"Mind the apples and pears on your way down."
So says the dapper chap manning the entrance to Cahoots, London's new subterranean cocktail bar.
There's been quite a lot of buzz surrounding this new Kingly Court drinking den, and it's not hard to see why: it's 1940s-themed, designed to look like an old London tube carriage, and located in a former WW2 air raid shelter. In short, it's the sort of stuff fun-loving Londoners go crazy for.
Following the sign outside which directs us 'to the trains,' we descend a set of stairs that are reminiscent of the old wooden escalators of the 1940s. At the bottom we find ourselves in a ticket office where a gentleman asks if we have any luggage we'd like to check. We're then handed a couple of vintage-looking newspapers (which double as the cocktail menu) and escorted to our table.
There's a fabulous sense of production here. It's not just a bar, it's an experience. Every person working in Cahoots is dressed to the nines and happily remains in character throughout the evening. The lighting is low and atmospheric, and nostalgic 1940's music plays on the speakers. As we take our seats, all thoughts of the modern world above quickly melt away.
The cocktail list at Cahoots is quite extensive, with a little something for every taste. I opt for a Quick One Before Takeoff, which comes complete with a Digestive biscuit perched on top of the glass (which I quickly proceed to drop into the cocktail, letting out a tiny sigh of despair as the biscuit sinks to the bottom, never to be seen again). My drinking companion's 81 Bulleits (a mix of Bulleit Rye whiskey, sherry, chocolate bitters, Guinness and something called 'Frangelico air') also goes down a treat. Who knew air could be so tasty?
A little while later, just as I'm beginning to wonder if they might let me stay here forever, a young waitress with her hair in victory rolls approaches the table and informs us that our time is nearly up (due to the high demand, time limits are imposed for most bookings).
As we make our way up the old apples and pears and back into the modern world, I feel a twinge of nostalgia. I think back on the good old days of chatting with friends and sipping flavored air in a former bomb shelter called Cahoots. Ah yes, those were the days. Because, you see, not only does this place provide great cocktails in a fun and immersive atmosphere, it also provides a fantastic sense of escape from the hustle and bustle of the real world. And I don't know about you, but I'll sure drink to that.
Advanced booking is strongly recommended. Cocktail prices range from £9-11 on average (though my drinking companion nearly ordered a £25 cocktail, so be sure to read the menu closely!). And though there's no enforced dress code, most guests do tend to make some kind of an effort (special shout-out to my friend who showed up rocking a bow-tie). Dressing up is part of the fun, after all.