About two-and-a-half years ago, Bar magazine’s front cover featured our venue of the month, the newly opened Kingly Club in Covent Garden, London. It was developed by Dezzi Mc Causland who had already achieved success with his first Kingly Club in Soho and went on to launch the award-winning McQueen in Shoreditch last year. However, despite numerous tweaks and the launch of downstairs restaurant Kyashii, the Kingly Club in Covent Garden never quite worked and it closed in 2009.
The site finally reopened under new owners in October last year with a sushi “brasserie” on the ground floor, fine dining in the basement and a bar on a first-floor mezzanine. Much of the original design by Dezzi has been retained, including the “K” logo, and the whole venue has now taken the name of Kyashii – loosely based on the Japanese equivalent of “Kathy” or “Cassie”.
While the dining levels were revamped slightly, the mezzanine bar has been largely untouched. The main difference is that, where Dezzi wanted it to be an exclusive members-only space, the new owners are promoting it as a destination bar for anyone interested in good cocktails and premium spirits.
Research into the new drinks list was long overdue so last Friday I spent a couple of hours sampling some of the bar’s offerings with its creative and operations director Patrick McLean, who has worked as a host and promoter for several of London’s top clubs. “Kyashii has a fantastic design and it still looks like nothing else that’s been designed since,” Patrick says. He has built on the retro cool feel with a music policy of soul, funk and groove while playing cult TV shows and films of the 70s and 80s on the bar’s multiple screens – it was Miami Vice and The Prisoner while I was there.
The bar team, including Canadian bar superviser Keith Yablonsky, have been building up a list of original cocktails. The most popular cocktails from the start have included the Kya Martini (pictured), a delicious mix of Wybowora Exquisite vodka, fresh strawberries, lime, Grand Marnier and strawberry puree. Another is the Tokyo Love Story, made with muddled pears, Havana Club Añejo Especial and pear liqueur, topped up with Moët champagne.
Newer cocktails include the Sakurabana, created by Keith and made with crème de mûre, fresh muddled raspberries and blackberries, lime and brown sugar, topped up with chardonnay. The Shogun is a smooth, smoky concoction of El Jimador Reposado, Passoa, passion fruit and muddled chilli, served in a Martini glass, while another great-tasting drinks is the gin-based Gene Genie – inspired by David Bowie’s song Jean Genie – which mixes Beefeater 24 with ginger and lemongrass cordial, coriander, pineapple juice and gomme syrup. As part of the effort to promote Kyashii as a destination bar, they run “Shaker” sessions every weekday evening, offering two-for-one offers on selected cocktails between 5pm and 7pm in association with Moët & Chandon and Absolut.
The new team has also retained Kingly Club’s specialism in Japanese whiskies, including some superb Nikka expressions, as well as a good menu of sakes, put together by executive general manager Andrew Hung. These feature a house serve which is either 150ml of warmed Masumi Okuden Kantsukuri junmai sake, or 110ml of chilled Dewazakura Oka ginjo sake presented in a glass filled to the brim inside a small square cup that allows them to pour “more than the glass can hold”.
Patrick says that “a new wave of cocktails” will be added to the menu in late February. He gave me a sneak preview of some of the recipes that they are working on, and it looks like it’ll be worth a revisit. He is particularly keen on the new Velvet Empress, made with sloe gin, crème de mûre, apricot brandy and topped up with Moët champagne. Other newcomers planned are, for the first time, sake-based cocktails and recipes using Scotch whiskies such as Monkey Shoulder. “As we are a restaurant, we are dedicated to flavours and, in the bar, we want drinks that have layers of flavour,” Patrick says. “It all fits in with our slogan, ‘Familiar flavours, new attitude’.”
Kyashii is at 4a Upper St Martin’s Lane, London WC2H 9NY. Find out more at www.kyashii.co.uk .