Rattlesnake, London

Paul Daly, the leading designer and bar owner, set off on a road trip across the United States to seek inspiration for his latest venue. Covering 2,600 miles, he visited dive bars and native American reservations, picking up ideas that have come together in Rattlesnake, a live music bar and “Texican” kitchen in Islington, north London. “I had the name ‘Rattlesnake’ for a long time in my head so I went to America on a trip from Las Vegas to Texas,” he explains. “I found all this amazing stuff and shipped it back.”

But he stresses that this was for inspiration, not for creating a “pastiche” American theme bar. “Rattlesnake is not supposed to be a knock-off. I didn’t want it to be a Harley Davidson and other American things but just in that style. I was inspired by the journey, not trying to make it American. It is a blend of the things that I’m interested in.” Instead, Paul says it is a combination of American and English culture – devised by an Irishman.

Originally from Dublin, Paul has long had an affinity with the US, having lived in New York City’s East Village in the late 1980s, hanging out in bars listening to music on jukeboxes. Music has been an important part of his life, having fronted a band in Dublin in 1981 and designed stage props for U2’s Zoo TV tour. After returning to London in 1988, Paul designed bar, club and retail interiors but opened his own venue, Zigfrid, in Hoxton Square, London, in 2003, followed in 2008 by Roadtrip in Old Street in 2008 which now hosts live music in its basement space, The Workshop.

For Rattlesnake, he has created a 300-capacity new venue out of a former Walkabout, now split into a bar at the front and a music venue at the back with a stage, fitted out with a Nexo sound system and 16-track mixing desk. Future plans include opening a rooftop terrace. Having stood empty for two-and-a-half years, the site was completely stripped back and remodelled, moving the toilets into the basement to create more space on the ground floor. A jukebox is a focal point of the bar, featuring what Paul calls “proper music” such as early Bowie, Joy Division and Velvet Underground.

The walls feature album cover images turned into wallpaper alongside Paul’s signature neon signs and decorative pieces based on his travels. With Paul’s love of classic movie Easy Rider, the booths are inspired by the studded leather panniers of Harley Davidson touring bikes. Other seating such as the upholstered stools with backs have been created by Paul as an evolution of previous furniture designs. Rattlesnake features video art curated by Open Gallery as well as works by artist-photographer Marcus Tomlinson. “I see my venues as constantly changing art installations that people can experience, enjoy and interact with,” Paul adds.

The drinks list has been developed by Paul with the bars’ development manager Oonagh Halferty, who joined in April from Revolution operator Inventive Leisure where she was a general manager. With Heineken as one of its suppliers, the beers include Czech beer Krušovice, Birra Moretti and Sagres, with American craft beers due to be added to the line-up. Alongside a good selection of wines and spirits, there is an emphasis on tequila such as Patrón, Olmeca Altos, Don Julio, Chamucos, Herradura, Ocho and Arette.

There is a simple cocktail list, with classics available on request although a Tommy’s Margarita and a Paloma feature on the menu. Twists include Mama’s Jam Margarita which is made with Olmeca Altos blanco, lime juice, apricot liqueur and apricot jam, or there is a Cachaçasnake – Velho Barreiro cachaça, lime juice, ginger beer and orgeat syrup. While the drinks may be good, this is a fun good-time bar, open from midday to 2am at weekends. “There are lots of live music venues in London that I have a lot of respect for but few can offer great live bands, a designed bar and good hearty food,” Paul says. “That’s what Rattlesnake will try and bring to London.”

56 Upper Street, London N1 0NY
Tel: 020 7354 0471 www.rattlesnakeangel.com

Previous Waterhouse Bar, Brighton
Next North Bar, Leeds