As befits a place that’s a little hard to find, Caz Reitop’s Dirty Secrets is modelled on a Prohibition-era speakeasy. The cosy main bar swings to the sounds of old-style jazz and blues, and yellowing newspapers and photographs of gangsters adorn the walls. Towards the rear are several dimly lit snugs, complete with fringed velvet curtains should the occupants require privacy. It’s stylish, charming, and feels just a touch conspiratorial, as a speakeasy should. But you won’t find any bathtub gin here.
The cocktail list is divided into three eccentric categories – Noble Experiments, Twisted Classics and Vintage Favourites. Among the former is the sweet, highly popular Harlem Sunset (that’s hardboiled slang for a stab wound, if you were wondering) and a concoction called Jimmy No-Fingers. The Vintage Favourites include more or less any take on the classic Martini you care to ask for – the numerous dirty vodka Martinis the waistcoated barman mixed during our visit were all excellent. Cocktails aside, there’s also a large selection of Australian and New Zealand beers, ciders and even an alcoholic ginger beer for those who just can’t decide.
The narrow, dark façade with its stained glass windows is easily overlooked by passers-by, so the bar is rarely crowded, and once you’re inside the fanfare and hustle of the modern world seem to melt away. Word of mouth has sustained Dirty Secrets for four years now, and judging by the friendly, relaxed style of service that’s just the way they like it. Nick and Nora Charles would be right at home in this little slice of the Roaring Twenties. Una Cruickshank