Sounds like an after-hours hideaway you may frequent in Paris or Berlin. The kind where only a few discerning locals can point you vaguely in the right direction as they themselves are not too sure on a) the location (as they were in no position to remember) and b) they question whether you are quite the right kind of person to send there.
My favourite – a place on the outskirts of Marrakech, where you think, ‘oh dear, where is the taxi driver taking me?’ when you arrive, knock on the door, the peep hole opens and you are told, ‘Non’ quite bluntly. After a 30 minute taxi ride, maybe persistence is the key here.. Knock again, look sincere – not desperate, the peep hole opens again, the questioning eyes scan you and your guest, the door opens the curtains slowly pull back and you know you have arrived.
Welcome to the joy of underground off the grid destinations.
On entering places like this it’s the dark, dusky lighting that I always notice first, the flickers of candles, the contrast between light and dark that instantly make the room. It always seems to make people feel relaxed and at home which creates that buzzy, electric atmosphere. That is what makes these places so cool.
This hidden behind a discreet door concept, the ‘Speak Easy’ it seems are more common than pubs at the moment; some try to capture this intimate mood and be a den of old school cocktails and decadence, others, the pretend speak easys have a big flashing sign outside and the lights are most definitely turned on full.
Of course it’s not just bars and restaurants that want to capture this ambience.
When I was designing the hotel (and Maiyango Restaurant), I was insistent on the fact that the lighting in the rooms had to dim to the nth degree, the lamps had to have a soft glow and I remember telling off the sparkie who attempted to add extra fittings to the lighting scheme. Bright is great when you first wake up and during the day but at night for me it’s all about the lighting.
As Leicester continues to evolve and gathers real momentum building on the carpark king (King Richard III – if you have been in hibernation) and being shortlisted for City of Culture 2017, 2nd favourites I might add, it won’t be long till Leicester tourism explodes.
My advice.. Come visit Leicester now, whilst it still is a real speak easy. No big flashing signs and some real gems only a few of which are guarded by peep holes.. Just remember, when you stay at Hotel Maiyango, dim down the lights and enjoy the room as it was intended.