In London, you’re never quite sure what’s going on behind each door.
Hidden behind a vintage stencilled door next to Earl’s Court, you can find the Evans & Peel Detective Agency.
Tonight, we’re investigating the new menu at this 1920’s speakeasy, serving cocktails and American-style food.
After being buzzed in we descend into the basement, an expertly recreated detective’s office.
From missing persons posters to unsolved cases papered all over the wall, everything fits the gumshoe theme. Our detective/maître d’ asks to see our case files (case-solving selfies taken at various landmarks around London and posted to Instagram). Having passed the entrance test, he pulls a book from the shelf, and the wall slides away to reveal the bar entrance.We’re escorted through the busy tables, past moose heads, old typewriters, and cavernous old filing cabinets.
The warm light of low-hanging filament bulbs illuminates the corners, as 1920’s-style swing covers of modern pop plays lightly overhead. Put together, it’s got all the hallmarks of a Prohibition speakeasy – minus the threat of impending police raids.
At our table, towered over by a stuffed pheasant trophy, our menus are delivered in discreet manila envelopes. Having heard good things about the cocktails, we head straight to the back of our ‘dossier’.
There’s a decent range on offer, with colourful names like “I’ll Name This Cocktail Later”, and “Not Your Average Joe Martini”. They come with helpful descriptions and our waitress has an excellent knowledge – even bringing the liquor bottle out for us to inspect.
I smile appreciatively while feigning recognition, and pick the Scandinavian Leather (aquavit, melon, lemon, and IPA). My partner opts for the Librarian’s Libation (chartreuse, vermouth, fennel). They’re both excellently made, and a great mix of fruity flavours.
The’re the standard bar food with staples like mac n’ cheese and buffalo wings, but we’re here to try the new Smokehouse menu. It’s appealingly simple, with 4 mains to choose from (all at about £15 each), with all the meat locally sourced from nearby Baron’s Court.
There’s pulled pork, St Louis-style spare ribs, smoked sausages, or eggplant and mushroom brisket. A small range of dishes is always a sign of confidence, so I’m optimistic.
We choose the pulled pork and the ribs. An old-school gospel cover of Hozier plays overhead as we await our food and sip our libations. The mains come quickly, served with bbq beans, coleslaw, potatoes and pickles.
My pulled pork is delicious, succulent and moist. Its smoky and spicy flavours go very well with the accompanying sides, though the portions could be slightly larger. The rib meat tastes great too, and the St Louis-style is a less messy alternative to regular ribs.
There’s only dessert option on the menu, a deep-fried apple pie, which sounds just crazy enough to work. In the interests of thorough journalism, we order another round of cocktails.
I expand my horizons to the Aviation Rhubarb Remix (gin, rhubarb, lemon, violette). Given my ambivalence towards gin and rhubarb, I’m pleasantly surprised by how sweet and palatable the unusual mix is.
The apple pie has an English chippie feel, a bit like a healthier version of the popular fried Mars Bar. It really shouldn’t work, but the mix of sweet apples and the batter is a great contrast. Still not the healthiest option in the world – but then again,in the 20’s doctors were selling cigarettes on billboards.
Overall, the new menu is classic and simple, a tasteful and tasty recreation of the period setting. The staff are helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly. The setting is both welcoming and intimate and would work just as well for a romantic date or an after-work get together. Just don’t forget your trilby.
What: Evans & Peel Detective Agency
Where: 310c Earls Ct Rd, Earls Court, London SW5 9BA
When: Tuesday – Saturday 17:00 – 00:30
How: Short walk from Earl’s Court Tube Station