The speakeasy trend reaches its apogee/nadir, depending on your taste, with this new basement bar accessed off Earl’s Court Road. ‘At all times do not draw unwanted attention to our venue,’ beseeches the menu. Oh, sorry. It makes a big noise about being secretive – I evaded an intercom interrogation by sneaking in behind a group of fellow drinkers. A dapper chap behind a desk then kept the schtick going: ‘Under what name did you book your appointment?’ And, ‘Can you tell me something about your case?’ How far you take the pantomime is up to you; once inside, the gumshoe thing is dropped and Evans & Peel becomes a normal bar – a normal bar for 2012, that is, with bare brick walls, cracked white butcher’s tiles and orange-filamented bulbs.
And it’s dark: supernaturally dark, ‘Pit and the Pendulum’ dark, which is fine if you’re just enjoying a cocktail, but a bit annoying if you’re trying to eat, as we did. Much of the food is served after a spell in the in-house smoker, so there’s a smoked pulled pork slider, smoked beef rib, smoked Tabasco butter on the corn cobs. But our sliders were unpleasantly dry, and the little roll filled with smoked falafel was more ashtray than barbecue.
Drinks, though, were brilliant. Meantime London Pale Ale is served through an antique radiator, which is neat, and cocktails were memorable. A G-minus, for instance, featured Tanqueray infused with lavender and earl grey, then mixed with orange bitters; Sheer Fashion simply blended good bourbon with honey, sugar and vanilla syrup. Service was a bit slow – too heavy a caseload, perhaps? – but largely efficient.
So suspend self-consciousness, go with the flow, stick mainly to drinks and you’ll maybe find the Evans & Peel dicks are swinging.