Cahoots (noun): acting together with others for an illegal or dishonest purpose. Synonyms: conspire, collaborating, conniving.
‘Secrecy’ seems to be the name of the game with Cahoots, the vintage-themed underground bar off Carnaby Street which is set in a tube station. And this is probably what makes it so popular, well-known and sought after.
I went to Cahoots for Ciaras birthday. Ciara had mentioned that the bar sounded cool, so I made sure that we make a reservation for her birthday back in March so that we could definitely go!
Both the website and the email booking confirmation explained the theme of the bar, and also swore us to secrecy about its existence (So I’m breaking all the rules with this blog…)
Cahoots is tucked away in a nook just off Carnaby street. If you didn’t know it was there, you could easily walk past it without spotting it – the only thing that might give it away would be any people waiting outside to go in.
The bar is underground, so the wartime bunker/ tube station theme ties in well with the setting. There are shiny tiles leading downstairs to the bar which felt like a very clean and narrow tunnel down to a tube platform.
At the end of the tunnel, I half expected to turn the corner and walk onto a platform with the bar inside the tube carriage – was my imagination running away with me!? – but it was fashioned more like a waiting room/ train carriage/ cluttered bunker.
We were a large party and we had booked, so we had quite a good table that was enclosed in a sort of cage structure that could have been used to hold luggage over the seats in an old train. I think if you walked in without booking (after, of course, waiting for at least an hour outside first) you could sit at a small table in the middle of the bar, or stand up at the bar.
The website states that 40s vintage dress is encouraged. But we didn’t pay too much attention to the dress code, thinking that nobody would really adhere to it. But how wrong we were!
Men and women had gone all out, with women in 1940s tea dresses, victory curls and bright lipstick. Some of the men had donned a white shirts with braces – some of them even looked like they had curled their facial hair for the occasion. Luckily my friends and I wake up looking glam, so we just dressed as our stylish 2016 selves.
The cocktail menu was enormous! It looked like a newspaper and every column and ‘article’ listed all the different drinks you could choose. There were so many that it took us a while to decide what we wanted, even with our waitress sitting down with us to talk through the menu. There are different sections and categories of drinks listed in the menu/paper, and at around £10 a cocktail, you need to make a good decision!
My first drink was called Keep Marm’ and Carry On. Adhering to the prohibition theme, it came in a cute teacup and saucer and was served with a biscuit layered with lemon curd and a berry… How cute!
In our group of eight we ended up with a good selection of cocktails on our table. Luckily none of us had one of those moments where you take the first sip of cocktail and grimace and question what an earth you were thinking when you ordered it… Because they were all very tasty!
Half way through the evening, conversations were brought to a halt by the wail of an air raid siren. There didn’t seem to be much significance to this, apart from maybe to reinforce the wartime theme in case you had forgotten for a second what bar you were in.
There was a mix of couples and groups of friends in the bar and everyone looked equally excited to be there.
This could have been because they had been waiting for hours on the door, or because (like us) they had booked the table months ago and had been counting down the days in anticipation ever since.
When we emerged from the underground, a chunky queue line had taken over the narrow street outside, and people were glammed-up and huddled under umbrellas in the rain waiting to come in. Cahoots can ask its patrons to keep mum about the bar, but the constant hoard of people outside it speaks volumes.
It’s a great place to visit for something different, and it’s worth booking it five months in advance, or even getting dressed up to wait in the rain to go in!