Bristol’s secret, ‘wander past them everyday and never know they’re there’ bars are pretty much the worst kept secret around, but people seem to get very over excited about a bar that makes you do a little work to earn your mojito. If, like me, you have a soft spot for a good cocktail and are ever in need of things to do in Bristol, try tracking these places down. Even with the address, these unmarked ‘knock on the door’ bars still aren’t that easy to find.
Hyde & Co
I still remember the first moment my friend explained to me how her night out had ended up in Hyde and Co (after several failed attempts to get in and a mysterious phone call summoning them back). I found the whole idea of secret bars intimidating (‘what if they won’t let me in? THE REJECTION!’) and exciting (‘I can pretend I’m actually in Gatsby…’). Hyde and Co is a low lit warren of little rooms, housing the prohibition style bar and a decent collection of taxidermy/Victorian memorabilia. The cocktail menu is extensive and the price list is exactly what you expect of a specialist bar – eye watering, but such good quality you won’t need too many drinks. Clue: Look for the bowler hat.
2 The Basement, Upper Byron Place, Bristol, BS8 1JY (hyde&co)
The Milk Thistle
The size and central location of The Milk Thistle and Hyde & Co probably make them the most famous secret Bristol bars (so to speak!).
The Milk Thistle is like stepping into a 1920’s four storey townhouse right in the centre of Bristol. Inside, you’ll find a large, prohibition style bar – think wood panelling, table service and plenty of Victorian trinkets. They also hold private functions and weddings here – how cool would that be!? Clue: Look for the black door…
Quay Head House, Colston Avenue, Bristol BS1 1EB (milkthistle)
The sexy one! Sexy in a 50’s pin up sort of way, nothing seedy (ignoring the red neon ‘sex’ sign). Once you’ve called them on the pay phone outside to be given entry, the bar you’ll find yourself in has a 50’s vibe throughout. This bar is also linked to Weber and Trings, the small but mighty liqueur shop on Christmas Steps which has everything you could need to make the most random cocktail. Clue: why’s there a pay phone in a doorway anyway?
No.1 Unity Street, Bristol, BS1 5HH (redlight)
My personal favourite. A small, intimate, Berlin style cocktail bar with very helpful and attentive bar tenders. It’s so small in fact, that they hit capacity really easily. There’s no standing room, so if you can’t get a seat, you’re not getting in, but on the plus side, if you’re already in, there’s no jossling at the bar or pushing through the crowd. Slightly out of the way of other bars but totally worth it. The bar tenders here really go out of their way to help you discover the drinks you’ll love. They even swap your drink into an icy cold new glass if they think you’ve had it long enough for it to warm up. Can’t argue with that. Clue: be brave, head down the steps.
52 Upper Belgrave Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2XP (hausbar.co.uk)