Over the past six months, London’s bar and club scene has welcomed a major new player, Alula Leisure. Headed by leisure entrepreneurs Tim Lalic and Vahram Papazyan, it has taken on two legendary venues in the capital: Jonathan Downey’s Match Bar off Oxford Street and music club Scotch of St James. Their newest venture is 52ºNorth Bar & Kitchen, which serves up cocktails and British cuisine in a relaxed wood-lined “home from home”.
They have brought on board an experienced operations team who also run a separate but equally successful business, the Penny Black restaurant in Chelsea. At the helm is operations manager Tony Ho whose background includes several years working at Oliver Peyton’s restaurants, including the Atlantic Bar & Grill.
52ºNorth has been created in the premises of the former Amuse Bouche champagne bar in Soho, which has been reborn with a warmer and lighter interior through design company 44th Hill. It is spread across two floors, with a large bar, long sharing tables and a lounge area with a fireplace on the ground floor plus a more intimate “speakeasy-style” basement bar. “52ºNorth is a ‘home from home’ based in the heart of Soho,” says Stuart Taylor, creative director of 44th Hill. “The relaxed atmosphere and touches of classic Eames furniture give the feel of comfort and luxury.” He and his two partners have worked on other bars including Match as well as Graphic and Alice House in London and Amelie and Friends in Chichester.
As you enter, you are guided down the centre of the space to the bar at the back by 600 light bulbs in the ceiling which, Stuart says, “give the bar and restaurant the creativity and uniqueness that Soho deserves”. The walls have a feather-like design of wood panels, while the furniture is a mix of wooden chairs and leather Chesterfields. The wall on the stairs to the basement bar is covered in striking graphic imagery based on the bar’s name.
52ºNorth is run as a separate business to Match bar – and the link is not being promoted to consumers – but it still has a strong cocktail menu. It offers classics and original drinks created by Tony and the bar team, including head bartender Damian Brum, previously at Match Bar and Trailer Happiness in London. Cocktails include Damian’s recipe, Jamaican Kiss, made with Wray & Nephew Overproof, Briottet raspberry liqueur, fresh raspberries, lemon juice, Velvet Falurnum, apple juice and pineapple juice.
52ºNorth has a good wine list, including English wines such as Chapel Down, Nyetimber and Tenterden, plus a laudable selection from British brewers including Innis & Gunn and Harviestoun in Scotland. This fits in with the food menu, developed by head chef Fraser Scott, which uses only ingredients sourced in the UK such as Gloucester Old Spot pork chops and Arbroath Smokies fish cakes. “The way the economy is, it is important to support Britain itself,” Tony says. “Supporting British produce is more expensive, but the menu is very good value as the standard of food goes beyond the price.” However, the drinks list is not exclusively British, ranging from Austrian beer Stiegl Goldbräu to plenty of European and New World wines. Tony adds that 52ºNorth is likely to become a centre for bartender training in areas such as craft beers, complementing the cocktail training now run by Soulshakers at Match Bar.
Tim adds that more bars, restaurants or clubs are on the cards for Alula Leisure, both in London and overseas. “We are being very particular about what we want but we are definitely interested in growing further,” he says. “52ºNorth is a brand that we are looking to develop and, if we feel it is strong [enough], we will replicate it.”
21-22 Poland Street, London W1F 8QG Tel: 020 7287 1661 www.52north.co.uk