If variety is the spice of life, why do we keep going to pubs and bars that look like what they actually are? It is far much more fun to go to a bar that looks like a fridge, or a bookshelf, or even a pawn shop. Disguised bars are popping up everywhere - from a juice bar where you can sneak in your own alcohol in Central London to an unassuming boiler shop in Nottingham that is so much more than it seems.
A new bar has just opened in Shanghai in which you enter through a vending machine, which has inspired us to look for the world's most fascinating bar fronts, and of course plan several trips out for drinks...
Lost and Found, Birmingham
8 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham B2 5RS, the-lostandfound.co.uk
The secret door: This quirky pub doesn't stop at the Victorian decorations, birdcage lamps and old-library setting. Pull at the bookcase and you'll discover a secret cosy room, fulfilling every fantasy of living in a children's book set in a huge house with endless cubby holes to discover.
Booking: Not necessary unless you specifically want to sit in the bookcase area (rather than just look at it)
Opening hours: Monday - Thursday, 11am - 11pm; Friday 11am - 12am; Saturday, 10am - 12am; Sundays, 11am – 9pm
Back in 5 Minutes, East London
Ante, 224 Brick Lane, E1 6SA, disappearingdiningclub.co.uk
The secret door: Back in Five Minutes is hidden behind a clothing shop on Brick Lane, so after you've shopped at Ante, you can ask to be shown through the door beside the counter to the tiny dining room and cocktail bar. You'll probably be a bit longer than five minutes though.
Booking: There are only 28 seats, so it's recommended
Opening hours: Every Wednesday to Saturday, 6.30pm - 1am
Looking Glass Cocktail Club, East London
49 Hackney Road, Hackney, London E2 7NX, lookingglasscocktailclub.co.uk
The secret door: Looking Glass Cocktail Club has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it, from the Drink Me on the menu, to the looking glass at the back of the bar. If you pull it open, you discover a second bar, with a more upbeat vibe. Curiouser and curiouser...
Booking: Advisable, but not necessary - there's a lot of space through that looking glass!
Opening hours: Sunday - Thursday, 6pm - 12am; Friday and Saturday 6pm - 2am
81 Seel Street, Liverpool L1, 81ltd.com
The secret door: You'll feel like James Bond for getting into this place - after texting for an invite, you receive a code to an unassuming door above a hot dog restaurant, which you punch in to ascend to a cocktail paradise.
Booking: "By appointment only", so best to phone ahead
Opening hours: Thursday, Sunday from 8pm; Friday and Saturday from 7pm
Panda & Sons, Edinburgh
79 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4NF, pandaandsons.com
The secret door: You could easily walk past Panda & Sons, mistaking it for a vintage barber shop (with a haircut at just 25 cents!), but step inside and toddle over to the bookcase where you'll quickly find what the place is really all about - posh cocktails. Served in Beauty and the Beast style bell jars, and everything.
Booking: Booking ahead will guarantee you a space, but is not necessary.
Opening hours: Monday - Thursday, 4pm - 1am; Friday - Sunday 3pm - 1am
The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, East London
12-16 Artillery Lane, E1 7LS, themayorofscaredycattown.com
The secret door: Retro lovers, rejoice. The entrance to the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town from the Breakfast Club restaurant it's located in is through a Smeg fridge. Just ask to see the mayor and you'll be ushered in.
Booking: Unfortunantely the Mayor is too popular to allow for reservations, so best plan to come in a small group, or away from busier times like the weekend.
Opening times: Monday - Thursday, 5pm - 12am; Friday 3pm - 12am; Saturday 12pm - 12am; Sunday 12pm - 10.30pm
From Dusk Til Pawn, Manchester
Stevenson Square, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M1 1FB
The secret door: From Dusk Til Pawn's disguise is strong - the entire front gives a great impression of being a dusty old-fashioned pawn shop. But step inside, and you'll be welcomed to the bourbon bar, with an ever-changing menu, and a jukebox. You may find yourself swapping your possessions for the killer cocktails.
Booking: Not necessary
Opening hours: Tuesday - Thursday, 5pm - 1am; Friday and Saturday, 5pm - 3am; Sunday, 5pm - 1am
36b Carlton Street, Hockley, Nottingham, NG1 1NN, boilermakerbar.co.uk
The secret door: Boilermaker looks like the world's dullest shop from the outside, a single counter, where you can buy boilers. But barge your way through the Staff Only door, and you'll find yourself in a bar. Have a drink to celebrate.
Booking: Recommended - the bar has a no standing policy, so you can usually expect to queue if you haven't booked ahead.
Opening hours: Monday - Saturday, 5pm - 1am, Sunday 7pm - 1am
Upstairs at Callooh Callay, East London
65 Rivington St, London EC2A 3AY, calloohcallaybar.co.uk
The secret door: Callooh Callay is frequently ranked among the world's best bars. And to add to its wonders is the Narnia-like area that you climb through the wardrobe at the back to discover. There is also a secret third area, but you'll have to be a member to get the key, so it's time to up the visits.
Booking: Highly recommended - the world's best bar isn't going to be sitting empty of an evening
Opening hours: Monday - Wednesday, 6pm – 12am; Thursday - Sunday, 6pm – 1am
The Wick, Brighton
63 Western Rd, Hove, BN3 1JD, speakeasybrighton.co.uk
The secret door: Well, it's more a secret set of spiral stairs. Which could be more secret. But nevertheless, ascending above the Wick pub leads you to an unexpected candlelit speakeasy bar, which only opens on the weekends and plays all the jazz to fulfill all your Twenties needs.
