Crossroads, a new cocktail bar with a sustainable ethos and community feel, has opened in Camden, London. Zoe Fryday reports
Aiming to breathe new life into Camden’s drinking scene, the opening of Crossroads is music to one’s ears – a bit of positivity that’s much-needed in 2020. Run by Bart Miedekza and his wife Monika, who have years of hospitality experience under their belts, the venue is quickly becoming renowned for its cosy neighbourhood feel and innovative cocktails centred around sustainability and zero-waste principles. “The decision to open was taken in the spirit of ‘now or never’,” says Bart. “Opening our own place was always the dream. We’ve worked at different types of amazing venues before but there was always something we thought we could do better. Now, we’ve got the chance to do things our way.”
Hidden in a historic Victorian outhouse – previously the site of Ladies & Gentleman Camden – Crossroads boasts a chic, minimalist aesthetic. Deep blue matt walls are combined with the warmth of simple wooden furniture, while industrial spotlights help to form the perfect backdrop to showcase the bar’s signature tipples. Bart and Monika wanted to create a specific atmosphere for guests – one that mirrors having drinks with friends in your living room. “There are no expectations about who comes in and what they’re wearing. We focus on establishing Crossroads as the place to go to for any occasion.”
Using locally-grown ingredients allowed us to further connect with the community by sourcing produce from our neighbours and giving them a sense of ownership of the bar.
Cocktail-lovers can choose from a line-up of inventive serves prepared with homemade and locally-sourced ingredients, which are used to their full potential, with as little waste as possible. During lockdown, the team decided to utilise their free time productively by showing Instagram audiences how to make outstanding drinks using what’s readily available in their gardens and kitchen cupboards. “Once the lockdown was lifted and we got the green light to open Crossroads, we looked at the serves we developed over this time and realised that not only do we have a beautifully diverse menu, but also a great concept. Using locally-grown ingredients allowed us to further connect with the community by sourcing produce from our neighbours and giving them a sense of ownership of the bar.”
Cairo is one of the most popular serves on the menu. Featuring Vestal Vodka, Aelred Melonade, cold brew sencha, Supasawa, simple syrup, absinthe and soda, garnished with a cucumber peel triangle, it has been described by one guest as a “boozy shower in a glass”. Another firm favourite is Pepper, Crossroads’ take on an Old Fashioned, built entirely around different peppery notes. “We use Rittenhouse 100 Proof rye whiskey, which is notorious for its spice, then add Mancino Secco vermouth, with its wonderful herbal and almost vegetal elements. Muyu Vetiver Gris brings body and a super long finish to the cocktail and the composition is completed with a homemade black peppercorn shrub, which provides the rounded mouthfeel and the dominant vegetal flavour, with just enough acidity from balsamic vinegar.”
The cocktail that really showcases Crossroads’ zero-waste philosophy is Oregami. The Highball-style serve combines Beefeater Gin, Belsazar Rose, Supasawa, homemade gooseberry cordial and oregano vinegar, topped with soda and garnished with a fresh oregano leaf. “When creating the gooseberry cordial, using steam extraction rather than a conventional juicer allowed us to increase the juice yield by 900%. The leftover husks are converted into jams or added to the compost pile. For the oregano-flavoured champagne vinegar, we use fractional freezing to reduce any of the flat champagne we have left over after service to 50% volume. We then add a mother of vinegar and over time, delicious champagne vinegar is produced. It is infused with oregano, which is replanted to the bar from the garden and used to bring acidity to the cocktail.”
A refined selection of nibbles is available to accompany the drinks, which includes the likes of Nocellara del Belice olives and Mignonette pepper almonds. The highlight, Bart points out, are the homemade pickles. “They are made using pickled cucumbers that we peeled to garnish Cairo, white beetroots, kohlrabis, carrots – anything that’s left over from our cocktail ingredients production that would otherwise land in the bin. Our pickles are never the same twice and always exciting to try!”
We focus on establishing Crossroads as the place to go to for any occasion.
Crossroads’ sustainable credentials are already extensive, but the team aim to work even harder on reducing their waste and generating less CO2. Eventually, they plan to use the irrigation system installed behind the venue’s plasterboards, which captures water coming through the Victorian tiles behind, to grow their own ingredients, and are looking to install solar panels that would power the whole bar. Bart adds: “We are also super excited about the plans to open the Camden Highline, a community garden walkway that will run directly above our heads on a disused train bridge. Boy, do we hope to get an allotment there!”
Crossroads, Junction of Royal College St & Camden Rd, London, NW1 9NN
Originally published in the November 2020 print edition of Bar magazine.