Adventure Bar, Clapham, London

The latest Adventure Bar in south London is a playground for cocktails and design

With cocktails served in a miniature frying pan and food orders announced through an antique gramophone, there is something new going on at Adventure Bars. After developing the brand over the past seven years, the management team have evolved it further with their latest site in Clapham, south London. With an industrial-style interior and creative lighting design, it is a new phase for the good-time cocktail bars that can also be found in East Dulwich, Battersea and Covent Garden. “Our other bars are fun but more classic. We wanted to go down a different route with Clapham High Street,” says director Toby Jackson.

Toby heads the business with Kieron Botting and Tom Kidd after they worked together at TGI Friday’s and Be At One. After selling their Balham site last year, they turned Clapham’s former Hed Kandi bar into a 175-capacity space with designer Sophie Finch of Finch Interiors who has worked on bars such as The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town in Spitalfields, London. “The concept was the juxtaposition of an ‘adventure playground’ versus ‘a gentleman’s club’, with a fun ‘street’ vibe that also had to be comfortable and classy,” Sophie says.

After stripping out false walls, they kept the bare brickwork, with a mural on one wall resembling a 1930s sign saying “Hot dogging on Clapham Common”. At the back, a caged seating area is decorated with fairy lights and a neon sign saying, “Wait here, I’ve gone for help”. For more on Paul Nulty Lighting Design’s scheme, click here.

While the menu in the other bars has about 45 cocktails, the Clapham menu has just 18, with a mix of twisted classics, Adventure Bar favourites and new recipes delivered in quirky ways, using more premium ingredients. “We wanted to increase the quality and reduce the choice,” Toby says. They brought in a fresh perspective by consulting with bartender Sam Jeavons, assistant manager at The Dime Bar & Diner in nearby Battersea.

New drinks include the Morning Glory which is made with Casco Viejo tequila and Gabriel Boudier Crème de Pêches Fleur d’Hibiscus liqueur, with a garnish of chorizo and mozzarella on a stick and a shot glass of pineapple, chorizo and Tabasco caviar on the side. It is served in a miniature frying pan stuck onto the stem of a plastic Martini glass. The King Pong is inspired by a Porn Star Martini and made with rhubarb-infused Chase vodka, apple juice, lemon juice and vanilla sugar, with a shot glass of Aspalls cider on the side and the garnish of a ping pong ball.

Even the classics have been given a spin such as a Long Island Iced Tea served in a vessel like a takeaway coffee cup with a lid. The sharing drinks – Woo Woo, Piña Colada, Bramble and June Bug – are delivered in melamine vessels based on classic popcorn boxes. The use of quirky vessels and melamine cups was partly driven by licensing which bans glassware after midnight. “We turned a negative into a positive,” Kieron says.

The cocktail menu is stuck on the inside of an old VHS video box, with covers taken from iconic 1980s movie Cocktail. For added fun, the videos (glued) inside are labelled with classic porn film titles such as Shaving Ryan’s Privates. “It’s all about not taking ourselves too seriously,” Kieron adds.

There is also a new beer menu featuring Goose Island Honkers Ale, Anchor Steam Ale, BrewDog’s Punk IPA and – as at the other bars – the Simpsons-inspired Duff Beer which is actually a decent pilsner from Germany. They have also introduced “Crappy Meals”, which are gourmet fast food such as chipotle chicken wings and triple pork hot dogs, served with “mother-fuckin’ curly fries” and a “crappy toy”. Orders are announced over a Tannoy made out of an old gramophone hanging from the ceiling behind the bar.

Some of the ideas at Clapham are likely to reach the other bars and future sites but only if they suit each area. While no openings are planned right now, Toby explains: “The idea is for us to open sites that are like this – more fun, more local, more individual.”

Adventure Bar, 38 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UR Tel: 020 7720 1589

Who did it
Interior: Finch Interiors
Lighting: Paul Nulty Lighting Design
Graffiti: Graffiti Life
Neon signage: Electro Signs

First published in the February 2013 issue of Bar magazine.

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