Bar owner and operator Richard Wynne, best known for east London's Callooh Callay, will be opening a new bar at the end of February called Little Bat.
It will be 'a very good, solid neighbourhood bar' Wynne told Imbibe, and something a little different from Callooh Callay, but still with a few 'quirky, weird and wonderful aesthetic little details'. The vibe will be relaxed and cosy, with bench seating, Chesterfield sofas and tables for two.
On the menu, devised by bar manager Barney Toy – previously of The Gin Room in Auckland – you'll find classics with a modern twist, but with the idea of the neighbourhood boozer firmly intact. The bar has actually been open as a pop-up under the name 54 Islington Park Street (you can guess the address) for the past two months, allowing the team to test-drive its drinks with the locals.
'That's the great thing about a neighbourhood bar: you come in, stay for a while, have a few drinks. So we're adapting our style to the needs of Islington,' said Wynne. 'The drinks, the vessels, the seating – it will all be slightly different from how we do things in Shoreditch.'
The same idea is shaping the venue itself. The pop-up closes this weekend for a full refurb, and one of the main jobs will be to bring the bar itself closer to the front door to make interaction between bartenders and customers easier. 'I've always said at Callooh Callay that the attitude of the staff towards the customers has to be very different there than, say, the West End or the City. It's more on an even keel. You can sit at the bar and chat with the bartender all evening.'
Toy will be encouraging that conversation via the drinks too: 'People in Islington are still open to being educated and trying new things. They get that personable, one-on-one experience.' And there'll be plenty to try among the 20 to 25 cocktails, from tall refreshing ones to stirred down, boozy drinks. Some from the current 54 menu will be carried on to Little Bat – the Islay Beets (pictured top), for example, that boldly mixes Ardbeg Uigeadail with Glenmorangie Original and beetroot syrup; and Toy's Pan Am Cocktail, that saw him reach the global top three in Bacardi Legacy last year.
In the summer a sort of chef's table space will be launched, with booth seating for a small group that will get their own bartender for the evening, with a small, special drinks menu.
Behind the bar, Toy will be joined by Jamie Woods (ex-Zuma Miami), Alastair Fraser (ex-NOLA) and Lewis Jenkins. Dino Kolestas, most recently found at Bourne & Hollingsworth, will take on the role of general manager.
It's not the first time Wynne has ventured beyond the now seven and a half year old Callooh Callay. In 2012, he opened Beard to Tail. 'It was something that I desperately wanted to do but it just didn't work. Having opened it, I realised that my passion and drive was with bars.'
Bars, plural. Wynne is already looking ahead. He has plans for a third venue within the next 18 months, and will then focus on looking even further – cities all over the country were mentioned, but also the continent...
But first, there's a Callooh Callay 'Sticker Album World Tour' to go test the waters. The team will be at Little Red Door next week for Paris Cocktail Week, then at Stockholm's Little Quarter on 25 February, before hitting Filter & Fox in Liverpool, Manchester's Crazy Pedro's and Neon Cactus in Leeds on 3, 4 and 5 April respectively. Stops in New York, Singapore and Melbourne are still to be confirmed...
And since you asked, like Callooh Callay, the name Little Bat comes from the world of Alice in Wonderland, and more exactly a poem read by the Mad Hatter called Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat.
Little Bat is planned to open on the last weekend of February, at 54 Islington Park Street, London N1 1PX – the spot that used to be the home of Public House, which closed in November of last year.