We thought the speakeasy trend was over. We thought we’d never have to recite another password, knock three times on another nondescript door or step through another unlikely domestic appliance just to get a drink. But there we were on Kingsland Road on Saturday night, walking up to a funny-looking phone box and dialling ‘2-5-8-0’ in the hope of a decent cocktail on the other side.
La Cabina has a gimmick. A couple, actually. ‘From Sevilla to Shoreditch’ is the tagline, and the tiny underground space with exposed bricks and vintage woodwork is half shabby-chic Barcelona bodega, half hip London dive bar. The short list of cocktails channels classic Spanish combinations like Serrano ham and melon or gazpacho soup. Mostly served long at £8 a pop, they’re inventive in theory but pretty bland in practice.
Javier Vincente (from The Little Taperia in Tooting) is responsible for the menu: a shotgun wedding of staple tapas and big British flavours. Marinated olives, cold charcutería and sweet and salty roasted octopus share the board with haggis scotch eggs: too rich to eat on your own but almost too good to share. The off-menu veggie option was sad and soggy and the ‘chutney’ on the cheeseboard tasted suspiciously like Branston pickle, but thin and crispy churros with fluffy insides sweetened the deal.
So: average cocktails, inconsistent food. And yet La Cabina is still worth a visit for one thing: its (very) late licence. Despite the hype for tapas at 5am, there’s a limited menu after 11. But do roll in for a bite at ten, stick around for the DJ, sink a few bottles of Sagres and chat or canoodle in a cosy booth till way past bedtime. The best (and most ironic) part: you probably won’t get a phone signal down there.