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Friday, 5 November 2010

Ninetyeight Bar and Lounge, Shoreditch

For two decades, this Shoreditch vault has been members-only. But, pass muster - i.e. look sufficiently decorous or intriguing - and Ninetyeight, Kath Morrell’s quaint speakeasy is now open to all. A series of white rooms gussied up in glitzy pantomime baroque favours garish gee-gaws, jars stuffed with candy and fun-fair prizes - cloth monkeys with light-up eyes, anyone? If Willie Wonka got with My Little Pony, they’d be regulars. In contrast to the heroically whimsical decor, 98’s bartenders are serious about their craft, described to me as ‘molecular mixology.’ It’s a term that makes me shudder, too often translating as contrived conceits courtesy of hopeful Hestons: high on theatre, the result is invariably less Blumenthal, more Blumenoffal - tripe in a glass. Kath’s signatures include Off In The Clouds, a sky-blue Vesper for blue-sky drinkers served over fluffy candy floss. Good Old Fashioned Sunday Roast (Karlsson’s Gold vodka infused with rosemary, oregano and orange) recalls a herbal liqueur that seemed like a good idea in Menorca but now lurks unloved in your drinks cupboard. I’d sooner spend £9 on a non-nonsense Negroni. Thankfully, the classics are also available at this agreeably bonkers basement where Sunday afternoons are given over to ‘vintage’ tea parties and every visit will yield a tale of the unexpected. Did I really witness fully-grown man spend an entire evening folded up in a claustrophobic box, charged with the specific task of animating a disco midget DJ doll that was too Don't Look Now for comfort?  Or was my strange brew stronger than I initially thought? 

98 Curtain Rd EC2 7729 0087