Surely, London must be the world capital of things pretending to be other things. There’s a bar masquerading as a detective agency, a restaurant that thinks its a circus, and a karaoke, pizzeria and cocktail bar themed entirely around ex-Italian premier and celebrated womaniser Silvio Berlusconi. The latest addition is 1940s-themed underground cocktail bar Cahoots, which seems designed to delight American tourists disappointed that London isn’t British enough these days.
“Down the apples and pears, take a left and bob’s your uncle!” said the enthusiastic Dick Van Dyke lookalike in the doorway. We giggled nervously, unused to such ostentatious displays of Disneynification, and scooted downstairs where a sassy ticket officer took our coats.
Reservations are essential and, unfortunately, need to be made up to a month in advance, which normally I’d say is too bloody long to wait for a cocktail bar, even one shaped like a tube station. (That said, we bumped into Mike’s cousin while we were there, who works nearby and had apparently flirted her way in without a booking, so if you’re in the area and fancy a jolly good tipple or three, you scoundrel, it might be worth a pop. Top hole, what?)
I’ll make an exception on this occasion though; Cahoots is so unique I think it’s worth the wait. The decor is unabashedly over-the-top, from the vegetable tin vessels to the syphilis posters in the gents. There’s even cockney rhyming slang lessons playing in the toilets, which can come as a bit of a shock when you’re trying to have a quiet piss and Michael Caine is suddenly bellowing something in your ear about Adam and Eve.
The drinks in a place like this could easily be a massive let-down, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that they were a) well-priced and b) delicious. As a
raging alcoholic cocktail connoisseur, I was intrigued by the ‘Garlick Avenue’ (£10.00) from the ‘Landgirls & Homeguard’ section, a vodka-based drink with pickled garlic and rosemary syrup which turned out to be utterly fantastic (although recommended only for garlic-fiends and vampire-slayers…it’s pretty strong). In fact, the landgirls’ boozy creations are one of the top reasons to come back to Cahoots; other concoctions include the ‘Boiled Beef and Carrots’ and beetroot-infused ‘Swing for Victory’.
But there’s plenty for the less adventurous drinkers too. I generally go for tangy, sour drinks with big flavours, and loved the Chambord and smoky lapsang-laced ‘Turning Over A New Leaf’ (£9.00), and Mike, who usually goes for sweet, fruity cocktails, liked the ‘Alright Treacle’ (£10.00) and the spiced ‘n’ sticky ‘Pear Today, Gone Tomorrow’ (£9.00).
Everything is obviously served in twee-as-fuck teacups and tin cans, but, well, I can excuse it on this occasion. It seems to work.
When you make your booking, I really recommend trying to get a proper table. You’ll have a service charge slapped on your bill, but it’s worth it to avoid the scrum at the bar. Plus, all the waiting staff are decked out in braces and victory rolls and it’s nice to appreciate all that effort from up close.
If you can get a reservation, Cahoots is a great venue for a date. We started with drinks there and went on to Whyte and Brown next door (the burgers are good, but don’t bother with the chicken skin crisps), but Kingly Court is heaving with decent eateries. (If you like noodles, Shoryu Ramen is right next door.) At weekends there’s dancing, so dress up, drink deep and prepare to party like it’s 1945.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.