MRS KENTISHTOWNER HAS A MOTTO: if you get up early enough, you can board the day and ride it easily. If you don’t, you only end up having to push it in front of you as you go.
And she repeated this again and again, head aching, the other morning, after the launch night at Shebeen, the new legal-but-pretending-it’s-not bar under Kentish Canteen.
This kind of joint, until now, has been conspicuously absent in central Kentish Town. Of course there’s no shortage of drinking holes – Lord, no! – but so many are of the reinvented traditional, music-related or gastropub variety that the only options for a bespoke libation are the ultra-glam (and members’ only) Spring Studios, poor old Annie’s Bar, or nearby (and heinously under-reported by The Kentishtowner) Aces & Eights.
There are several new openings to come this spring/summer, as Kentish Town’s cultural regeneration continues, but first off the mark is this charming, dimly-lit wee space, which casts a boozy nod to the whole Irish speakeasy thing, whilst making imaginative use of three former Victorian police cells (now rather decadent private booths).
There’s table service, a chalked board of sharing plates – and a cheery Irish mixologist called Dave who is unflappable to boot (he even found time to tell us about the girlfriend he left back in Dublin).
At the launch last weekend the place filled quickly with a laidback crowd. Our first orders were spot on: a Gin Sour, made with bitters, was as good as somewhere like Milk & Honey. And a Negroni (left) was the real deal: perfectly measured, perfectly bitter – with a good twist of orange. An expresso martini, with perhaps the creamiest head Mrs Kentishtowner had ever seen, had her almost leaping off the leather banquette.
In fact, with its mixed crowd of chattering media types and Kentishtowners, Shebeen had the pleasing ambience of a grown-up Soho cocktail bar rather than a Shoreditch noise-fest.
(Mrs Kentishtowner (who fancies herself as something of an expert in this area) compared it favourably to both the iconic Dick’s Bar, and Broadwick Street lounge The Player.)
And, finally, we should let you know that upstairs things are changing too. It’s all sexy-moody-candlelit, and a new menu is being launched this month to rival yer Bull & Lasts and Colonel Fawcetts out there. We’ll report back on this shortly, of course. In the meantime, go on, support this hidden hangout. Who wants to ride the day easily, anyway?
Shebeen is offering Kentishtowner readers two cocktails for the price of one from 5:30-7:30pm. Cocktails are priced at £6.50. The bar is open 5:30pm to midnight, Tuesday – Sunday. 300 Kentish Town Road.
Words & Pictures: Stephen Emms