Mark Ludmon visits 7 Tales, the Japanese-inspired bar downstairs at Jason Atherton’s newest London restaurant
Within two months of opening, the small basement bar of chef Jason Atherton’s newest London restaurant, Sosharu, earned enough nominations to be named one of the world’s top 10 restaurant bars in Tales of the Cocktail’s international Spirited Awards. This achievement by 7 Tales owes much to Jason’s commitment to offering drinks that are as good as his food, demonstrated by acclaimed London bars at City Social, Pollen Street Social, Social Eating House and Berners Tavern. To accomplish this, he has brought in a talented team, led by Geoff Robinson, formerly at Happiness Forgets and Experimental Cocktail Club, and Michele Mariotti, most recently at The American Bar at The Savoy.
The drinks are inspired by Japanese culture and philosophies, fitting in with the Japanese izakaya-style cuisine served in the restaurant on the ground floor. They include twists on classics such as a Nikkei Martinez (pictured below), combining aged sake and a mosto verde pisco with vermouth, black salt and flowers, and the Bonita Appleplum, a fresh mix of sugarcane umeshu, sugarcane, amontillado, rum, lemon and orange bitters.
Playful serves include the Champagne Papi, made with Perrier Jouët NV, umeshu, banana and lactic sugar, served with a coin which guests use in the bar’s bespoke vending machine (pictured below) to get a sugar cube for enhancing the flavours of the champagne. There is of course a good range of Japanese whiskies and sakes plus packaged beers ranging from Kirin Ichiban lager in cans to more home-grown brews such as Undercurrent oatmeal pale ale from Berkshire’s Siren brewery. Bar snacks include wagyu salami, chicken karaage and squid tempura.
Shanghai-based design studio Neri & Hu created the interiors of Sosharu – part of a new building on the site of the old Turnmills club in Clerkenwell – with the 75-cover restaurant framed by timber structures inspired by the traditional “minka” design of Japanese houses. 7 Tales was treated as a distinct venue, contrasting in design to upstairs, says Neri & Hu’s senior associate Erika Lanselle. It evokes the subculture of the Golden Gai area of Shinjuku in Tokyo in an intimate setting suggestive of a neighbourhood izakaya gastrobar. Banquette seating hug the walls while stools line the brass-topped bar.
“Timber features heavily to add warmth to the space, including the full-height shelves at the back bar,” Erika adds. “The bespoke wallpaper we designed helps define the bar, enveloping all its walls with a collage of photos taken around Japan. The images capture scenes from everyday life – food, signage, architecture, movie posters – and embody the counterculture spirit of Japanese artists from the 1960s. Graphics feature heavily throughout so guests will notice something different every time they visit.” With a pun on buckwheat noodles, a large neon sign calls on guests to “drink sake stay soba”.
The design ethos extends to the toilets which feature Japanese proverbs offering words of wisdom – plus Japanese-style heated seats. With exceptional service levels, every detail combines to make this small space a big player on Britain’s bar scene.
7 Tales, Sosharu, 64 Turnmill Street, London EC1M 5RR
Tel: 020 3805 2304
Behind the scenes
Design: Neri & Hu
Main contractor: 3Interiors
Lighting: Into Lighting
Neon signs: Light & Motion, Neon Specialists
Bespoke furniture: De La Espada, Design Republic
Bar stools: Magis
Originally published in the July 2016 print edition of Bar magazine.