Squirrelled away below Well and Bucket is 5CC Bethnal Green – a speakeasy bar in every sense of the word. It’s so secretive you’d be forgiven for visiting the pub and not even realising it was there. If the great range of beers in the pub isn’t your thing then head straight for the small stairway leading to the basement.
It’s becoming ever-popular for two or more venues to occupy the same space and 5CC Bethnal Green is the cocktail-dedicated add-on to Well and Bucket. When you do eventually stumble across the stairway you’ll know you’ve found the right place thanks to a bright neon pink sign with the 5CC logo and ‘cocktail club’ beaming brightly above the dark doorway underneath.
This basement bar is tiny, it’s dark and it’s deliciously secretive. You could imagine it really being a part of the Prohibition era with its swathes of exposed brick and simple, if quite large, bar that supplies most of the light through the few large bare bulbs set overhead. The seating is sparse with a few bar stools (pride of place for bantering with the bar staff) and a handful of dark wooden tables and chairs. There’s definitely a feel of New York’s PDT to the place. It’s worth getting here early if you want to be in with a chance of settling in for the evening. If only it were a bit bigger.
It’s easy to see why the bar stools are so popular at 5CC Bethnal Green – the staff here are passionate about what they do and if you show an interest they will happily showcase their skills with the cocktail shaker and even go off-menu. They really know their stuff and their excitement for the produce is infectious. Otherwise, the cocktail club benefits from the east London location with a laid-back coolness that is hard to replicate elsewhere in the capital.
There are a lot of top drawer cocktail bars in east London now and 5CC Bethnal Green keeps up when it comes to the price, with drinks coming in at £8-£10. They haven’t gone for a huge menu of options, instead concentrating on doing a few great signatures that twist the classics. For example, the Right Hand is a traditional Negroni mixed with sweet rum for a slightly softer, if still incredibly alcoholic, taste. Then there’s the Colonial Old Fashioned made with a chai-infused whisky. This is particularly strong, but the chai undertone adds a refreshing edge that is usually missing from this old favourite. However, the real highlight here is the Margarita. 5CC Bethnal Green is especially proud of its Margarita, offering a signature version made with smoked mezcal, which is a bold accompaniment that is only for those with a love of that strong smoky flavour.
The Last Word
5CC Bethnal Green may be tiny and situated below an incredibly good pub but it still stands out as a great cocktail club in its own right. Worth a visit, but make sure you get there early to bag one of those bar stools.