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Saturday, 4 April 2015

The Natural Philosopher, Hackney


It would be easy to walk past The Natural Philosopher, mistaking its shop window for another East End bric-a-brac emporium peddling retro tat aimed at London Fields poseurs' postmodernist pads. Downstairs, beyond a reception area's rococo geegaws and avian taxidermy - Corrie Steve's Street Cars office as imagined by Tim Burton - lies Dalston members club Manero's new liquor lounge. First however, I'm urged to inspect an anteroom that houses what must be The East End's smallest "museum." Piled on shelves, ten-feet high, is owner/ curator James Manero's collection of computers, myriad Macs dating back to the earliest commercially available examples. Apple anoraks will be fascinated. Anyone under the age of 30 might wonder how we managed in our jobs pre-Jobs. (Search 'IBM Selectric' 'carbon paper' 'jammed keys' and 'abacus'). Me? I'm instantly stressed out by the prospect of the very same Performas and Power Macs that, for all their shiny, sophisticated Californian state-of-the-art promise, would end in hissy fits as two weeks worth of work - my relationship with the floppy notoriously sloppy - were lost as 'bombs' that were definitely not "da bomb" appeared and the dreaded Sad Mac Face (pictured) indicated my much admired hardware was now about as useful as a five year-old Big Mac®. Talk about expensive landfill! Downstairs, the laid-back Natural Philosopher's living room-sized cocktail lounge is served by a funky, deep, sunken bar to one end, its tenders' heads barely visible above the surround that separates it from their customers. Step away from the ledge, Squiffy McGee! Falling face down into a mixologists' mosh pit is a social fail. Such shame should be rare: the house has a table-service only policy. A launch night menu, limited to a quartet of cocktails (normally £9), throws up a couple of hits: summery gin sour, Lord Kelvin and Zabarella, a cardamom-infused Ocho tequila and pomegranate margarita. The house signature is the Parmenides. Well-executed and attractively presented perhaps, but the lure of brandy, yellow Chartreuse, absinthe bitters and white wine is all Greek to me. There again, when I was at school in the first century AD, my favourite tutor was another ancient Athenian philosopher, Agrippa The Skeptic.
489 Hackney Road E2