London’s streets hide a patchwork of history, but there’s more than just Roman ruins beneath our feet. Savvy restaurant owners have tapped into the city’s subterranean spaces, turning crypts into cafes and bank vaults into bars. Here are five of London’s best underground eateries.
Leo’s at The Arts Club, Mayfair
This Dimore Studio-designed London bar and restaurant t is a decadent take on underground dining. Members of the club can sit on velvet banquettes lit by painted silk lanterns and eat from lacquered-top brass tables. The Milanese duo describes the eatery as ‘right on the border between sophistication and kitsch’ – which is evident in their choice of lotus-patterned bead curtains. Weekend diners can expect live music, including everything from big bands and DJs to headline performances.
40 Dover St, Mayfair, London W1S 4NP, UK
The Vault at The Ned, City of London
Once a bank strongroom, this cocktail lounge still has thousands of its original safety deposit boxes in place. What it lacks in natural light it makes up for with grand interiors, including parquet flooring and period furniture. Guests can tuck themselves way behind its 20-tonne door – said to have inspired a scene in Goldfinger – and settle down to a late-night menu of Italian dishes and cocktails. Explore more of its hidden spaces.
27 Poultry, London EC2R 8AJ, UK
Located down some steps, behind an unassuming entrance, this wine and charcuterie bar is set in a 100-year-old former public lavatory. Traces of the London restaurant’s previous life remain visible in the tiles that cover its walls and floor, but the edge is taken off by wooden furniture, leather benches, and curtained-off booths. Anyone still feeling unsure about its history can rely on its menu of tartiflette and cheese plates to help assuage their fears.
Clapham Common South Side, Clapham, London SW4 7AA, UK
Brasserie Zedel, Soho
There are some grand art deco interiors hidden beneath the streets of Soho, at this Parisian-style brasserie. Head through the black-and-white tiles of the upstairs cafe and down the stairs to find marble columns, velvet seating, and gilded ceilings. The menu is mid-price and as old school as the decor, serving up French classics including escargots, steak tartare and tarte tatin to finish.
20 Sherwood St, Soho, London W1F 7ED
Cafe in the Crypt, Trafalgar Square
On the other end of the spectrum is Cafe in the Crypt, which is located beneath St Martin in the Fields and sits within the original brick-vaulted ceilings of the church’s crypt. Inscribed tombstones can still be seen on the floor of the London cafe, which serves a simple but hearty menu including apple crumble and afternoon tea. After dining, curious guests can browse the crypt’s collection of artefacts – which includes a 200-year-old whipping post and a marble statue of London’s first Pearly King.
Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross, London WC2N 4JH
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