One of an occasional series at Hyde Park Progress exploring things from an undergraduate perspective.
As has already been discussed (and at great lengths in the comment field of my last post), Hyde Park lacks in late night locations for cups of tea, conversation and general hang-outs. This time around, I want to examine one of the places that I was excited and surprised to see make it in to Hyde Park: the Noon Hookah Lounge.
The first thing to clear up is that it is not the best hookah lounge in the city. That prize goes to one up on the Northside, whose name I can't recall, that really cultivates a unique "oriental" experience complete with floor cushions and low tables, bellydancers and Turkish coffee. For those who want to give it a shot as a one time experience, I heartily recommend making the trek with a group of friends.
However, for the more quotidian experience, Hyde Park's Noon Hookah Lounge does deliver. I've been three times, twice with people who have been to real hookah lounges in the middle-east and the most recent when I conversed with a new friend. The only real complaint that can be offered by my cosmopolitan friends as to the inauthenticity of the experience was the lounge's failure to provide an ashing tool to move around the coal and keep it burning hot. And admitedly, this is mitigated by the Lounge's relatively constant attention towards providing new coals.
The actual experience of the lounge, each time, was stellar. There is little that can compare with spending 3 hours at a time (how the time flew!) chatting about the state of medicine, educational philosophy and a combination of literature, philosophy and politics. The lounge reminds me of the salons and cafes of nascent modernity, an area in which people sit down and have intimate conversation at a broad range of topics, sharing well-reasoned opinions and developing new ones.
I cannot in good conscience ignore the aspect of the smoke, though. There are as many opinions about the healthiness of hookah smoking as there are opinions shared while smoking it. Some say it's worse than smoking a pack of cigarettes due to the length of time spent breathing the smoke, others say that the water filters the smoke well and that it burns at a lower temperature, generating less of the obnoxious noxious elements of cigarette smoking. This is in addition to the issues of cigarette stink, where hookah excels in flavor and residual smell. You come out reeking of mint or fruit scented smoke instead of stale tobacco and additives. So while it can be unpleasant for many, it is a valid if infrequent option for a niche market.
If Hyde Park is to maintain its current small shop feel and mentality (with "like 3 shoe shops" and lamp shops), the Hookah Lounge is of the quality and character that I would expect. A niche market, but a decent iteration; small, but interesting, and due to the health concerns, a place that one would go like to go to with some regularity, if infrequently. It would be even better if there were a few other places to put in to a late night weekend entertainment rotation.