Photography by Tayer + Elementary
Words by Simon Difford on 16-Aug-2019
152 Old Street, London, EC1V 9BW, United Kingdom
Website: View bar's website
Style: Cocktail bar
Price guide: Middling
Owned by: Alex Kratena and Monica Berg
At first glance, this is yet another brutalist Shoreditch/Hoxton/Old Street bar with bare concrete, exposed aircon ducking and raw steel trunking. But unlike so many of its neighbours, Tayēr + Elementary has soul – the result of a couple's experiences, dreams and aspirations brought to life with the help of a brilliant team who are delighted to be part of their adventure and relish sharing this with every guest who ventures through the door. Add to this T+E's visionary drink and food offering and you've one of the world's very best bars. Certainly, one of the most interesting and enjoyable to visit.
Alex Kratena and Monica Berg are two of the world's best-known and most-respected bartenders, so the opening of their new bar was hotly anticipated. And like most newbuilds, it was much delayed with the couple on-site every day striving to overcome the many and varied issues familiar to every self-builder. The fact they chose materials and oversaw the build, plus details such as shapely but sturdy, warm and comfortable wooden barstools, is what gives what could otherwise be just a utilitarian bar real soul.
Name & concept
Their vision was to create a bar for people to hang out in during the day and into the evening. A place as much for locals as for global bar nomads. A bar with great drinks as well as a strong food focus.
Tayēr (derived from the Spanish taller, meaning workshop or space) reflects the food and drinks menus being continuous works in progress. On the night we visited this was evident with the menu saying "RU Pepper & Orange + Raspberry are on their way out to make room for new cocktails. If they run out during tonight's service – don't worry – they might come back!"
As with other notable bars, such as New York's Dead Rabbit, Tayēr + Elementary comprises two adjoining bar concepts with the first acting as a vestibule/holding area for the inner sanctum second bar. In this case, Elementary sits at the front, a destination in itself, with Tayēr behind.
Elementary is an all-day bar, serving simple but delicious, largely pre-batched drinks (be sure to try both the One Sip Martini and Jack & Sherry Coke) served in just three different glasses – small, medium and large. Snacks by TÁ TÁ Eatery, focus on seasonality and are an important element of Elementary's offering – including their legendary Sando (Iberian pork, raspberry jam and XO shallot sauce).
Tayēr is a more progressive bar with a semi-island bar counter which wraps around a space-age central stainless steel bar system which is rightly the focus of the room.
The team, including the very hospitable Greg Almeida (ex. Scarfes Bar), may have different responsibilities and areas they are accountable for but all rotate roles from front-of-house to bar-back. A team truly working as a team.
The cocktails are complex and beautifully balanced but simple in their execution and presentation. Rotovaps and centrifuges are reassuringly absent.
Due to the nature of this everchanging menu, there's little point my listing drinks. However, the vodka-based San Marzano Tomato with Suze, Martini Ambrato Vermouth and Tio Pepe fino sherry was brilliant and it apparently took four days to clarify the tomato juice the old-fashioned way.
The playful Vodka + "Red Bull" on the Classix section of the menu is also worthy of mention. This comprised beef fat-washed vodka served as an ice-cold shot alongside beef tartare-stuffed lettuce wings.
And if all you fancy is a beer, wine or coffee, then be assured these are treated with the reverence as the cocktails with the beer coming from Partizan Brewing.
T+E is designed and driven by a brilliant couple but perhaps one of the cleverest things they did was to invite another couple, Ana Gonçalves and Zijun Meng (TÁ TÁ Eatery), two of the most-regarded chefs in London, to have a permanent residency. With them came their most famous dish, the Sando. A delicious sandwich, which is alone worth visiting for.
Zijun offers a personal dining experience for four at the bar's Kitchen Counter with a five-course set menu. Bookings for this very special experience open on the 1st of each month.