A secret grey door. A keypad to let yourself in. This former dive and gambling hangout is now an L-shaped elegant speakeasy, boasting lovely 1950s mid-century furniture and dim banquette lighting to boot. Even better, it’s deep below the streets of King’s Cross on unexpected Keystone Crescent, a curving Victorian terrace off Caledonian Road. We put some questions to co-founder Kristie Bishop.
So why open a subterranean bar in King’s Cross?
Keystone Crescent was the baby of Coralie Sleap and myself. Friends since 1998, we decided to venture into the hospitality industry together shortly after uni, and in 2010 had opened our first venture Drink, Shop & Do on Caledonian Road – a quirky multi-faceted cafe, bar and shop.
And that’s proved pretty popular, right?
It has, yes. We started out here almost six years ago and have witnessed its huge transformation first hand. But still the area didn’t have a bar like this on offer so, when the opportunity came up, we created one.
Hang on, where, exactly?
Keystone Crescent, off the Cally Road, has the smallest radius of any crescent in Europe and is unique in having a matching outer and inner circle. It was built in 1846 as Caledonian Crescent (still visible on the corner of 48 Caledonian Road) but was renamed in 1927, towards the end of the First World War.
So what’s the concept of the new place?
Keystone Crescent is a members’ bar for what we call “sociable people who like straight-forward drinks until unsociable hours” – well, 4am anyway (or 2am in the earlier part of the week). There are friendly, young professionals enjoying a drink together in a cosy, laid-back atmosphere and a simple menu of fresh home-made mixers and an interesting collection of spirits. It’s comfortably furnished for you to nestle down for a long night in.
How does it differ from the other late-night bars nearby?
You can’t just wander in off the street, you must be a member; therefore the crowd tends to be more like-minded.
What’s the funniest or weirdest thing you’ve seen in the bar?
I couldn’t possibly reveal that information – If you’re that intrigued you’ll just need to apply for membership, (see below). If you sign up you get your own keypad entry code, and you flash your enamel and gold keyring to the barman.
But what should I drink?
We’d advise going for a classic, perhaps an Old Fashioned or Pink Gin. You could try a potent bottled Negroni, pre-prepared with London-based Fords Gin, orange bitters, Campari and a mix of vermouths (both the lighter Dolin Rouge and the dark brown Punt e Mes); or, quite sensationally, at least for this palate, a smooth, very moreish martini made with ginger, vodka, bitters and vermouth. The affable barman said that it wasn’t always on the menu, so catch one while you can.
Find Keystone Crescent at Keystone Crescent, London N1 9DT, from 6pm-2am daily (until 4am on Fridays and Saturdays). It’s a one-off fee of £35 to join. More details on drinks prices and how to join here