When daylight saving time kicks in and the sun emerges from behind the clouds, the British mind often wanders to warmer climes, and, more specifically, the things that people drink there.
One such area is the “Dirty South” of America. The Q Grill opened in a former petrol station in Camden last week and is inspired by Memphis, Tennessee; home to Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and Elvis, as well as some of the most sumptuous slow-cooked food south of the Mason-Dixon line. Des McDonald hired the young and promising firm Alexander Waterworth Interiors to handle the design. Executed with panache, the room seamlessly blends Deep South influences with mid-century classiness. Plush banquettes and deep cappuccino-hued leather booths line the periphery of the restaurant while the bar is crafted from reclaimed railway ties and the floors from whitewashed pine planking. The room is dominated by a bar and open-plan kitchen, as well as a mezzanine level with communal bar table, so guests are never too far from a bourbon and always in sight of the kitchen, lending a frisson of theatricality to the experience.
Q Grill isn’t the only new London opening to channel the spirit of the American south. The Big Easy recently opened its second outpost in the building that formerly housed the Charing Cross & Strand Electricity Supply Corporation, and there’s been a considerable buzz about it. The interior was designed by Macaulay Sinclair and retains many of the industrial accents originally built into the room, including copper conduits, brickwork, steel and iron girders. It was then updated with exposed beams and assorted Americana from lobster buoys to neon signage. Its bar, The Shelter, serves up an array of craft beers, American-invented cocktails, pickle back shots (that’s bourbon with a gherkin juice chaser) and hard shakes. The Shelter also plays host to live acts.
Another climate that we like to harken back to in Spring is the Iberian Mediterranean. Bravas Tapas opened a few weeks ago in St Katharine Docks and, with any luck, will lead a charge to purge the marina of the identikit rollouts marring its comely quays. Spearheaded by restaurateur Bal Thind, the original investor in Hakkasan, Yauatcha and Busaba, who has championed the talents of Catalonian/NYC chef Victor Garvey, Bravas Tapas juxtaposes Med rusticity with high-concept gastronomy. The room resembles the well-worn bottegas of Spain and Portugal, with rough-shod reclaimed furniture that’s been handsomely finished, a reclaimed sherry bar first put to work in the 19th Century, and a candlelit ambience.
The new Wright Brothers oyster bar in Spitalfields isn’t Spanish by a country mile, but it is when juxtaposed with its sibling venues, and it warrants a mention as one of the most enjoyable places to knock back a drink around the City. Borrowing a page from the American book of oyster bars, guests can pull up a stool alongside the handsome, capacious, marble-topped bar as the staff members select crustacea from their massive holding tank to boil for your pleasure. Spending an afternoon appreciating the finer points of Wright Brothers’ Bloody Mary, Martini, or craft beer menus is one certainly well spent, and with the exposed brick and neon it’s easy to feel that you’ve been transported to a seaside shellfish venture in, say, summery Cape Cod. Tim Badham is the founder of exclusive London lifestyle concierge, Innerplace. www.innerplace.co.uk @innerplaceLDN