28-30 Church Road has already featured twice on this blog; first as part of Bambino’s, and then as Boyce de Roca, a cafe which occupied the premises for a couple of years. Then in July 2017, Joe Hirschhorn opened his eponymous bar. With its eclectic decor, it certainly doesn’t feel like your average bar, and it has always been Joe’s intention to do something unique, rather than following the herd with an identikit watering hole. The collection of Victorian Staffordshire figurines housed in the beautiful display cabinets, is a nod to their charismatic owner’s former career as an antique dealer. Days he remembers fondly as a very creative time, when he was based at the Gasworks in Fulham. Furniture design is another of Joe’s skills, with the chairs and tables having been designed by him. They’re intended to be communally shared, and moved around to suit whatever’s going on in the venue. The circular drum-like stools also have a removable lid for customers’ coats and bags. Along another wall is a record collection and decks. There’s no playlist, and customers are encouraged to choose the music, which makes it feel like you’re in your own living room.
Calling this place a bar, wouldn’t do it justice, it seems to offer so much more. Joe prefers drinks cafe, rather than pub or cocktail bar, but it’s also an intimate little venue for a fascinating array of unusual music, cabaret, poetry, cinema, and DJs. Recent performances have included the award winning Celia Quartet, Kate Gilbert’s intriguingly named Lost & Found Cabaret, Viola da Gamba player and teacher at the Royal College of Music, Reiko Ichise, and even something called Brexit – The Gameshow!
And I haven’t even mentioned the food and drink yet. The menu consists of exceptionally good tapas, but it’s the drinks that have already become legendary locally, and once on the subject, Joe is clearly animated and extremely knowledgable. When opening the bar, he felt strongly that while London is incredibly innovative when it comes to food, drinks are often run of the mill standard offerings, and he was determined to do things differently. With particular focus on spirits, the drinks cafe is a place where everything except the alcohol is actually made on the premises. So a range of tonics using cinchona, are all steeped for 24 hours in fruits and spices behind the bar. And home made cola is made with coriander, star anise, ginger and orange. The very stylish drinks are served with reusable glass straws, and in winter some are even served hot, which is a revelation.
After learning much from Joe about the history of gin, we went on to local history, and how, when the Crystal Palace arrived on a rural local hillside in the 1850s, the area immediately became the centre of the universe, with the world flocking to the ground breaking building to discover all the very latest in Victorian invention and technology. He feels lucky to be living and working in an area with such a rich legacy, and is hopeful that the Phoenix suburb’s time is coming again.
by: James Balston
First published: The Triangle SE19 Blog
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