Since we hosted Little Red Door in 2016 with their “Evocative Menu”, a selection of drinks represented through art created by artists who had blind tasted their new cocktail list, we have been interested to see how venues present their drinks to customers.
New Soho starlet, Disrepute, a collaboration between Ani and Ferdie of Barrio and Chris Dennis and Joseph St Clair-Ford of Sovereign Loss are also encouraging guests to choose a drink based on feelings rather than facts with the option of two menus.
To find out more, we catch up with Chris and Joseph…
As a bit of background, where are we?
Disrepute is located on Kingly Street, just off Carnaby Street in Soho. This location is important to us as it was the home of the infamous Pinstripe Club, a venue of late night liaisons, a mixing pot of politicians, aristocrats, men of industry and dancing girls and entertainers.
This was a venue that echoed and reflected a really interesting transitional period in Soho from the late 50’s to early 60’s as the post-war era of men in suits started to give way to the new generation of mods, rockers and musicians. It is also the time of the infamous Profumo Affair of 1961, which has a subtle influence on our décor, design and drinks.
With a site with such a rich history, it was very natural for us to harness this within the concept and development of the site.
The décor is inspired by the opulence of the traditional London’s members’ clubs and the drinks are organised into three sections, each with their own nod to our concept.
The Counter Culture, Pinstripe Lining and Screws of Convenience.
All of the drinks on the list would be described as ‘spirit forward’ letting the base spirit set the tone. We then broke the list into three sections to reflect the changing cultures during the time period of the Pinstripe Club.
Pinstripe Lining – these drinks are a nod to the earlier traditional men in suits you would have found in Soho. We are using a lot of brandies, whiskies and vermouths.
Screws of Convenience – a quote given by Christine Keeler when describing her affair with John Profumo. We use it in reference to longer style of drinks.
Counter Culture – the new breed of Soho, forward looking early 60’s and the birth of the generation of optimism – we are using products popular at the time – think Mateus Rose, Babycham etc.
And you have two menu options for the guest…
Yes, the first and preferred option is our prose menu. Each cocktail is supported by a short verse of prose written up as a character that might have frequented the Pinstripe Club at the time. The prose also lightly alludes to the flavour profile of the drink without any reference to ingredients.
An example of this is: The Welders Apprentice and The £1m Mod.
The backstory relates to the Soho character John Stephen – a welder’s apprentice from Glasgow who opened the first male clothes fashion store in Carnaby Street and became the youngest man in England to own a Rolls Royce. These two drinks tell his story through prose and flavour:
The Welder’s Apprentice
Glen Grant 10 year, Ardbeg 10 year, Anogstura bitters, Antica Formula, Maple Syrup
“A steely Haze Washed over a sky saturated with damp. Inside, the wispy smoke from the flickering fire of the workshop sailed through the air as fleeting sparks were born and died. Although the work being conducted was to fuse and unite, it also kindled a desire to escape and create something new, something different.”
The £1m Mod
A Martini in Vogue. The ingredients change with current taste and fashion, the same way Stephen made his career.
“The King of Carnaby, the man everyone wanted to be. If it was in fashion, it’s only because he said so. Self-made, entrepreneurial, and still debonair, he’d part Carnaby like the Red Sea.”
For guests who want to choose based on ingredients, we have a second list available.
And how has this worked in practice?
The prose menu probably represents about 70-80% of people choosing drinks. We have found it really popular for groups and couples who will order on behalf of their dates. Guests’ feedback highlight that they enjoyed drinks they might not have tried if they had simply looked at the ingredients and there is more discussion of flavours as customers then tend to look at the ingredients list after trying their drink. A good example of this is the Vintage Sour. A vodka-based cocktail that packs a lot of flavour and has surprised many of our guests:
Absolut blue, Gosnell’s Mead, honey blossom, lemon, egg white.
“It was always dark when they decided to meet. Away from their celebrity, away from their peers and in the company of those who could still keep a secret. They would sit calmly in the backdrop of debauchery that encircled them. Dabbing, but never giving in completely. Intense warm flavors followed by dancing on the palate.
And apart from the drinks and décor, is there anything else you would like to highlight or mention about Disrepute?
We have a few small touches we think are nice – paying homage again to late night liaisons, illicit affairs and secret messages – we present each table with a pencil, paper and an envelope to encourage interactions between tables.
Rather than have guests on their mobile phones, we want to encourage conversation. We had a lovely evening when a lady had been waiting for some time for her date to arrive, she received notes of support and invitations to join other guests and by time the poor man turned up, it felt like he had let down the whole bar!