Strolling down Old Street with a friend last Friday night, we were in search of a venue with simple criteria in mind – a decent cocktail, a space to sit and a decibel level capable of withholding a conversation in.
I was pleasantly surprised to spot a gallery displaying quaint Object ‘Art on street level, enticing us to peer below where we captured glimpses of a pure white space.
Both of us familiar with the regular drinking haunts in the area; we knew we’d stumbled upon unknown territory.
Questioning the bulky bouncer, an austere glare and a discreet tone confirmed that it was “Ninety Eight Bar”.
We followed the black, twisting wrought-iron spiral staircase down and immediately felt a world away from the grimy street dinge that sadly resembles much of Old Street.
A decadent space where ostentatiousness knows no limits, I felt like I was in the living room of an intimate house party with a guest list as diverse as the French aristocracy and the camp owners of the 1973 San Tropez nightclub La Cage Aux Folles.
The purity of the gleaming white marble floors and modest plaster walls is sharply juxtaposed with the treasure of eccentric contents that fill the space and capture your attention at every glance.
Baroque-style armchairs of gilt metal and velvet dominate the seating, whilst zebra skins sprawl across the floor. Miniature toy gadgets from the 80’s are mounted to the walls, whilst lush green palms envelop the foyer.
Atop Victorian side-tables sit enormous glass vases bulging with pastel-wrapped Easter eggs.
Pieces of furniture from recognisable eras deny you the chance to categorise, disguising themselves in collages of colourful Papier-mâché.
It is clear that this hidden paradise of a venue is intent on pushing itself far away from the realms of association to one sole style. Turning its rebellious back on definition, it elevates avant-garde in respect to the composition of the space as a whole.
Not only is this unwritten philosophy of Ninety Eight Bar evident through its interior, but also in its cocktails.
Perusing a list of never-before-tried concoctions, I’m enticed by the likes of hazelnut and apple-infused gin with a lavender and blueberry float, or espresso and chilli infused-tequila.
One cocktail I spotted in the corner of my eye was topped with lashings of fluffy, alcoholic candy floss piling out of the cocktail glass.
I suspect that the mesmerising, circus-like splendour of Ninety Eight Bar will be shining in all its decedent glory for the East-London masses in a short time to come.
In a corner of the capital where the trend is to forever outdo in the stakes of eclecticism and obscurity, Ninety Eight Bar certainly tick the boxes. Step inside and do your senses an indulgent favour in this hidden gem… whilst it remains just that.
Images courtesy of Ninety Eight Bar & Lounge