Lonely Planet Writer

Take a step back in time at this award-winning speakeasy in the Big Apple

It seems that headline-grabbing, themed bars and restaurants are opening up shop every other week. In New York alone, you can currently have tea at a Golden Girls-inspired cafe, eat pasta at an eatery which references Harry Potter, and mix your own cocktails at a Breaking Bad-style meth lab.

Take a step back in time at this Union Square speakeasy
Dear Irving retro cocktail bar in NYC. Image courtesy of Dear Irving

Yet one Union Square based bar has been steadily winning awards for its pop culture and historical era decor, without the smallest trace of irony.

Instead of being novelty-driven, Dear Irving is a cocktail parlor that isn’t always obvious about its references. The concept was inspired by Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, whereby the protagonist travels back in time to spend a night with iconic literary figures. The idea was executed by Belgian interior designer Delphine Mauroit, the creative vision also behind Dear Irving’s sister bar, Raines Law Room.

The F Scott Fitzgerald room
The curtain-draped F Scott Fitzgerald room. Image courtesy of Dear Irving.

Mauroit executed four different themes for the speakeasy-style Dear Irving. The decadent Versailles room is fit for a modern-day Marie Antoinette, or indeed any Francophile, with its chandeliers and regal gilded furniture. Stepping into the adjacent Great Gatsby-era room is like a vortex into the Art Deco era, perfect for any ‘old sports’ thanks to crystal drapes, shell-shaped sofas and vintage glass coffee tables.

The stunning Versailles room at Dear Irving. Image courtesy of Dear Irving
The stunning Marie Antoinette room at Dear Irving. Image courtesy of Dear Irving

Also on Mauroit’s design trajectory were two rooms inspired by American presidents John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. The JFK room is a straight-out-of-Mad Men, 1960s inspired den with plenty of plush leather chairs and brass lamp fixtures in which you can discuss important political matters in private. Meanwhile, the Lincoln area transports you back an entire century to 1860, as you settle yourself on the scarlet velvet couches and order a drink at the mahogany bar.

The Abraham Lincoln room at Dear Irving
Relax 1860s style at the Abraham Lincoln Room. Image courtesy of Dear Irving

Dear Irving shares not only an interior visionary and head bartender Meghan Dorman with the equally successful Raines Law Room in Chelsea. Aside from the stunning decor, if there’s one element that has won these bars a place in punters’ hearts it is the doorbell located on each table. One buzz and your server is summoned straight to you. With the city’s bars becoming more and more crowded, that’s an addition we would gladly step back in time for.