Callooh Callay is a Shoreditch institution and was one of the first bars to herald in the era of east London cool … and a slew of speakeasies would follow. And while you’re likely to see the place heaving any night of the week, there is more here than meets the eye.
As is the feature of any bona fide cocktail institution these days, there is a “secret” bar within a bar … within a bar. Yup. That’s three. Well whether the secret is out doesn’t matter, this place is brilliant in or out of the wardrobe (oh yes, didn’t we tell you? You have to sneak through a wardrobe Narnia-style to get to the Lounge or the Upstairs Bar). Their not-so-secret Upstairs Bar plays host to incredible pop-up events, like Havana Nights and The Candy Store where they handed out edible menus. Speaking of menus, Callooh Callay takes them more (or less) seriously than any bar around: from listing on Oyster cards to high school yearbooks to Now 65 cassette cases – the way the drinks are listed seems almost as important as the drinks themselves. Almost. The punning of cocktail names here is second to none, and we dare you not to order every drink that gives you a giggle. A few notable mentions include: Nicholas Sage, Spruce Willis, Thyme To Get Busy and Rye Me To The Moon. This playfulness comes across in the attitude of the staff, the guests and most certainly in the décor (how do we say, acid-kitsch?).
They sling bar bites like chargrilled padron peppers with smoked sea salt, mini beef burgers with beer-battered pickles, as well as mac & cheese with an option to chuck in some bacon. While they might not be angling for any Michelin stars … wait, maybe they are, since Michelin star chef Phil Copper whipped up their Christmas menu. Either way, the thoughtful snacks will do nothing less than satisfy when you’re four cocktails deep.
Best Bars tip: To get the full Alice in Wonderland experience, we recommend booking a table for the Lounge or Upstairs Bar in advance.
— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips