Are you ready for a twist? A world which is upside down? Sated revisited a neighbourhood favourite, The Natural Philosopher – a bar that has been built into a well in the ground in a venue that used to be a Mac repair shop during the day, serving simple but strong drinks at night.
More than three years ago, a place with the poetic name The Natural Philosopher opened its doors underneath a Mac repair shop on Hackney Road, Bethnal Green. Back then, it was necessary to call ahead to check if the bar would in fact be open that night. Now however, promptly at 6pm, the bar takes over the shop with seating on the ground floor and a converted storeroom underneath.
Voguish though it has become in an area such as Bethnal Green to find hybrid locations, The Natural Philosopher has a quite unique and natural charm. The shop is not only a Mac repair shop but also houses a Mac “museum” with old devices hanging from the ceiling. A secret room, which is located just right behind the bar is fondly called the “Titty Room”, largely because those exact objects and their owners are portrayed there as part of a little artsy painting exhibition.
However, today we’re not here to tap away on technology or ogle at boobage but to explore the new Spring Menu, which has us wondering how well bone marrow goes with a classical Negroni. Alf del Portillo, Head Bartender and General Manager, who is originally from the Northern coast of Spain and now spends most nights standing behind his work desk at the bar explains that cooking bone marrow on a low heat for 45 minutes and including this cuts down a bit of the bitterness a Negroni usually comes with. The flavours of Gin, Dolin Rouge, Amaro Nonino and Amaro Montenegro come through in a simple but excellent balance on the palate, however The Natural Philosopher appreciates its customers diversity and differences of palate, including a little flacon of sugar, salt and citric acid with every drink to add at one’s own discretion.
We avoid the eyes of Sissi – a princess who become a rather unlucky Austrian empress and who watches the goings-on in the bar from her portrait’s position above the sunken bar – calling down to Alf for our next drink. When it arrives, Buena Vista Social Club reminds us of a time when a strong drink came with an even stronger taste of a cigar – delicious, decadent and dizzying, it is a real beauty of a drink.
We settle into an easy trail of conversation with Alf, who is well-known on the scene and might be the only bartender who attended the Diageo World Class, representing three different countries, namely Spain, the UK and India, and actually winning for the latter. As he prepare our next cocktail, the chat turns to the design of his denim apron, which was specially made for the bar and further modified by him to include colourful octopuses on either side. Amused by the kooky design, we sip on our coupe. Atlantic (Tanqueray No. Ten, Talisker 10, oyster tincture and citric sand) is strong and straight, with the oyster tincture adding a spray of the sea to compliment the salty and peated Islay whisky.
Aside from their classic drinks menu, The Natural Philosopher offers a monthly changing menu that uses fruits and fresh ingredients from local markets or organic shops. For May, everything is dedicated to their theme “berries” and on top of that, in order to celebrate summer, The Natural Philosopher is offering a seasonal summer menu with drinks starting from just £6.
If you are ready for a twist and strong, interesting drinks, head over to The Natural Philosopher to enjoy a great night in unique surroundings.
The Natural Philosopher, 489 Hackney Road, E2 9ED
The Natural Philosopher supports the ‘refuse the straw Movement’, so less plastic goes to the se, that is why they serve all of their drinks without straws and encourage every customer to discuss more sustainable way to do things because saving the planet begins with a conversation.
Words and photos by Christina Rottmair