The only way is Essex in first UK outing for Marbella’s La Sala

La Sala

Southern Spain’s glamorous La Sala restaurant and bar has been brought to the borders of Essex. Pictures by Richard Southall of Emphasis Photography

It’s difficult to avoid mentioning The Only Way is Essex when writing about the new restaurant and bar La Sala that has opened near Chigwell. For many Britons, the original La Sala in Marbella in southern Spain was made famous by a spin-off of the hit reality TV show, The Only Way is Marbs. The glamorous bar and restaurant was opened in the sun-drenched Puerto Banús marina by Sala Group in 2010, quickly becoming a destination for the rich and famous.

The opportunity for bringing the Mediterranean party venue to the UK was seized upon by James Horler, the seasoned restaurateur who heads groups such as Rocket and previously built up La Tasca. For investors, he has brought together enough footballers to form their own team including Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Liverpool player Raheem Sterling, ex-Spurs midfielder David Bentley and former Birmingham City captain Stephen Carr. Under licence from Sala Group, they plan to open five La Sala venues around the UK but, with its Essex links, it made sense for the first to be in Woodford Bridge in north-east London, just over the border from the Essex town of Chigwell.

La Sala

Appropriately enough, the site was previously Deuces, the nightclub opened four years ago by Mark Wright, a former star of The Only Way is Essex, with friend Jack Tweed. It has been completely revamped with leading hospitality designers Design At Source, creating a slice of stylish Mediterranean lifestyle out of what was originally a Victorian pub called the White Hart Inn.

The redevelopment saw the creation of outside terraces at the front and back, well sheltered and heated, to distract from the English weather, with white rendering on the exterior to evoke Spanish architecture.

La Sala

On arrival by car, staff are on hand to offer valet parking in the new landscaped car park. Passing through the covered entrance veranda, guests are greeted at reception before being taken through to the main bar or on to the restaurant, both on the ground floor. Upstairs is a private dining room, called the Laurent-Perrier Room, overlooking the bar, alongside stylish toilets, while the basement is home to the Marqués de Riscal wine tasting room (pictured below) with a large wine cellar and carved stone spittoon.

A rustic feel has been added by cladding some of the interior walls with slices of tree trunks, while glass wine cabinets stretch up like trees in the double-height space of the main bar. Furniture inside and out has been sourced from Ultimate Furniture, including its Serena armchairs, side chairs and bar stools and bespoke waney-edged tables with turned rococo bases.

Behind the long wooden-top bar, shelves are filled with top-end spirits including fine cognacs. Like the back bar, the cocktails use premium brands such as the classic Tommy’s Margarita which, at £15, is made with Herradura Añejo tequila. The list is chiefly popular classics, from a Mojito, Cosmopolitan and Bramble through to a Tom Collins with Portobello Road Gin and a Vodka Martini made with super-premium Beluga vodka.

La Sala

With Meantime London Pale Ale and Estrella Damm on draught, bottled beers include Brooklyn Lager, Meantime Yakima Red, Sol and more beers from Spain’s Estrella Damm: Daura, Inedit and Drive. Alongside an extensive wine list, champagnes are on hand, nearly all by the bottle, to fuel the party. As well as Cristal and Dom Pérignon, the bar specialises in Laurent-Perrier, from Rosé and Ultra Brut up to Grand Siècle Cuvée and Belle Époque. Bottled water is provided through an Eau de Vie system for filtering tap water.

In the restaurant, starters include steamed Suffolk mussels in a creamy white wine and garlic sauce, tempura tiger prawns and nigiri and maki sushi. As well as a selection of salads, mains include barbecue pork ribs, sticky pork belly, steaks, tuna, fish pie and traditional fish and chips. Indulgent desserts range from baked Bramley apple and sultana crumble to a double chocolate and walnut brownie with hot chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream.

While many of the elements of La Sala in Marbella have made it to Chigwell Road, it is not a carbon copy, points out designer Anthony Bishop at Design At Source. “While it was important to maintain some of the iconic visual elements from Puerto Banús, other new ideas have been introduced as the brand progresses and develops. But, as with all great venues, good design is only one of the key elements and the design is there to facilitate the fantastic service and laid-back blend of dining, drinking partying – for customers of all ages – for which La Sala is quite rightly renowned.”

692-694 Chigwell Road, Woodford Bridge, London IG8 8AL
Tel: 0333 006 3008

la sala

Behind the scenes
Design: Design At Source
Fit -out contractor: Rocket Interiors
Furniture: Ultimate Furniture
Lighting: Tyson Lighting
Theming: FDM Artwork
Signage: NSI
Catering equipment: Fatboys
Electrics: DPS
Mechanical: LJ Air
Water systems: Eau de Vie

All systems go
To help staff at La Sala provide prompt, efficient and personal service, epos technology has been sourced from hospitality specialist TISSL. One of the key attractions was TISSL’s ability to integrate loyalty management functions as La Sala intends to build a large base of returning customers. Management chose mobile point-of-sale tablet devices so that servers could circulate, not only for processing payments but for taking and transmitting orders to the kitchen and creating bills. In the back office, TISSL software has automated business processes relating to accounting, stock management and staff management. It provides comprehensive analysis of stock use and customer transactions, offering real-time operational visibility and control.

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