Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Rise & Falls Of Basement Bars

By Nina Koo-Seen-Lin.

Curiosity fell down the rabbit hole: my own personal spin on the traditional proverb. It’s more about stumbling into a land of wonder (just like Alice) rather than stopping someone from being too inquisitive about some things. I am an inquisitive person (nosey); you have to be to be a writer, especially a Fluid London writer. So I often prep myself with this phrase to delve deeper when trying something new. It’s been a good saying, and one I’ve been happy with. However, I think I may have to adapt it slightly for this blog post to curiosity fell down the basement bar steps.

I have done this four times in four very different venues located in cellars. The first was at Ninetyeight bar in Shoreditch. Despite tumbling down a few steps of an iron-cast corkscrew staircase, I picked myself up laughing. I laugh out loud when I see someone fall over on the street or trip on or out of a tube (yes, I know that’s mean and I’m a horrible person) but I laugh ten times more when I’m the fallen.

The second was at Cherryjam for a previous blog feature. That was technically more of a tipsy trip after a visit upstairs to use the WC.

Then there was that time I went to Bourne and Hollingsworth. That was a bit upsetting as I was sporting a beehive so rock hard with hairspray I was told nothing could dent it. A blunder down the stairs did and I ended up spending the rest of the evening looking like a battered Adele and sipping a Dark & Stormy from a jam jar. Not a sight you see in Fitzrovia often I think.

Most recently I attended the launch of Flûte London, a Champagne bar & lounge located on Great Portland Street. Like all basement bars it’s a case of walk your way towards the place, blink and you’ll miss it. The only reason my +1 and I found the place was the sight of an ever-increasing queue lining the pavement. It was a bitterly cold evening so my haste to get in could be 65% responsible for my little falter in step. The remaining 35% I blame on the dark, which is pretty much standard though for a venue located in a cellar.

Once the coat has been shrugged off, a glass of bubbly placed in my hand and the neck cricked back in to place, I began to feel privileged for a) surviving, and b) being let in on this secret venue.

For that’s what basement bars are: hidden holes that offer good times, quirky settings and drinks that somehow taste better because you’re being served underground. There was definitely a certain sense of smug satisfaction that while we were sipping flutes of Champagne and nibbling on mini bruschetta bites topped with finely chopped mushrooms, above us hoards of commuters were jostling and elbowing their way through crowds of Miss Selfridge, Topshop and Urban Outfitter shoppers. They had no idea where I was – HA HA HA!

I feel this is something that is (probably already) short-lived. A lot of these dark underground settings are getting noticed and therefore generating more interest. The hype is well deserved. Basement bars have that private den-like appeal with a hint of the mystique. Once uncovered by a few, it’s revealed to everyone and becomes the latest place to be (un)seen. A late visit to Freud in Covent Garden could result in you having to perch on the staircase because all the tables are taken.

It won’t be too long before Flûte London becomes more a hangout haunt rather than a desolate dwelling. There’s already a schedule filled with live jazz nights, New York DJs and Champagne-tasting classes. And with around 100 sparkling wines and Champagnes to choose from, available by the glass (around £5) or bottle (around £50), the place offers a fizz fusion of choice at very affordable prices. Now that’s something to fall over for, surely!

1 comment:

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