Brr-ring, brr-ring, this is the department of cool new London bars calling – have we found a hotspot for you. It’s called 7 Tales and while it sits below Sosharu, the seventh London venture in Jason Atherton’s ever expanding empire, don’t think of it as a restaurant bar, or heaven forbid, an afterthought. It’s a destination in its own right.
Forget the upstairs bit, no doubt you’ll read plenty about the cool, zen-like aesthetic designed to capture the mood of Japanese minka houses. As you should do, it’s all breathtakingly calm and bloomin’ gorgeous. We’re sure things are equally impressive on the ‘casual/refined’ Japanese food front too. (Jason Atherton’s Social Group do not do mediocre. Ever). Still, as much as we love what upstairs has to offer, with our cocktail heads on at least, we’re more transfixed by what’s going on downstairs.
Here’s where things get a little looser, louder, infinitely more playful and dare we say it, a whole lot sexier. Think Tokyo nightlife given a funky London twist. Add a hint of the salaciousness and elegance that exists between the two cities as Bar Manager Geoff Robinson describes it, and you’ve got the look and the mood down pat. “This is the place I’ve always wanted to open,” he says proudly. “It’s a loud hip-hop bar and we want it to be fun.”
That’s evident from the neon signs, the first of which beckons as you descend from the restaurant, the other is the main focus once you’re ensconced in the 40-seater room. If they don’t catch your eye, the walls will – they’re covered in dramatic bespoke wallpaper made up of images from modern performative arts like Kabuki theatre, Manga and Japanese calligraphy. Each component is a star in its own right but put them together and they work like a charm.
Much like the menu. “We want to do beautiful drinks but we want them to be accessible,” says Geoff. Both get two fat ticks in our book. That’s largely down to Michele Mariotti who has hung up his white jacket at the American Bar at the Savoy to head up the team here. “Michele came in and challenged me in a good way,” continues Geoff effusively. “He transformed the list, refined everything from the execution to the presentation and made every one of the drinks better. He’s brought attention to detail, more refinement and incredible hosting skills to the proceedings. Watching him work is truly inspiring.”
We didn’t get to see Michele in action but we did try a couple of the drinks on the eleven-strong menu. First the Amarito, above right (rose vermouth, Campari, grapefruit, lemon, egg white and raspberry dust) – if drinks did drag this would be it. It’s fluffy, feminine and like a pink cloud to look at but strip away the layers and you’ve got something stronger with unexpected muscle and bite. Next up, Turnmills Rice Wine, above left (rice-washed gin, vermouth, sesame oil). This is the theatrical one, where Beefeater gin is gently milled over sushi rice right in front of you. The starch from the rice results in a cloudy appearance and a satisfyingly creamy mouthfeel. Add a few drops of sesame oil on to the surface and you’ve got yourself pure magic in a glass.
We’re looking forward to trying the Bonita Appleplum (sugarcane umeshu, sugarcane, amontillado, rum, lemon and orange bitters); Nikkei Martinez (aged sake, most verde pisco, vermouth, black salt and flowers) and Travellin’ Man (Nikka All Malt, lapsang vermouth and nori tincture) – heck, if the two we tried at our sampling session are anything to go by, we want to taste the whole damn lot.
“The drinks will shape the experience but we want to go the extra mile,” says Geoff. That means no pre-cut ice or batched drinks, here it’s all about customer experience. There will be theatre too: “I don’t like perfect ice I want to see someone in front of me using their hands and giving me the ragged edges, something that’s a little bit different every time. That’s why we cut our ice and make our drinks to order. It’s labour intensive but it’s done with a whole lot of love.”
7 Tales is open from today, 7th March. Find Geoff, Michele and the 7 Tales crew, downstairs at Sosharu, 64 Turnmill Street, EC1M 5RR. sosharulondon.com. Cocktails priced £9.50-£13.