Cold Tea is modeled on the principle that a good thing is hard to find. This new Kensington bar is hidden at the back of the unassuming Kensington Mall through a secret doorway. (We recommend listening carefully for strains of music.) The bar's three co-owners Stacey, Oliver and Matt have lived and worked in the market for years and were inspired by Manhattan's bar scene which prides itself on found locations and secret snacks.
When the back restaurant became available to rent, the three first-time business owners took on a renovation process that took almost a year to complete. What was once a giant unfinished back room leading out to a slab of concrete has been made over into a sleek, freshly painted lounge with exposed pipes and high ceilings. Yet Kensington's roots are still present in the bar's gargantuan back patio. Clientele drinking at the long communal tables will easily spy locals walking up to their homes and taking out their trash.
Whether the old guard approves, Cold Tea straddles the line, elegantly, between a neighbourhood mainstay and an upmarket establishment. The bar will test a new cocktail menu next week inspired by Asian influences. (Co-owner Stacey Welton hinted at a delicious-sounding thyme margarita and a drink made with a Chinese five-spice simple syrup.) There's fresh dim sum available until last call (the barbeque pork buns, three for $5, were insanely tasty), and a roster of DJ events and art parties planned.
At Saturday's opening, the crowd was buzzy and excited to be in on something secret. A long line stretching the entire flank of the Kensington Mall queued up for entry. The DJ even managed to play the Ying Yang Twins' "Whisper Song" and The Stone Roses' "I Wanna Be Adored" in a single set. Casually elegant, Cold Tea has the potential to turn Kensington's bar scene into more than just a collection of watering holes. That is, if you're game enough to come find it.