Behind the Bar Snap Shot

A Hidden London Bar Where Cocktails Hide Behind Computers

James Manero says that his first bar, Manero’s, was built like a house party. You had to know about it—and be invited in, thanks to a stringent door policy.

His new venture, The Natural Philosopher, is a lot more inclusive. You just have to find it.

Time for a Reboot

Yes, that is a computer repair shop. No, that’s not all it is. Manero was biking around the Kingsland Road in East London—a nexus for hot bars and restaurants—looking for good bar spaces. Then he ran across MacSmith’s. It looked like an antique store from the outside, and inside it featured Apple products, dating back to 1976, that were framed to look like artwork.

He swiftly struck a deal with the owner, and The Natural Philosopher opened in back of the shop in late March of 2015. While the Macs on display are strictly decorative, you can indeed drop yours off to be fixed. Plus, Manero’s business partner Amechi Ihenacho has a tailoring business and, in time, you might be even be able to sip a cocktail while having your suit hemmed.

 The bar highlights distinctive ingredients like cardamom-infused gin and oleo saccharum.

A Menu and a Method

The Natural Philosopher’s menu covers the classics—and then some. As it moves into summer, Manero says the drinks lineup will focus on grapefruit-inspired beverages.

Chartreuse is a heavy player in many of the drinks, as are distinctive ingredients like cardamom-infused gin and oleo saccharum—aka, “sugared oil”—which is commonly used in punches. The bar’s most popular drink is the Lord Kelvin, made with lemon thyme–infused syrup, Brokers Gin, Angostura Bitters and lemon bitters.

Manero notes that between detailed menu descriptors of drinks and an interactive staff, clients should have an easy time selecting their poison. All the waiters are also trained to make each cocktail, so they can better describe them to guests. He adds that many cocktail menus tell you precious little about the drink, so ordering while ill-informed might ruin an evening. Manero refuses to run that risk at The Natural Philosopher. This party aims to please anyone—and everyone.

The Natural Philosopher

489 Hackney Road, London E2 9ED

Phone: 07931095810

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about drinks for two decades. She is the principal of the San Francisco–based Liza the Wine Chick consulting firm and regularly contributes to publications such as Wine Business Monthly, DrinkUpNY and the SOMM Journal.