One of my favorite nights in New York City was one of my last. I was just about to move to Dublin and I wanted to go out somewhere I’d never been. Two of my closest friends made dinner reservations in Chinatown for dumplings. We ate our fill, and as we got back outside, one of my friends said, “time for a nightcap.”
We walked down two blocks towards the bridge. The streets are darker but busier. More people in less space. Buildings are lower; we could see the sky. Around a little corner there was a small nondescript door at the side of an old four story walk-up. She pushed it in. We walked down a narrow hallway and came out into a fantastic, warm, candlelit room; all golden and red and wood. There was a bar along the back wall, the bar tenders were in white shirts and bow ties. Tons of glass bottles, looking like they were filled with magic potions, lined the mirrored wall behind the bar.
Secret bars are wonderful. They add an element of mystery and excitement to an evening. It is fun to feel like you are one of a select group who knows about a place and are enjoying it with similarly lucky people.
I had heard that Kinara Kitchen in Ranelagh had a secret bar above the restaurant. We never had an occasion to go. On a calm Sunday evening, we decided it was time for a fancy cocktail. And it was time to finally try this secret bar.
There is a separate entrance to the bar than to the restaurant. You ring a bell as though you are going to visit a friend in the flat upstairs. The door opens and you are in a storage stairwell. It doesn’t feel that secret or fancy. This is good. Keeps people’s expectations lower.
At the top of the stairs you find the bar. It’s dark and red and glowy. There are fancy cocktail accessories along the bar including an Absinth samovar (if that is what it is called), lots of fresh citrus and mint, and all types of cocktail glassware.
We were the only ones there! Bonus! We snuggled in to the booth along the far wall. Because we were the only clientele, the bar tender spoiled us.
“Don’t worry about the menu,” says he, “tell me what type of alcohol you like and some flavors you like, and I’ll make you something.”
“Ok!” I reply, “how about spiced rum? And . . . citrus? Orange? I like a Negroni, so something along those lines?”
“Yes, madam, right away.”
C decided to order something from the menu. There is a Triple Bourbon Old Fashioned which was too hard to pass up.
While we waited, I took a little tour of the roof patio. There are booths that have cheeky quotes about various stages of cocktail bliss. There is enough room for at least thirty people to enjoy themselves comfortably outside. However, thirty people seems a lot for a “secret bar.”
The cocktails arrived and did not disappoint. I highly recommend being the sole customers at a bar where the bar tender loves his job. Between sips (and to slow us down), we munched on homemade Bombay mix. This is not your crumbly, messy, Spar version; this mix is tangy, spicy and crunchy. Perfect for cocktail hour.
Here are my only issues: the bowls of Bombay mix are pretty small and I don’t know what my drink was called; I can never have it again.
But perhaps that is what it is all about? Wanting more? A secret bar should be like a magic moment in time. A once off. Like that summer night in NYC, those moments stay in the memory longer.