The Natural Philosopher, Hackney
Like all the best new places in town, The Natural Philosopher is an architectural improvisation. Carved from the basement of an Apple Mac repair store, its sunken bar is an unusual, if not unlikely new resident of the wrong end of Hackney Rd.
Each day from dusk, the basement opens. Gloomy lamplight displays Victorian portraiture peering down from the walls. The milky complexions of long dead men, frozen in gilt frames, compete for attention with the disconcertingly good-looking and uniformly young faces of patrons.
Only the carefully curated list of whiskeys, vodkas, gins and rums diverts attention from the decor, prefaced with a short cocktail offering. My companion began with the Lord Kelvin and dubbed it “an improbably graceful gymnast, balancing sweet, citrus syrup, Brokers gin and lemon bitters with death-defying sangfroid”. Quite right too.
I took a chance on the Baltazar – lemon infused Moskovskaya vodka, mixed with lemongrass, raspberries and lychee juice which started well before dissolving into a puddle of watermelon.
The Natural Philosopher makes the bold claim their bartenders “can make anything your heart desires”. Take someone with pockets deep and stomach lined, armed with an encyclopaedic knowledge of booze, steeled for a challenge. Then carry them into an uber (you’ll find no hackney carriages here, despite the borough, for you’re a long way from Starbucks homie).
There’s no food on offer and, unless it’s a kebab you’re after, you’ll need to walk no inconsiderable distance to the Hackney Bureau or set out for a well-rewarded marathon to the delectable and equally epicurean Verden.