I really think I would have loved Prohibition. Why? Not because I think alcohol is evil – that would probably be the opposite of the truth. No, it’s because I am obsessed with speakeasy themed bars (or actual speakeasy bars) and Cahoots in London is quite possibly one of my favorite bars in the world.
How to Find CAHOOTS and Getting In
Set in an abandoned tube station just off Carnaby Street in Kingly Court (a great area anyway for eating and drinking in the evening), Cahoots is hidden away. A sign simply saying “To the Trains –>” with a small, bricked alcove and a nondescript door is the only indication that it’s nearby. The door is manned by a gentleman dressed oddly like it’s 1945, in suspenders.
You can only get in if you know the password – or, in this case – who to ask for. (It’s the Captain.) The doorman is in on the whole thing, and plays along in character completely. The Captain may not be taking any more visitors that evening, or is the Captain expecting you? Do you have an appointment to see the Captain this evening?
Reservations are for two-hour blocks, since it’s usually quite busy. Definitely book ahead if you want to be sure you get in during your trip!
TRAVEL BACK IN TIME
Walking down the narrow steps after the Captain agrees to see you, you’re transported to London during WWII’s Blitz. The staff are all dressed in gear from the era, the music is jazz and swing, the only things on the menu are things that existed back then. There’s no wifi (“What’s wifi?” replies the waitress, “This is 1945!”) or chocolate martinis (again, this is the 40’s). You can’t help but lose yourself to the kitschy, but fun pretense that you’ve time traveled to drink these imaginative, visually breathtaking cocktails in interesting receptacles.
There’s a vintage train car, remnants of the tube train tracks still in the floor, sandbags, Union Jack bunting, rations boxes, ads for Spam, propaganda posters on exposed brick walls and white subway tiled walls, and other paraphernalia surrounding you as you sip on your cocktails. If you head to the bathroom, check out the war-era posters about syphilis and not being an easy woman, just giving it up to any soldier home from the war. The coat check is a ticket office. The bar is built on filing cabinets and old library card catalogues.
The menu is perhaps the largest cocktail menu I’ve ever seen. It’s pages and pages of newspaper, organized by major type of alcohol and style of cocktail. While the drinks aren’t cheap, the quality and atmosphere makes the prices a lot more palatable.
If you’re lost, that’s okay. Our server was really helpful in helping us to select some delicious potions. If that’s not enough, there’s also a special Night Tube menu (celebrating this year’s opening of the Night Tube… finally), which has a few delicious bevvies as well.
I can’t imagine what a nightmare the dishwashers have at the end of the night. Literally every drink we ordered came in a different type of glass. And I’m not talking highballs or rocks glasses. A ceramic owl, a silver goblet, champagne saucer, and a Vera Lynn bust ceramic mug all served as vehicles delivering our delicious elixirs to our mouth-holes.
The service is also excellent here, especially for Europe. Our server was a French woman who still played the part and stayed in character the whole time, checked on us at appropriate times and helped us to choose our drinks. She was great!
Some cocktails are meant to be shared, too. If sharing is your kind of thing. Some come in canteens and thermoses and obviously keep to the theme.
Cahoots also sells food – basic food that’s more kitschy and less appealing like spam sandwiches, so it’s best to go to dinner elsewhere before coming here for after-dinner drinks.
Cahoots is definitely worth a visit while in London – it combines great cocktails (although a bit pricey) with a fun environment, great service and a really neat venue that you can’t see anywhere else. Book an appointment to see the Captain!
Head to Kingly Court and make your way down the center to find a sign that says “To the Trains”. Situated close to the swinging 60’s Carnaby Street and just off Regent Street, it’s in central London and there are plenty of dining options nearby, including in Kingly Court itself.
Address: Kingly Court, 13 Kingly St, London W1B 5PG
Phone: +44 20 7352 6200
Hours: Mon-Weds 5pm-1am, Thurs & Fri 4pm-2am, Saturday 2pm – 3am, Sunday 3pm – 12am