Guides

A Guide To Britain’s Quirkiest Eateries And Bars

From tea in a toilet to cocktails in a coin laundry.

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It’s a matter of fact that, for many Australians, Britain’s great appeal is couched in its familiarity. Scratch at the surface, though, and you’ll find that many of England’s crown jewels are hidden, obscure gems tucked in unfamiliar places: in bars and basements, down unassuming lanes, and frequently within just two hours of London.

From tea in a toilet to cocktails in a coin laundry, these are some of the weird and wonderful eateries and bars Britain has to offer.

#1 Evans & Peel Detective Agency

Prohibition-era cocktail bars are a dime a dozen these days: walk a few hundred metres in any direction in central London and you could be sipping an Old Fashioned under Edison lights in no time. But nobody does it quite like Evans and Peele.

There are a few minor quirks that set this haunt apart: a hidden door disguised as a bookshelf; a beer tap hooked up to an old-fashioned radiator. But the bar’s main point of difference is in the ‘detective agency’ element, which sees an American ‘detective’ greeting you upon arrival and presenting you with evidence to help crack a mysterious case. Think ‘escape room’ meets ‘speakeasy’ and you’ll be pretty close to the mark.


#2 Edith’s House

Image: Edith’s House / Facebook

Quirk and comfort don’t have to be contradictory terms, and Edith’s House is a case in point. This one-of-a-kind Crouch End café is peak 1960’s British kitsch, resplendent with vintage couches, floral wallpaper and more than a handful of assorted knick-knacks and bric-a-brac. Sip a cuppa in the pastel-pink reupholstered toilet, or chuck a VHS on in the bedroom and settle in for a hearty, homey brunch.

The eponymous Edith is one of the owner’s grandmas, as it turns out, and fittingly so: Edith’s House is the quintessential nana’s house. Come for the quirk, stay for the comfort.


#3 BYOC

Image: BYOC / Facebook

It’s no secret that the British take their plonk pretty seriously, and Brighton’s BYOC is taking the classic bring-your-own-booze model to grand, mixological heights. The ‘C’ stands for cocktail, if you were wondering, and they mean it: arrive with a bottle of your very own liquor and the bartenders will use it to whip you up a special beverage.

It’s a system purpose-built for the individual experience and pretty much guarantees that no two drinks – or drinking sessions, for that matter – are going to be the same. You provide the base, and the experts at the BYOC speakeasy will sort you out with the rest.


#4 The Washhouse

Image: The Washhouse / Facebook

If we’re talking about the esoteric underground of small bars and clubs, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more in-the-know watering hole than The Washhouse. At surface value this venue is more or less exactly as it says on the tin: a self-service coin laundry in the heart of Manchester, decked out with all your standard washers, dryers and plainclothes punters. But open the right door and you’ll find that this particular laundromat is hiding some dirty secrets.

Getting in here’s very much a case of the Lion, the Witch and the Washing Machine – and awaiting you on the other side of the hatchway is a magical little drinking den replete with leather furnishings, boozy cocktails and a filthy house soundtrack to boot. Just make sure you track down their phone number first: there’s no getting into Narnia without a booking.


#5 The Cat Café

Image: Cat Cafe / Facebook

Looking for that quiet inner-city nook where you can kick back and enjoy a teacake with a tabby? Then Manchester’s aptly named Cat Café is absolutely your port of call.

This venue is all about providing “a stress-free space where cats and humans come alongside each other and unwind.” And, unsurprisingly, it’s got mousers up the wazoo. Guests pay by the hour to mingle with the family of felines, and are welcome to as many hot and cold drinks as they can imbibe during that time. Feeling toothy? The Cat Café also offers a selection of quality biscuits, muffins and cakes for hungry customers.


#6 Ex-Directory

Ex-Directory, Liverpool

Image: Ex-Directory / Facebook

When it comes to instantly recognisable British icons, the nation’s red telephone boxes rank alongside The Queen, double-decker buses and tea.

Liverpool bar Ex-Directory has made one of those famous telephone boxes part of its mystique. Decipher some cryptic clues on the bar’s website and make your way to a particular red phone box in the city centre, which forms the entrance to this exclusive venue.

Once you’ve stepped through the phone box, settle into a lush leather banquette and sip on bespoke cocktails like ‘Two Little Ducks’: gin with violet and lavender, served in a miniature bathtub with two floating rubber ducks.


#7 Yurt Lush

Yurt Lush, Bristol

Image: Yurt Lush / Facebook

A yurt is a circular, tent-like dwelling, traditionally clad in animal skins and tenanted by the nomadic tribes of Central Asia: tribes from Mongolia, or Turkmenistan. But take a stroll through the streets surrounding Bristol’s Temple Meads station and you might just stumble across three of the unique structures, ensconced absurdly among the shipping containers.

This is Yurt Lush: a café-bar trading in rustic Oriental chic and hearty British eats. Plant yourself by the wood-burning stove in the centre and nosh on a full English breakfast, or swing by on a Sunday to sample their quality roast. This is as strangely quaint a dining experience as you’re likely to find in the busy heart of Bristol.

(Lead image: BYOC Brighton / Facebook)

In Britain, you’ll find great tastes around every corner. Set off on a trip to find your Great Britain.