London has certainly got a lot to offer. But while there are some great things to do and see that are easy to find, many others make you work hard for them. Because London is far more than Big Ben and Trafalgar Square (shudder).
In fact, a lot of the great places to visit are hiding in plain sight. Walking around, we often come across alleys and narrow streets that are beckoning to be explored. And guess what, many times we come across a local pub that’s worth a visit or a plaque telling us that someone important lived there.
Of course, you can find a lot of this information online, at least if you bother to really look. But who wants to only explore what the guide books point you towards? Especially when you live in a country, it’s only polite to explore its underrated nooks and crannies.
So, we’ve been making an effort to go beyond the guide books. Walking along secondary streets is a good place to start, but that can only get you so far. That’s because we’ve found out that many of the fantastic places are actually housed inside nondescript buildings. Ones that you wouldn’t imagine have anything exciting going on.
Case in point is the Experimental Cocktail Club, bang in the middle of Chinatown. Believe us when we say that you would never think there was a bar, let alone a pretty swanky one with fantastic cocktails, there. The door is unmarked, and the only indication that there’s something happening behind it is the security guy right outside. We went there a few weeks ago, instead of a sit-down Chinese meal, and weren’t disappointed. Especially since we were fortunate enough to snag the last two spots at the bar and were able to see the experts at work making the cocktails.
The beauty of these places isn’t just that they’re worth looking for, but that finding them isn’t easy, which, in itself, weeds out those who can’t be bothered looking. Since, as we mentioned earlier, many of these places aren’t listed on the mainstream London guides, we make sure to read blogs like ours to hear from what others have discovered.
Recently we made another discovery, that’s even closer to home. We had walked past The Breakfast Club, on Southwark Street, a handful of times before we found out that there’s more to the diner than meets the eye. In fact, if you know the password, you might be led to a door at the back of The Breakfast Club, down a flight of stairs, and into a small, dimly lit room with a U-shaped bar. That is where you want to be!
Our first time at Call Me Mr Lucky (that’s the name of the downstairs hidden gem) was fun. More than fun. The cocktails are certainly not run-of-the-mill. We especially loved Pea Diddy, which actually includes fresh pea and horseradish. And the house shots are interesting. They come in three parts — three courses? — that should be drank in sequence. The first is a shot of Ocho blanco tequila, followed by absolutely an delicious concoction of Jalapeno pickle, pomegranate molasses, coriander, and habanero. Well, as you probably know by now, we absolutely love anything hot, so this is totally up our street. We barely need the mint infused coconut water to refresh our mouth from the heat, but still drink it.
After a long walk on Saturday and a not-so-good experience at a Charing Cross pub, we decided to go back to Mr Lucky’s. And it was rocking! While small, there’s a lot of space. We started with a Pea Diddy (the pea cocktail) and a Shrub Me Tender, a tequila-based cocktail, and soon progressed to shots.
One thing we hadn’t experienced in our previous visit was the bar’s Wheel of Fortune. Although we weren’t courageous enough to try it out ourselves — we didn’t want to risk the arrow falling on the “Go Home” tab — we did enjoy seeing others try their luck. The first person got a shot, the second arm wrestled the bartender, and the third…. drum roll please….. got shots for everyone! The bar got rowdy, and with good reason. It was just fun, with a sense of camaraderie.
The thing is, we would never have gone to Mr Lucky’s had we not done our research. And it paid off. Now, we are sharing the info. As for the password, well, you can always ask us nicely and we might tell.