You can find a bar in just about any London crevice these days. I’m talking on roundabouts, in warehouses..you get my drift. So when I heard The Natural Philosopher was underneath a Mac repair shop, I didn’t bat an eye lid. However, this Hackney hangout has plenty of other quirks up its sleeve to draw in the masses.
After surveying the many unique vintage ornaments at the welcoming area of The Natural Philosopher; I made my way downstairs to the venue's Living Room area. It’s cosy and intimate with roasted red walls, a retro carpeted floor and mahogany tables and chairs. But the coolest aspect of this entire operation was the bar; it was sunken onto another level. To say I was gobsmacked at this unexpected feature is an understatement; my jaw literally hit the floor. The owner, James Manero, complete refurbished the space before opening a little over a year ago..fair play James, fair play. This sunken bar also links onto a secret Basement room that can entertain guests of up to six, it’s perfect for small parties and boozy chinwags (tall people beware, it’s only 5 feet high).
Don’t let this shiny bar steal all of your attention though, there are plenty of other hidden quirks about this curious den to check out; from exotic cartoon murals, painted by a local artist, to a vintage poem-o-graph that spits out random sentences. Be prepared to be insulted though - I was told that I ‘embarrass the working class’. I’ll drink to that.
Given the name of this glorious establishment, the cocktails here are named after great philosophers; a nice wee twist and dare I say educational? The bartenders also use natural and locally sourced ingredients, and the first two pages of their menu hosts seasonal drinks which means fresh, current tipples all year round.
The first (of many) to wet my lips was the Decartes £9. It was named after Rene Decartes (1596-1650) and contains Pinky Rose Vodka, Chambord Raspberry Liquor, Amaretto, sugar and lime juice. A simple mixture yet extremely addictive. Having ordered another one of these come round two, my company made eyes with the Occam’s Razor £8.50; and for your information, it’s the leading principle of William of Ockham (1287-1347). It’s a blend of Abuelo Rum, sage infused sugar syrup, smoked pineapple and black peppercorns that produces the perfect balance of savoury and sweet. The third and final signature drink of the evening was the Sextus Empericus £8.50 who, in his day, was a Greek Natural Philosopher and Physician...impressive. It contains muddled blackberries, mint, lemon juice, Buffalo Trace Bourbon and egg white. It was probably my least favourite, but having said that, the competition was ridiculously high having sampled the Decartes.
Arriving a little after 7pm, The Natural Philosopher just opened its doors and I was the first customer to pass its threshold (not eager at all eh). As the minutes ticked by, people spilled into the venue scurrying to its intimate corners, and who could blame ‘em. If you’re after a bit of privacy, you can’t go wrong with this whimsical joint.
In terms of clientele, there was a mish mash of couples and friends clouding the tables of The Natural Philosopher. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits and thankfully, there were no hyena-like groups in sight. You know the type - their version of ‘talking’ tends to make you go slightly deaf in one ear. The atmosphere of this Hackney hangout is light and mellow. So, if you’re after a strong libation in an intimate setting, this is the place.
Never mind possibly, The Natural Philosopher is definitely one of the coolest and weirdest bars I’ve ever been to. It’s a drinking parlour of curious quirks, vintage wares and playful concoctions.