THERE is a fresco on The Plotting Parlour’s ceiling. It shows a leopard terrorising some children.

They are painted in a lavish Renaissance style and seem to be running away. I glance up at the strife on their faces, sink down in my red leather chair, and sigh.

This is the life.

I may have to spend half my time doing business alongside legless punters in some of the city’s most disreputable dives, but as I idly slurp the last of my sparkling, tailor-made tipple through a straw, I have to admit the job has its perks.

I have just quaffed a bespoke cocktail at 3pm on a Thursday, for instance. I have also had the pleasure of watching the thing being assembled in front of me, beautifully, by a consummate professional.

There are few greater privileges than seeing an expert at work.

Laid out on an operating tray on the bar are tweezers, matcha green tea shakers, coffee beans, and an array of tiny instruments.

The bartender lifts a trowel of ice into a tumbler, spins a red potion in a flask behind her back, adds a dab of Angostura bitters to a burgeoning cauldron of flavours, laces it all with a mysterious syrup and slips a scoop of crushed ice into the glass.

With a flick of the wrist, the bartender whips out a straw and tastes the drink like a bee lighting on a flower.

In the selfsame spin she grabs a second straw with a pair of tongs and crunches it into the crushed ice.

It’s plonked on the bar top so fast the ingredients seem to land moments behind the glass.

I watch without lifting a finger. All I asked for was something with a drop of ginger.

When it arrives, it’s like a tiny nativity scene in a tumbler. The peppery citrus punch is paired with a sprig of rosemary, a dehydrated slice of orange and a powder snow of icing sugar.

Astonishingly, the rest of the bar is dead. It often is, even in the evenings.

It’s ghostly quiet. For a moment, a burst of slick 1960s mod rock seems to be rolling out from under the bathroom door. “It’s like a party in there,” the bartender chuckles. But after a few minutes, the noise cuts out. The loo is again a zen garden of pot plants and posh handwash.

The Plotting Parlour is a triumph. But it is also – by its own admission – “Brighton’s best kept secret”. Tucked in a back alley off St James’s Street, it’s easy to miss.

Ducking in through a hall dressed up like a chic garden shed, guests are asked to wait beside a glowing green drinks cabinet.

Bar staff in shirts and braces lead punters inside. The decor is at once fancy, antiquated and rustic. Gramophone trumpets hang from the ceiling like chandeliers. Weatherboarding and clumps of luminous fake grass give the bar a feel of the outdoors.

Coupled with the fresco, gold picture frames and marbled mirrors, the place lies somewhere between a potting shed and a disgraced oligarch’s Wendy house.

I can’t describe the clientele. There’s nobody here. Perhaps the eyewatering prices put them off. Not that this would bother the aristocrat I imagine – in place of real customers to eye up – living here and wandering about the place in a dressing gown.

Even my trench-coat pockets aren’t deep enough to fork out £14.50 for a barrel-aged whisky cocktail, the most expensive drink on the list. Most are around the £10 mark and it’s difficult to find anything cheaper.

By difficult I mean it would require some hard work, which seems at odds with my indulgent new cocktail-sipping, fresco-feasting, Rees-Mogg reclining self.

Far easier to fork out once in a blue moon and laze in this strange potting shed, looking up occasionally to watch the leopard hunt its prey.