Please note, the Natural Philosopher has re-opened under new ownership. Time Out London Editors, April 2019.
We’ve had bars inside fridges, behind bookcases and through mirrors, so there’s nothing too shocking about Hackney Road’s The Natural Philosopher, which by night takes residence in the converted storeroom of a Mac repair shop. It’s one of those bars that you’ll need to be on the lookout for. When we visited on a Saturday evening there was no sign of life to give it away, as we were the only customers. But the two staff members we encountered – one of whom was the owner, James Manero – were so friendly that it didn’t seem to matter, and there’s a stack of board games in the corner if you’re keen to make your own fun.
After making your way down a set of stairs, the bar is found lowered into a well in the ground, which means ordering while peering down onto any potential bald spots. If the staff weren’t so genial, this could have become a bit awkward. An ageing rug on the floor, a grandfather clock and deep red walls give a retro feel, which contrasts nicely with the computer workshop upstairs, while a small room behind and below the bar makes an intimate cubbyhole for group drinking. Decoration down here comes courtesy of framed pictures of ladies with their knockers out (but not a penis in sight, sigh).
Their cocktails, which change seasonally, were mixed with care and originals are named after famous philosophers from down the years. The Lord Kelvin, for instance, is a lemony take on a gin sour. Plato’s Pisco was another winning sour, frothy with egg white and sweet from maraschino cherries. Thinking with your drinking, then.