While not technically a speakeasy, Eau de Vie is about as close as you can get to the guilty pleasures of Boardwalk Empire. This Prohibition-style bar is tucked away at the back of the Kirketon Hotel. True to the form, it's well hidden: there's no signage, but the concierge will direct you through the black door at the back, past the restrooms and into this cosy chamber.
Settling into one of the leather couches, we took a little time to soak up the atmosphere. A wall of lockers opposite, listed in the menu as the 'personal drinks cabinet', houses the establishment's priciest gems. Pseudo-cubist artworks decorate the walls, and warm lighting casts shadows over the grandfather clock and antique globe that sit unobtrusively in a corner. It's subtle but effective, and before long we were soaking up the spirit and ready to dig into the cocktail list.
That said, it is a daunting list. We trawl through the sections, pausing at the Noble Experiment ($20), whereby you concoct your own Martini as a salute to Prohibition's end, and vowing to come back with additional punters to test out the Ladies' Leg Cosmo ($25 per person), which is offered to ladies only and served in a seductive leg. Sensing our distress, one bartender sidled up and stole our menus, or what he called our 'security blankets'. Asking what we liked, it took only a moment for him to settle on our orders and whisk away to prepare them. Voila: our bartender returns with a tray covered in mist. My mumbled 'perhaps gin or whisky?' was transformed into a strong mix of both. This was the Bogart, a gin Martini with a dash of whisky, poured from a measuring flask, resting on hot ice, into a frozen glass.
It's clear, then, that the bartenders lie at the centre of this establishment. Their passion for liquor, and numerous awards, justify their own section of the aforementioned monster menu. These admirable gentlemen serve up drinks which are extremely difficult to fault, offering an incomparable selection and service beyond compare.
Drop in early and secure a seat, unless you're willing to fight for your drinks. It may be hidden away, but this place gets busy. In other words, that exceptional service fades away drastically after 8. Nevertheless, the bustling crowd is perhaps the best imitation of a speakeasy that Eau de Vie has to offer. Embrace it.