The phrase ‘hidden gem’ is on Time Out’s list of banned clichés, its use punishable by being forced to write out ‘Does what it says on the tin’ 100 times. But a bar called Ruby’s, accessed via a flight of rickety, lino-clad stairs off a quiet bit of Stoke Newington Road, its presence barely advertised… you get the picture.
It’s below Ruby House, a five-storey townhouse hired out as an artfully dishevelled backdrop for fashion shoots and music videos. The style continues down to the basement bar – it’s tiled with glorious glazed bricks, the wooden floorboards are battered but sturdy, and there’s an assortment of original features probably imported from somewhere else that make the place look even more atmospheric. The only things less than 20 years old are the staff.
The decor feels half-finished or half-started, depending how you look at it. It’s restrained, but intriguing enough to hint at a mysterious past – apparently it was the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant, but before that… It surely holds a few stories.
Upon the house-clearance tables is placed a collection of very nickable vintage beer mats (I didn’t, though); upon these can be placed something from the small but carefully assembled drinks menu. Five simple cocktails, elevated to something more special by clever presentation (piled with crushed ice and berry garnishes in an antique milk bottle, say, or in an enamel mug). There’s the full range of craft beers from Redchurch Brewery, and a wine list.
There’s no need for clichés – Ruby’s is just a nice bar. No food, no faff, nice drinks, nice place. It’s not rocket science.