Everyone remembers the RV.
Even if you’ve only watched the first episode with Walter White standing in a pair of unflattering white briefs as he pulls out a gun from his elastic waistband, you’ll remember Breaking Bad’s infamous RV.
On walking up to Shoreditch’s answer to a Breaking Bad-style bar, it shouldn’t be surprising that the bar is in an actual RV (Recreational Vehicle).
As the starting point for chemistry teacher Walter White’s drug “lab” with ex-student Jesse Pinkman in the US TV series, it’s the perfect place for the themed bar.
Down an unlit Boundary Street, the RV looks like someone’s odd family home rather than a bar.
The only way to distinguish it is a spray painted “ABQ” on the side, an abbreviation of Albuquerque, the home of Breaking Bad.
Founder Seb Lyall told Hackney Post that they even brought the RV over from the US: “When the idea was first conceived, people thought it was bonkers but we had to stay true to what we believe in – we had to go all in.”
Tentatively, my sister and I open the door and are greeted by two men in yellow hazmat jumpsuits, one of whom looks surprised to see me there. For a split second I wonder whether I’ve intruded on something I shouldn’t have.
“Yo, yo – how’s it hanging?!”
A man in one of the yellow suits jumps out from the side, an excitable grin on his face, before picking up a tablet device as he imitates Jesse Pinkman’s American twang. “When’s your slot, yo?”
Before turning up, you need to book a two-hour slot and “just bring the base booze”. The idea is that you “cook” your own cocktails with the various ingredients and equipment they provide.
After giving him our choice alcohol – a bottle of gin – we follow him through the RV, walking past chattering people sitting at metal barrel tables.
Sat at the back opposite another couple, Fake Jesse hands us a recipe sheet accompanied by two Limoncello shots on a slate next to a line of salt (yes, actual salt).
A neon blue image of Walter White peers over our shoulders as we sit at the cramped table adorned with goggles and gas masks and take a shot.
We are delivered ingredients for our first DIY cocktail – “Here’s some decent product, yo!” – dry ice in a conical flask and a martini glass holding a gin and lychee concoction.
“After reading the recipe sheet, I pour rose water into the flask, which produces perfumed smoke that dances on top of the cocktail.”
ABQ was launched by Seb Lyall and his team in Hackney Wick and was designed as more of an immersive experience. Currently a pop-up located at Cleve Workshops since February, the aim is to make it permanent.
Ideally, Lyall wants to base the entrance on Walter White’s lab hidden underneath a laundrette.
“The idea is that the entrance would be a big washing machine that people would need to crawl through to get to the lab and RV,” Lyall says. He plans to fund it through a crowdfunding campaign and potentially bring it over to Paris.
Just as I start to sip the very strong cocktail, Fake Jesse appears once again, to tell us: “We have to move you, b*tch.”
Now sat at another table we’re given yet more shots as we prepare for the next batch to cook – a cocktail called “Fly” which, I’m told, looks like frogspawn after it’s been assembled. Appetising.
This is done by combining coke caviar, lime and gin, shaken with nitrous oxide. Once poured into a glass of ice, the more it is stirred, the sweeter the drink becomes.
A grimy-pink teddy bear glares down at me from a shelf as I sip the cocktail, revelling in the drama’s soundtrack. Lyall says that after 10 minutes, you forget you’re in an RV – although it’s hard to forget you’re at the centre of a Breaking Bad set.
After finishing up our cocktails, we awkwardly clamber out of the van into the fresh air. Fake Jesse lounges in a deck chair outside on his break and grins at us, waving goodbye.
“Cooking” sessions are available from Thursday to Saturday, 6pm – 12pm at £25 per person. For private sessions “totally away from Hank and Gommy”, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image credit: Rose Hill