After working in the licensed trade for 30 years, Siobhan MaGill has drawn on her experience of late-night London to create a new lounge bar across two floors in the heart of Soho. With business partner Sian Parry Jones, she aims to establish Archer Street as a destination both for cocktails and entertainment, with waiters and bar staff poised to burst into song.
The pair have completely transformed former gay venue Bar Code, ripping out everything except the top-notch Tannoy sound system. With the help of interior designer James Halliday, they have come up with a luxurious laid-back environment with the comfort of someone’s living room. The ground-floor bar has French windows looking out onto the street and is decorated with distressed wooden panelling, plush velvet sofas, button-back armchairs and lots of big patterned cushions.
Downstairs, a dark club space has been brightened up with a new bar (pictured left) covered in antique steel panels and more sofas and armchairs, stripy cushions, quirky mirrors and reclaimed rafter board walls. It has what the owners call an “après-ski feel”, with alcoves at the back used as VIP areas. The basement is open only Fridays and Saturdays but is ideal for private events including cocktail competitions.
The cocktail list has been put together by bar manager Hyun Park, formerly of Jekyll & Hyde in Birmingham and Bistro du Vin, with consultancy Create Cocktails. They have brought in an experienced team of bartenders including Daniel Hammond, formerly of Alma de Cuba, Mojo and Palm Sugar Loungein Liverpool. New cocktails, created by the bar staff, are added as specials each week alongside an extensive list of classics and original recipes.
The signature drink is the Dawa, based on a Kenya recipe meaning “magic potion”, made with vodka, lime, honey and brown sugar. Archer Street is also the first exclusive Billecart-Salmon champagne bar in London, with a cabinet of champagne greeting customers as they arrive. Champagne cocktails include the Champagne In Yorkshire made by adding gin, rhubard liqueur and syrup. Charcuterie plates make up the bar menu, while a free dish of cheese and biscuits is given to customers between 5pm and 7pm, inspired by the Italian “aperitivo” tradition.
Being in the heart of Theatreland, entertainment is important, from the all-singing staff to the DJs and themed evenings – Siobhan points out the low tables have been designed to be strong enough for people to dance on them. They are also planning to offer celebrities a chance to work behind the bar for a night to raise money for charity. “We felt there was a real gap in the market for a nice bar in Soho where you can dress up and go for a drink,” Siobhan explains.
She knows the Soho market well and also runs the nearby Freedom and O Bar with entrepreneur Keith Todd. She started her career at The Pheasantry in King’s Road with Keith’s brother, Ken Todd, and, apart from a spell at Tony Weller’s Beach Blanket Babylon in Notting Hill, worked with Ken for several years at his West End venues Bar Madrid, Zoo and Oxygen until they were sold to Chorion, now Novus Leisure, in 1998. After 18 months at Chorion, Siobhan returned to Ken, working with him on bars such as Cheers, Village, Lupo, Shadow Lounge and Jewel until he sold nearly all of them in 2004 to Soho Clubs & Bars, later acquired by Novus. He held on to Freedom and O Bar, enticing Siobhan back to run them with his brother in 2008 when he settled permanently in Los Angeles.
Her latest venture, open Monday to Saturday from mid-afternoon to 1am, is tucked away on Archer Street but is opposite the acclaimed Bocca di Lupo restaurant and next to the site of Firmdale Hotels’ latest development opening next year. With the emphasis on service, good drinks and entertainment, the 440-capacity bar will be a destination for people “looking for fun”, Siobhan says. “Instead of just being a place to go for a drink, you have to give them a great night-out – something that is an experience.”
Archer Street, 3-4 Archer Street, London W1D 7AP Tel: 020 7734 3342 www.archerstreet.co.uk