Booking: Advisable, though not necessary.
Opening hours: Friday and Saturday, 7pm - 12am
Simo’s Bar, Central London
3 Greek Street, London W1D 4NX
The secret door: Hiding in plain sight, Simo’s bar is tucked underneath legendary whiskey shop Milroy’s of Soho. With a re-launch of the whiskey emporium planned for February is the addition of the 55-seater cocktail bar, with a barrel shaped area if you want a little more privacy. Just head downstairs “giving a sense that you are in the know”. Just make sure you don’t walk into the stock room.
Booking: Advisable - the bar doesn't open until February so get planning
Opening hours: Tuesday – Thursday, 6pm -11:30pm; Friday – Saturday, 5pm – 12am
Danger of Death, East London
Brick Lane, London E1, dangerlondon.com
The secret door: It seems like Brick Lane is full of secret bars. Danger of Death is a bar underneath a street-level coffee shop, which you enter by pressing the right set of switches in the electrical cupboard (hence the name). Once inside, the cocktails are of course, killer.
Booking: The bar is sadly, very exclusive, so if you're not a member, book well in advance to guarantee a space.
Opening hours: Wednesday - Saturday, 6pm to 1am
Call Me Mr Lucky, South London
11 Southwark Street, SE1 1RQ, callmemrlucky.com
The secret door: The Breakfast Club certainly love a hidden bar - as well as The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, they have a hidden laundrette in Battersea Rise, but we love Call Me Mr Lucky, where if you tell the staff "I'm here to get lucky" you'll be led through the kitchen to the bar, which includes a drink wheel of fortune. Lucky indeed.
Booking: Best to email ahead but walk-ins are definitely accepted
Opening hours: Monday to Wednesday, 5pm - 12am; Thursday to Saturday, 3pm-1am; Sunday, 5pm - 11pm
The Luggage Room, Central London
Grosvenor Square, London, W1K 6JP, luggageroom.co.uk
The secret door: Within the Marriott Hotel on Grosvenor Square, this bar used to be, you guessed it, the luggage room. But it's not as simple as just strolling in, you'll have to ask the porter and knock on a inconspicuous black door. Once inside, the sleek luggage-inspired decor is enough to tempt you to stay all night.
Booking: Booking is essential for large groups, and recommended for smaller parties to guarantee a space
Opening hours: 5pm - 2am every day
BYOC, Covent Garden
28 Bedfordbury, WC2N 4BJ, byoc.co.uk
The secret door: Push through a door behind the counter at The Juice People in Covent Garden (with new branches in Camden and Brighton, too) to find BYOC, or Bring Your Own Cocktails. You provide the spirit and the staff mix it up into some delicious cocktails with an ingredients list spanning fruit, vegetables, herbs and minerals.
Booking: Heavily recommended - space is limited and it gets cosy quickly
Opening hours: 6pm-11pm every night.
52 Upper Belgrave Rd, Avon, Bristol BS8 2XP, hausbar.co.uk
The secret door: Underneath the Rajpoot Indian restaurant lies this Berlin-inspired speakeasy, bringing a touch of trendy to the genteel Georgian mansions that surround it.
Booking: Groups of five or more are required to book in advance
Opening hours: From 8pm - 2am every night
432 Shaanxi Nan Lu, near Yongjia Lu, Xuhui district
The secret door: A retro Coca-Cola vending machine in a average-looking sandwich shop in the Shaanxi Nan Lu area of Shanghai, opens to reveal a sleek cocktail bar, designed by architect Alberto Caiola.
Booking: The bar gets busy after 10pm, so get through that door quickly!
Opening hours: Monday- Saturday, from 7pm
Butcher's Bar, Berlin
Torstraße 116, 10119 Berlin, butcher-berlin.de
The secret door: What looks like a run-of-the-mill currywurst shop is actually one of the coolest joints in Berlin. Once inside, skip the sausage and head straight to the photobooth, which is hiding a phone booth, which is hiding the doorbell to this meat-inspired bar.
Booking: You might want to save yourself a space, so give them an email before heading down.
Opening hours: Tuesday - Saturday, from 8.30pm
Fall from Grace, Melbourne
477 Collins Street Melbourne 3000, stateofgracemelbourne.au
The secret door: Inside the State of Grace restaurant, there's a bookcase. And if you pull out a certain book - yes you guessed it, reveals a decadent hidden cocktail bar. Just like in a murder mystery novel, but hopefully less dangerous.
Booking: Not required but it is possible to reserve a space.
Opening hours: Monday - Wednesday, 5pm to late; Thursday - Friday, 4pm - late; Saturday 5pm - late
The Blind Barber, New York
339 East 10th Street, New York, NY 10009, blindbarber.com
The secret door: The Blind Barber is a functioning barber shop in the trendy East Village in New York, but if you ask for a drink, instead of a haircut, you'll be shown through a modest door to the speakeasy-feel secret bar at the back.
Opening times: Monday - Saturday, 12pm - 9pm; Sunday, 12pm - 6pm
Booking: Advised on weekends and busy periods, but not necessary