A pony-tailed doorman with a face tattoo shakes my hand before leading me below ground. Then, I’m meeting the whole Nine Lives team. I’ve only dropped by for an after-work tipple, but it feels like a family gathering (albeit a lot more trendy than the ones I’m used to – sorry, mum). In fact, it’s more of a family fiesta, with woven lampshades, wicker furniture, hanging baskets and low lighting, all making this feel like a covert jungle hangout in Costa Rica – one with a plush finish, mind. Apt that it should have the feel of such a green-looking country, since the bar operate on a no-waste policy.
According to their website, the team has ‘painstakingly given a shit’ while drawing up the drinks menu. Yet our waiter couldn’t tell us the story behind the name of Tonatiuh, a cocktail made from mezcal, bitters, vermouth and passionfruit that nearly knocked my friend out (he’s the Aztec sun god, fyi). Service staff didn’t impart much of the sustainability stuff, either. I know, I know, nobody likes a drinks bore, but there are some great stories to tell here. Like how they claim to re-use lemon pith to create essential oils for the bar’s liqueurs; or how they compost waste to help nurture a herb garden put to use in cocktails. It would be fun to learn more about the bar’s full-circle approach to drinking.
Still, the cocktails we tried were delicious, fruity and balanced, including the Alright Blossom, a low-ABV blend of prosecco, raspberry, rose and hibiscus, and the Kuti Bird, a pineapple-tinged mix served in a black tiki mug. Instead of charging the earth for these earth-friendly drinks, they’re throwing a ‘rent party’ on Saturdays with a £5 cover charge to help pay the bills. A sound system recycled from their long-gone neighbour Cable nightclub fills the air with mellow lounge disco, Sly and The Family Stone’s ‘A Family Affair’ included.