Once you’ve found the hidden staircase, squeezed past the tropical plants and dodged the exploding fruit bowls balanced on a bar (or a pick n’ mix stand, I’m not sure) there’s no going back. You’re officially in one of London’s most secret (and exotic) cocktail bars; Ninety-Eight.
It’s like the Mad Hatter asked Willy Wonka to decorate his Tea Party. The place is jammed with jars of lollypops, vintage birdcages and teddy bears. A rocking horse serves as a coat hanger. Plastic dinosaurs walk up the wall, whilst jellyfish bump about a fishbowl. Even the lighting is dramatic – the ginormous lamps look like they’ve had a feather-filled pillow flight whilst covered in glue.
I cast a delighted eye over the menu of all nine drinks. A cocktail snob might be appeased with the smoking whiskeys, but baffled by its rum and avocado combos, and downright offended by a vodka and candy. Send them back to the Savoy, I think, merrily ordering a Billionaire’s Mojito.
It arrives with a flourish from a grinning waiter – all the staff look suspiciously on a sugar high – it’s a deliciously fresh take on the classic Cuban drink with a slice of passionfruit. But I prefer my sister’s Green Lady. It’s so good, I risk her wrath and gulp down most of the gin, apple and cucumber liqueur, shaken over ice and finished with a fancy cucumber relish.
There appears to be a mini forest bursting out of a greenhouse at the back of the bar, I pretend to look for the loos and discover a conservatory room with just one table in the shadow of tropical trees. Another doorway leads to a lounge where everything is mummified: the tables, chairs and lamps are all wrapped in strips of white cloth. Why? Well, why bloody not.
That seems to be the prevalent theme in this quirky basement bar that only cooler-than-cool Londoners seem to know exists. Perfect for a party with a punch, or a Tinder date you really really REALLY want to impress, I’d recommend this bar to anyone with a sweet tooth and penchant for drama.
Drinks are £10
Location: Morrell House, 98 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, EC2A 3AF