy, low-ceiling, candle-lit Red Lounge which has a very intimate feel to it.

The Drinks:

Their cocktails, as mentioned above, are award-winning and rightly so. They do the classics really well and the modern twists on them even better. Of all the drinks I had (more honestly, can remember having), my favourite was the Pisco Punch. In the past, I have found champagne cocktails to always use overly delicate flavours such that I can taste not much beyond the bubbly. Here, however, the sweetness of the pineapple and the Pisco (Peruvian brandy) were the leading flavours, with the champagne bubbles there to add just an extra dimension for your tongue to enjoy.

Additionally, the table service was probably the best I have ever had- they were there to take our orders exactly before we’d reach the last sips.

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Verdict:

One of London’s best speakeasies. Go there, follow their house rules, flirt with the cute waiters and enjoy their classy cocktails till  3 am – yes, it IS open till that late. So you really have no excuse not to go, unless of course you fail to find the door…