Accessed through the bathroom of an Italian deli bar on Margaret Street in Marylebone, the secret venue is the brainchild of Diego Lijtmaer - co-founder of Bacanal Media & Entertainment Group – and four other investors who were behind the likes of Project and The Scotch nightclubs, the latter of which is now closed.
“The Key is the first baby of a series of themed bars that we’re planning to open together,” Lijtmaer told BigHospitality.
“We decided to transform one of the bars that was owned by one of our partners and turn it into a ‘secret’ bar. We don’t want to use the word ‘speakeasy’ because it’s very used.
“The highlight of The Key is that it’s going to be operating via the Italian deli, which will be fully functioning. In order to get into the bar customers will need to go through the bathroom with a special key which has a fob attached to it.
“It’s not a members-only venue but if you want to get in you must have the courage to go through this process.”
The concept could be likened to Will Ricker’s La Bodega Negra subterranean restaurant and bar in Soho,which is hidden behind a ‘sex shop’ façade. Lijtmaer explained that it’s important to ‘stand out from the crowd’ of cocktail bars in the West End nowadays by offering something unique.
“We are trying to attract a certain crowd of young professionals that have a high disposable income,” he added. “They’re looking for good value-for-money and for a great experience, so having a different entrance, a quirky interior and a great product is very important.
“The Key is going to be a 1920s concept, with chandeliers, bricks and wood. When you get inside you’ll find a venue which has space for around 250 people, with 75 seated.
“It will also have a separate backroom accessed through a discreet door, which is going to be branded by a cognac brand – it will be like a secret garden, with ivy on the walls and a smoking terrace.”
The bar will offer a diverse range of ‘immersive’ cocktails designed by Andy Mil, including Day at the Fair, which consists of bubblegum-infused tequila, pineapple, and lime juice shaken in a fish bag with orange blossom water and Aperol and finished with a ‘balloon of love’.
The Key will also offer a restaurant, with a menu of sharing plates created by head chef Raph Brens.
A stage will offer a changing schedule of live music, ranging from jazz and blues to rock, stand-up comedy, and other performances.
To access The Key regularly, guests will have to follow them on twitter as ‘finding the door is not enough’. They will also need a password, which will change randomly and regularly. Customers can tweet @TheKeyLondonand the password will be sent to them in a direct message.
Lijtmaer added that he and the other co-owners of The Key will be looking for passive investors for future projects in London.