Barrio East, London

Ferdie Ahmed and the team have created an oasis of Latin colour in east London

The colours, tastes and party atmosphere of Latin American have burst onto the scene in Shoreditch, east London, with the opening of Barrio East. It is the third Barrio bar from entrepreneur Ferdie Ahmed and a team including Sat Ghuman and Ani Kyriacou after the launch of Barrio North in Islington in 2007 followed by Barrio Central in Soho in 2010. With stylish quirky interiors, the third venue takes the concept to another level with different rooms to suit different moods.

Again, they have brought in design duo Dave and Dom Knight of Dtwo Design who have worked on cutting-edge bars such as nearby Callooh Callay as well as new London venues Tonteria in Chelsea and Salvador & Amanda in Holborn. With an open brief, they set out to push the boundaries of bar design and experiment with materials and their construction.

The site was most recently bar and club Avalon which had mini “party pools” in the basement. The existing architectural shell was seriously modified by moving staircases and goods lifts and stripping out over-complicated room divisions. The pools were decommissioned, and the basement is now used for toilets and offices.

The 500-capacity space was then divided into three separate areas: Barrio Downtown, Barrio Uptown and La Boca Barrio. Barrio Downtown is at the front, with a long red ribbon-like bar decorated with colourful tiling, alongside The Timber Yard lounge area where people can relax in booth seating carved out of stacks of multi-coloured timber under a tin roof.

Further back is La Boca, a more club-like space inspired by the colourful neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, with brightly coloured facades made from reclaimed ship timber. At one end is a 1960s Sprite four-berth caravan that has been cut in half and converted into a raised seating area with House of Hackney wallpaper.

At the very back round a corner is Barrio Uptown, a speakeasy-style hideaway mixing Cuban hotel lobby with colonial courtyard. With its own small marble-topped bar and bartenders in braces, it has a classic, more intimate feel – ideal for private bookings.

The venue is full of inventive design details such as pineapple-shaped glass lights, customised ceiling panels, distressed tables, hexagonal floating tiles and a striking collection of copper piping that appears to be growing out of one of the walls. The flooring includes herringbone tiles arranged in different colours to create an elegant but relatively random pattern.

The opening of Barrio East coincided with a new cocktail menu across all three sites. It is divided into “New Releases”, “Remixes” and “Greatest Hits”, with each cocktail paired with a suggested matching song track. Examples include a Gingerbread Colada paired with Coconut Woman by Lloyd Price, made with Santa Teresa Añejo rum, Koko Kanu coconut rum, pineapple juice, cream, gingerbread syrup and lemon juice, garnished with pineapple, maraschino cherry and a gingerbread man.

The Cape Fizz is paired with I Heard It Through The Grapevine by Marvin Gaye, which uses Chilean pisco Aba, muddled red grapes, Xante pear liqueur, apple juice, lemon and a dash of soda, garnished with an apple fan and a bunch of grapes. The premium spirits list is led by rums and tequilas, while beers come from across Latin America including Negra Modelo, Quilmes and Dos Equis as well as London’s Meantime.
Barrio East also marks the launch of a new food menu, with dishes ranging from the Mexican all-day breakfast of Huevos Rancheros to antojitos (small plates) of calamari, ribs and crispy pork belly. Other dishes include Queso Fundido, a Mexican fondue made with melted Monterey Jack cheese served with soft flour tortillas, tomato chilli jam and a choice of mushrooms, chorizo or chicken.

With food as important as the late-night partying, it is open from midday Monday to Friday and from 11am at weekends, with a licence to 2am seven nights a week. Busy since opening, Barrio East has brought a burst of Latin colour to Shoreditch combined with an inventive, eccentric design.

Barrio East, 141 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JE Tel: 020 7749 3940

Who did it
Design: Dtwo Design
Banquette seating: Fitz Impressions
Contractor: Tam & Co
LED: Mode Lighting
AV: Middlesex Sound & Lighting
Sound system: RCF
Caravan, tables: Chordal Green
Marble: Manimpex
Mirrors: Mirrors & Glass UK
Parquet flooring: The Floor Shop
Awnings: Morco Blinds
External lighting: Vivid Signs
Timber stack alcoves, tables & La Boca: Re-Fuze

First published in the February 2013 issue of Bar magazine.

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