Friday, 22 October 2010

A Secret Code To A New Secret Bar

By Anastasia Hancock.

It all started a few weeks ago.

I was walking down the steps of Battersea Park Station, ready to breathe in the cool South London evening, when I stopped short in front of a large-scale poster on the brick wall in front of me.

On it was the dark, twisted form of a female tiger, her eyes hidden. Intrigued, I took a few steps closer, the clicking of my heels echoing in the quiet of the deserted station entrance hall.

The minx’s cat figure writhed across the black background above a single, captivating line: The Blind Tiger. There was no email address listed, no location mentioned, simply a solitary telephone number written in small digits beneath the haughty paws of the big cat emblazoned above it. The design reminded me of something I’d seen elsewhere, but for the life of me I couldn’t put my finger on it…

But the night was drawing in, so I merely shrugged to myself and prowled off into the night.

The next time I saw that familiar feline face I recognised it straight away.

Again, I was on home ground after a hard day in the urban jungle and was just about to lap up my first cold glass of white wine in Battersea’s prize watering hole, The Lost Angel, when I caught a glimpse of the distractingly sightless form. I put down my glass and made my way through the pack of noisy carousers.

This time I noticed something else below the eponymous Blind Tiger tag: ‘Illicit dining and forbidden beverages’.

Suddenly the similarities of design between the poster in front of me, and the brand of The Lost Angel and its sister bar Lost Society became clear – so that was where I had recognised it from that first night.

Yet it was still frustratingly coy. Where was this den of iniquity, and more importantly, why was it being denied to me? I stalked back to my seat in exasperation.

During the next few weeks the posters appeared across the sprawling south London metropolis, each tiger taunting me further with its enigmatic stare – and all this in my own territory. It was too much. Fur will fly if I don’t find out more about this haven for libertines, I told myself.

Then, one day, it came to me.

The invitation simply dropped into my inbox from the fascinatingly named Coco. ‘Join us for illicit canap├ęs, prohibited cocktails and live jazz band. Our address is 697 Wandsworth Road’. The script continued intriguingly; ‘Look for the dimmed lamp next to a large black door. To gain entry ring the bell and state, ‘We are here to see The Blind Tiger’. Come suited and booted’. Yes, I thought, that’s the place.

A few days later I stood before the heavy wooden door preening myself, until a large, dark-suited shape purred huskily through the peephole. ‘Yes?’ said the voice.

‘I’m here to see Blind Tiger’, I muttered, self-consciously. The latch drew back – and there I was.

A teacup of some powerful concoction was pressed into my hand, and I was ushered through the walled courtyard into a 1920s speakeasy. It was full of bright young things sipping forgotten cocktails, the lingering notes of a fabulous jazz quartet floating in the air, the walls covered in shiny art nouveau trinkets.

I sighed, and sank into a plump velvet armchair, accepting gratefully as I did an imaginative Rhubarb and Honey Bellini. As the night progressed I worked my way dutifully through a sparkling menu of Manhattans, Margaritas and Martinis, Mai Tais, Mojitos….and a Regal tea; a delicious mixture of gin, Madagascan vanilla sugar, lemon juice and peach bitters, all topped off with champagne.

And as the cocktails flowed and the band played on, the survival game being battled out over the secluded garden wall and beyond, across our own concrete savannah, suddenly seemed so very far away indeed.

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