Back when this seasoned writer was first running around Shoreditch, all the cool kids had an identical key – one decorated with a flamingo at the top – that unlocked a door through a wardrobe in Callooh Callay on Rivington Street. It wasn’t quite Narnia, but the exclusive boozy heaven of private member’s club JubJub was spoken about with all the reverence you’d expect for Aslan.
By the time I got my flamingo key (because I worked for the main bar Callooh Callay), the member’s club at the top had been disbanded. Timing was never on my side.
What was once JubJub has had a busy few years since it hosted its last members’ night. It’s been branded pop-ups, was once taken over by Bobby Hiddelston and Mia Johansson before they launched Bar Swift, turned into a rock ‘n roll bar called The Palace of Humbug and has been a blank canvas for Callooh’s bar team to create their own fortnightly menus in. But from 1 May, JubJub will be back.
The room has undergone a transformation to make it strike that perfect balance between warmth, conviviality and intimacy. Owner Richard Wynne and general manager Aaron Wall have installed a combination of low-slung red and coral couches and armchairs, as well as some high tables and bar stools to cater for the mix of industry and consumers they’re hoping to attract.
That instagram-friendly neon sign behind the bar though, from The Palace of Humbug days is moving to the stairs and an incredible piece of art which features Big Ben, flamingos and a girl flying on bar spoons by ex-Callooh staff member Dan Collins has taken it’s place.
‘We wanted it to be approachable,’ said Wall. ‘We’re an inclusive member’s bar, so we’re not charging for membership – this is more about giving people the option to engage more with us in a more intimate space.’
New generation JubJub members will either be chosen through application or by invitation from the bar team, and will be given that special JubJub key – still with the flamingo – to unlock the door. The only criteria is to be a lover of great cocktails and spirits, whether you work in the trade or not.
Free membership includes priority access to weekly events, ranging from tastings to masterclasses, complimentary arrival punch and a direct Whatsapp number to check availability in the bar on a night out. Wall and Wynne are also offering a gold membership with the opportunity to subscribe to a personal monthly bottled cocktail, which will be secured in the room’s cabinets. JubJub members will also get the benefit of a 2am opening time on Friday and Saturdays for an extra hour of weekend frivolity.
While timing might not have been on my side all those years ago, it’s very much lining up for Callooh right now which is relaunching JubJub as it builds up to Callooh Callay’s 10th anniversary later this year.