Nothing stays secret for long in Hackney these days, but still, I like the speakeasy spirit of Behind This Wall, a new bar squirrelled away down some stairs and a big old curtain on Mare Street (phew! No actual walls to clamber over). Most surprisingly of all, this cocktail-and-poke (Hawaiian bowl food) joint is smack-bang on the main high street.
BTW began as a club night at deceased basement venue Plastic People, where it provided a safe haven for record enthusiasts. Vinyl was king, and so it is here, with one single plate taking pride of place next to the bar and a Tannoy Gold soundsystem creating the kind of atmosphere musos crave. One of the team was gleefully playing tunes, glass of red in hand.
You’ll probably want to plug into the cocktail list, though. Stick with the classics – I could have ordered manhattans all night: so syrupy, with just a sweet lick of vermouth. Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, try the shorty menu (layered ‘pousse-café’ digestifs, designed for slower sipping).
Some will find the minimal decor a bit too, well, minimal – all rough wooden edges, so forget about comfort. And on our visit the room struggled to warm up. Fine for a club night, but cocktail bars are a different story. Take note: things now shut down at 11pm, so be sure to line up the vinyl back home for that after-party.