Words by: Jane Ryan
In May 2014 Aqua London appointed a new bar manager, Myles Donneky, for their restaurants in the city's iconic Shard skyscraper. Myles is a young rising star in the industry with an impressive list of venues on his CV.
I started working at 14 for a men's tailor, and while the glamour of dressing well was something I liked, the best part of that job was the interaction with the customers. I liked the people, and I liked providing a service. The next year was my first in hospitality, working for a wedding company. We had the longest shifts setting up the venue, serving the meal and clearing after. I would set up the bar and when the guests had finished their meals these bartenders would stroll out and start mixing cocktails. They had the shortest shifts, the best pay and everyone loved them.
Most bartenders, I would say, were attracted to their job because they saw someone flairing, or watched a movie where a slick-looking guy would be tossing bottles in the air, coming across as impossibly cool. Those wedding bartenders weren't the best flairers, but that element of the job definitely drew me in. Perhaps today's bartenders won't admit that anymore, it's all about craft these days, but that's the way it was for me.
At 17 I was working in a pub and from there went onto a nightclub next door. My first serious bar job, however, was when I went to SAF, a vegan restaurant and bar in Shoreditch, where I was exposed to the infallible hospitality of Joe McCanta and the talent of John Clay. It was a dream team. A year here taught me so much about flavour, the head chef was generous with his time and allowed us to experiment with cooking techniques and various fruits and vegetables.
From SAF I was headhunted by Shaker Bar Schools to teach a course and went on to be head bartender of Shaker & Co when it opened which was a phenomenal opportunity. Finally I moved on to be bar manager at High Road House, part of the Soho House Group and after a year there was appointed bars manager of Shoreditch House and East London ambassador. That meant I worked with Hoxton Bar and Grill, Pizza East Shoreditch, Cheeky Nail Parlour and The Aubin Cinema.
It was working for Soho House Group where I met Dylan Murray, now at Drake & Morgan, who passed on his great management style and work ethic. I've always been interested in the psychology of management, and how to run sites. During my time as East London ambassador for the group I was overseeing five or six different menus, whereas in the Shard it's just two, but the differences are much more complex.
Both Hutong and Aqua Shard are doing incredibly well with about 1000 people coming through the doors. This can be intense but you come to love the fast pace. Because of this we have cocktails on the menu which are easy to get out. Our ten second serves are bottled and capped or corked. That way when someone orders a more complex drink we have the time to make it well.
Working in a landmark building has its benefits and then there are times like half term, which was interesting to say the least. However, most people come here because they're in a good mood and have a reason to celebrate so our task is to simply keep people at that happy, celebratory level. The high volume means these can be tricky bars to work, where you can miss the odd customer, which is where I come in and ensure everyone is being looked after.
The bars are open from 11am till half midnight and when I first joined I was here throughout the day and night but I'm getting better at controlling my hours now that there is a good management team in place. An average week for me sees Monday as management, Tuesday off, working till close Wednesday and Thursday then 11am till 10pm Friday and Saturday and off Sunday. This way I'm able to see the entire guest experience from open till close.
I always try and bartend on a shift, making drinks and having contact with the customers. There's a lot of muscle memory to bartending and I don't want to lose that, also it's about not just preaching to your staff but being able to get behind the bar and help them. I'd say my style is consistent, a trait I'm passionate about. I want my bartenders to enjoy their work, enjoy serving people, without the need to be drinking themselves and to be happy at the end of a shift to clean the bar. Everything should be consistent.
One day I want to own a string of bars, most likely restaurant bars as I have always enjoyed working in them and it's here that you find a real cross over between the kitchen and cocktails.
In my spare time I used to be really sporty, and loved running or playing football, things I still enjoy, just not so frequently. I'm a massive foodie, I cook a lot and recently I've embraced Chinese-style cooking, thanks in part to what I've seen here at Hutong. When I go out I tend to drink in the east where I live, I'm opposite Satan's Whiskers and I visit the Pond in Dalston, and the Sun Tavern on Bethnal Green Road.
I'd be interested in working in another city, perhaps Hong Kong with Aqua, but one day I hope to own my own string of venues, a coffee shop turned cocktail bar, a nightclub and a speakeasy-style restaurant. For the moment though I'm happy here, I love London so much and I work in the defining point of her cityscape.