From left to right: Xavier Padovani, Romée de Goriainoff, Pierre-Charles Cros and Olivier Bon of The Experimental Group
While it seems that every French restaurant is closing left, right and centre in London and the appetite for Gallic cuisine seems to have dwindled, there are four Frenchmen who are flying the Tricolore high in London, France and other parts of the world.
Romée de Goriainoff, Olivier Bon and Pierre-Charles Cros, along with Xavier Padovani, are the entrepreneurs behind the Experimental Cocktail Club in Paris and London, wine bar Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels in Covent Garden and the 37-bedroom Grand Pigalle hotel, that they opened last month, in the French capital.
Earlier in the year, they announced the opening of their third site in London. Joyeux Bordel is a new cocktail bar on Curtain Road in Shoreditch that opens later this month. We caught up with Pierre and Xavier just before Easter to hear more about their new basement drinking den.
Adam Hyman: Good afternoon, gentlemen. Sorry to interrupt the tail end of your lunch. How is everything going?
Xavier Padovani: Very well, thank you. The builders are close to finishing the new bar and we’ve just opened the new hotel in Paris.
AH: Can we hear a little more about your new hotel?
Pierre-Charles Cros: The Grand Pigalle is our first hotel and it’s housed in two villas on the corner of Rues Victor-Massé and Henry Monnier. The space has been designed by Dorothée Meilichzon. We wanted to create a hotel for travellers who wanted a unique experience and immerse themselves in the local culture.
AH: The hotel sounds fantastic. I look forward to seeing it the next time I visit Paris. And what can we expect with your new London bar, Joyeux Bordel?
PC: We really want it to be a destination cocktail bar that has the same fundamental values as both our other places in London but will hopefully be recognised as place of serenity from the hustle and bustle of the east end.
XP: This is very much a cocktail bar - we may serve a few snacks - but our emphasis is on the quality and product of the drinks. You won’t see the usual brands on our back bar that a lot of other bars in London have. We’re going to also focus on vermouth and have a few special vintage spirits. Of course, if enough people ask for a certain type of gin or a tonic water, we will get it. There’s a very fine line between confidence and arrogance - you can advise a customer but you must not preach to them. You must give good service.
AH: Will you just be serving cocktails or is it possible to come in for a glass of wine and a snack?
XP: We will have a couple of beers as well as serving Billecart-Salmon, who we always work with. But I think that will be it - the main focus really is on cocktails. Food wise, we’ll start by having some charcuterie - we’re working with Hill & Szrok in Broadway Market - and some cheese from Androuet in Spitalfields Market but that’s it for the mean time. You never know, it may change.
AH: And I understand that the music you will be playing is going to be integral to the whole experience at Joyeux Bordel?
PC: Correct. Music is so important, especially in a bar. We really want people to be able to dance and have fun. A lot of the time we feel that you can’t do this to mainstream music that you get in a lot of bars.
XP: There’ll be a big emphasis on the music. We started talking to Daniel Willis from The Clove Club about the project as we knew he liked music. It just started out as a friendly chat over a few beers at Hoi Polloi in the Ace hotel but now Dan, and his brother Sam, are officially involved. We’ve found these great vintage music system from the 1950s - a large amp and speakers from an old cinema.
AH: Like your other places, I’m guessing the interior design has also been very carefully thought through?
XP: We hope to find soul in the place. We are using the same designer as we have done for ECC, CVS and the hotel. The space certainly lends itself to a certain type of design. We really want it to be the sort of bar that you could come to on a Sunday evening at 6pm for a cosy drink or at 2am on Thursday night to have fun.
PC: I also think the design and decor reflects the fact that as a group, we have grown up slightly since we first launched ECC Paris eight years ago.
AH: It sounds like the bar will be open till late?
PC: Yes, it will be open till 3am on Thursday to Saturday. It can hold around 130 people and we’ll take bookings. We have a theory - that we also believe works - when it comes to running bars. We like to control the number of people as you can offer a far superior service. Similar to that of a restaurant. You’d never sit 100 people in your restaurant all at the same time, it would kill the service and kitchen.
XP: So, we much prefer to have fewer people. In return we can offer better drinks and we find the atmosphere is better.
AH: That makes sense. As a customer, there’s nothing more infuriating that waiting ages at a bar to be served because the bartenders are making copious amounts of cocktails. Finally, what does the future hold for the ECC group?
PC: We are currently focusing on Joyeux Bordel and the hotel in Paris, as well as Experimental Beach Ibiza, which opens for the season again soon. We’ll then see what happens after that!
Joyeux Bordel opens on Thursday 16 April.
Joyeux Bordel, 147 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3QE