Leading industry names plan Chinatown bar

Two leading figures in the bar world, Dré Masso and Eric Yu, have revealed their plans for a new London bar inspired by 19th-century Chinese opium dens.

Opium Cocktail & Dim Sum Parlour will open in Gerrard Street in the heart of Chinatown in November, covering three floors of a historic townhouse with nine different rooms. Behind a jade door, people will find a mix of flexible drinking and dining spaces, from lounge seating for grazing and sharing to intimate “boudoir-drinking-dens” and open-plan bars.

The centre-piece of the second floor will be the Chinese Apothecary bar where “mysterious” liquids will be identified by a coding system of Chinese characters. Upstairs, through a carriage-saloon reminiscent of the Orient Express, you will come into the attic Academy where Dre and his team will make drinks at a “bartenders table”.

Dré has worked in and run many top London bars over the last 20 years including Atlantic Bar & Grill, 10 Room, Lab, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, Salvador & Amanda, and Lonsdale House and co-founded consultancy, The Worldwide Cocktail Club. Eric, who was born in Hong Kong, has run some of London’s most high-profile bars, restaurants and clubs and heads The Breakfast Group whose venues include Salvador & Amanda, Punk, Jerusalem and The Social.

The idea for Opium came to Dré when he travelled to China 10 years ago. He has developed a concise cocktail menu based on premium spirits which will evolve seasonally with the ingredients discovered locally in Chinatown.

Embracing the rituals at the heart of Chinese drinking, each cocktail will be served with its own touch of theatre. In the Academy, Dré will run a training school for aspiring cocktail bartenders.

Dré said: “It has been an exciting challenge: not to simply give a nod here and there to the flavours of China, but to infuse everything with oriental essence, from the medicine chest of spirits on the back bar, through to the range of rare and traditional brews by Postcard Teas of Mayfair.”

He has matched his signature drinks to the selection of luxurious dim sum and roast meats which make up Opium’s food menu. For instance, in the lobster dumplings with XO dipping sauce, the zing of horseradish is balanced by the richness of the cognac, while the parsnip bellini promises an earthy autumnal twist to the sparkling classic.

“The whole ethos of Opium is that amazing food and cocktails go hand in hand,” Dré said. “Everything from the ingredients we are using to the open-kitchen style of the bars is designed to excite the palate.”

Dim sum has been updated and enriched with the finest seafood such as razor clams, scallops and langoustines. The likes of poppy-seed lobster toast are Opium’s modern take on the authentic dishes that Eric grew up with.

“Food is such a huge part of culture across China and, of course, right here in Chinatown,” Eric said. “Opium is a first in that it brings together high-end oriental cooking with the high-style London cocktail scene. It has been my dream for many years to realise something this unique in a resurgent Chinatown.”

Changing seasonally in parallel with the drinks list, the food menu will also include guest chef collaborations. St John has created Legend of St John for November – a take on siu long bao which marries Shanghai street food and Michelin-star dining.

The design, by award-winning collective Office Sian & Kai Design, continues the oriental eclecticism that defines Opium. The ornately-carved furniture, tones of rich red and porcelain blue, opulent prints and traditional art that you would expect of an oriental interior are given a contemporary London feel with metallic finishes, tinted glass and mirrors playing with perspective.

Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour will launch in early November at 15-16 Gerrard Street. It will be open from midday to midnight Monday to Friday and 6pm to midnight on Saturdays.

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