If the shutter is down at the Georgian Village, you may be forgiven for thinking there is nothing more than a beauty parlour tucked behind the corrugated steel.
When I first ventured down the cobbled pathway in Wood Street, I felt I had discovered a perfectly intact working museum of a day gone by. Delicate dolls house sized shops sell tea and cake and haircuts and paintings, and a man fixes jewellery, and another man mends watches.
At the very end of the dolls house, a faint orange glow flickers and the sweet, distinctive smell of rum fills the air. There’s music, but it’s subtle – in keeping with its proportions.
I enter the tiny room and plop down on a bright plastic seat and stare into a pink sunset. There is glitter on the coconut trees. Every element of the bar is carefully considered. It has to be tidy when there’s so little space. There is room for five stools, and not much standing area.
Wayne Simon, a Grenadian import, runs W&D’s Caribbean Delights with his wife Denise. “We used to do food catering, at Dagenham Sunday Market and Billingsgate, which was great. But, we’d get loads of food wastage. We’d end up eating all the leftover food ourselves, for days afterwards.”
So, Denise told Wayne to do what he does best: make cocktails. Forget the food. The switch to cocktails meant that there was no wastage, and the business thrived at temporary locations, such as Brentwood Festival, Tobacco Dock, Excel and Leytonstone Festival.
“I thought: we have to find a base. We were always serving one man and his dog, but you don’t get to know anybody. We have some wonderful repeat customers here,” says Wayne.
It was not easy to find premises in London. Wayne says property owners would ask for six months in advance, plus fees.
“I’ve looked in different areas but I’ve run away from the high monthly rental price, because when you talk about those figures, you have to sell the product at a high cost.”
He says the location here is affordable. “You’ve got a fighting chance.”
It was the community that encouraged Wayne to set up shop here. “Walthamstow is such a throwback to what we used to be and that’s what drew me to the place.” Wayne compares Walthamstow now to Shadwell in the late 1970s, where he spent his teenage years. “People knew each other. We were in and out of each other’s houses, asking for sugar or milk. It’s rare to find that and it’s exciting to find it here.”
Next to the cocktail bar is a tiny dining area, separated by a window. There is seating for four. You can eat here: ackee and saltfish, lobster and patties are all on the menu. On shelves dotted around the walls there are trinkets, chocolates, gifts, and W&D’s homemade rums.
There are 36 over-proof rums from all over the world in this tiny establishment. I plump for a Guyanese rum.
Within half an hour of my arrival, a woman walks in with blue hair and red clothes. I realise she is dressed as Thing Two from Dr Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat. I don’t find out why. She is given some rum, and immediately calls some friends.
“I’ve found this place! It’s like Narnia!” The friends turn up within minutes and everyone is happy. It is a happy place to be.
So is it the smallest cocktail bar in London? Wayne thinks so. “I haven’t heard of one that’s smaller. I’d like to think that this is it.”
W&D’s Caribbean Delights is open at the Georgian Village, 100 Wood Street, E17 3HX.