Never, ever stopping, The Social Company is opening a new venue in London's Clerkenwell in March – well two venues, really. There's Sosharu (that's Japanese for 'social' – you wouldn't think they'd leave the word out, would you?), an 86-seater Japanese izakaya restaurant; and Seven Tales, a basement cocktail bar that mixes Japanese aesthetics and loud hip hop.
Geoff Robinson (pictured above, outside the site for Sosharu), previously of Library, Happiness Forgets and ECC, is the bar manager for the venues, and he's conscious that all eyes will be on them – especially after the group's Blind Pig won Best International Restaurant Bar at the 2015 Tales of the Cocktail.
'It's very exciting because the company has achieved enough success that we have resources; not just money but also expertise, a strong HR department, etc,' he told Imbibe. 'But there's also pressure. I want to add to that conversation and pedigree.'
There's also the pressure of going Japanese, a new direction for the company. But while this will have an influence on the drinks, you'll find it perhaps more in the thinking behind them than in the liquid itself. 'We can't innately recreate this Japanese sensibility. We're doing something inspired by Japan and the parallels between Tokyo and London, but uniquely ours.'
In terms of the bars, this translates into the way drinks are approached. At Sosharu, the inspiration is the wabi-sabi tea ceremony, which is linked to principles of understatement, imperfection, simplicity and impermanence. They are the basis for seven drinks, which will be light and lower-ABV, and aim to be paired with food.
For Seven Tales, Robinson looked to Japanese performing art, and notably calligraphy. 'They have those huge brushes and they're supposed to do delicate, precise art – and they make it look so easy! But it's not about controlling everything. It's about finding beauty in imperfection.'
He continued: 'The drinks scene in Japan is all about hospitality and the attention to detail. It's not limited to having drinks look and feel nice, but also considers whether they are situated nicely, and performed in a nice way. That's what I want in my bar.'
The menu consists of 12 drinks, with a 'Tokyo after dark' vibe over a hip hop soundtrack. There'll be some Japanese spirits, ice cut to order, and definitely no puns on the list. Cocktails include the Nikkei Martinez, using aged saké with pisco, salt, bitters and vermouth; and the Cold Tea, a twist on a Mizuwari 'but with a bit more body,' says Robinson, made using Nikka Blended Whisky, with a house tea that includes genmaicha tea, whey, Talisker 10, Belsazar White and a touched of verjus, and topped with soda.
Add to that a bunch of talent behind the bar – assistant bar manager Michele Mariotti is coming from the American Bar, Cameron Mack joins from Edinburgh's Tonic and Edoardo Arcesi from sister venue City Social, and Fabiola Falasca and Bel Silva are other recruits – and you've got what looks like a winning recipe.
Sosharu and Seven Tales open on 7 March, at the Turnmill Building, 63 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5NP.
Main image: Brian Doherty