Bunga Bunga everyone: Italy comes to Battersea

Q: Charlie: You first showed your interest in nightlife and parties aged 13 when you arranged a party at Crazy Larrys. Duncan, you weren’t far on his heels. What was it about that world that drew you so powerfully?

A (Charlie): I realised it was something I could do at the same time as studying both at school and university. Eventually we became frustrated with promoting places that weren’t ours and concepts we didn’t fully believe in, which led us to opening our first club, Kitts (which has since been sold). I was often far from impressed from the service and lack of creativity at other clubs and felt it was something we could do better.

A (Duncan): Like Charlie, organising parties and club nights was something I enjoyed doing as well as other things, and I felt there were ways we could improve on what was on offer already.

Q: What’s the key to opening the right club – and at the right time?

A: It’s important to be sensitive to the economic climate of the time and to what’s in fashion. For example, when we opened Barts it was February 2009 and the height of the financial crisis – fifty pubs a week were shutting in London. Chain bars were suffering the most. In keeping with the time we felt a need to create something affordable, different as well as discreet. Maggie’s was born out of a visible 1980s revival with music, fashion and film from the decade coming back in to vogue.

Q: How has London nightlife evolved over the past few years?

A: Nightclubs used to be all about ostentation, about how expensive everything was from the chandeliers to the nebuchadnezzars of champagne on the menu. Obviously such places still exist, but people are embracing creativity and turning away from the more predictable vulgar London venues. The economic downturn hugely affected nightlife in London as operators had to create places on smaller budgets leading them to think more about how money was spent and to be more creative with it. For example we created Barts on a shoe string, visiting car boot sales for bric-a-brac and plundering eBay for the wall decorations.

Q: Tell us about the thinking behind Bunga Bunga – it’s a provocative name!

A: Much in the same vein as Maggie’s, we are not making any sort of political statement. Maggie’s is an 80s club not a Thatcher club – for us she best represents the entire decade, having been Prime Minister from 1979-90 as opposed to other 80s icons who were famous for only a part of the 80s. The concept of Bunga Bunga is again not a Berlusconi-themed venue but “An Englishman’s Italian” and is very tongue in cheek, a theme that is echoed throughout the venue. It has everything from live entertainment on a colosseum stage to a gondola shaped bar to drinking vessels in the shape of iconic Italian monuments. There’s also objects of interest and amusement from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to a Fiat 500. While we fully understand that political figures can be divisive, love him or hate him Berlusconi is still a key cultural figure in Italy and we couldn’t ignore his influence on the country when developing this concept. We wanted to create a place that is fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously – we came up with so many names that we didn’t feel fully conveyed this idea and that made us sound like any other serious Italian restaurant in London.

Q: What’s your favourite thing to do on a night off?

A (Charlie): I love going to check out other bars and restaurants to see what is happening around London. I also love going to the theatre – it’s great escapism. (Charlie)

A: (Duncan): Like Charlie I love eating and drinking out and also play a lot of tennis which helps me unwind.

Q: What direction would you like to move in after Bunga Bunga?

A: A big dream for both of us is also to one day open a hotel which, in keeping with our other venues, would of course not be your traditional place to stay!
Bunga Bunga: 37 Battersea Bridge Road, SW11 3BA. bungabunga-london.com
barts-london.com, maggies-club.com