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Interview with GOAT’s Steve Manktelow
August 8, 2014
Candid sits down with Trailer Happiness’s first ‘Rum God’ and the inventor of the Royals’ favourite ‘Crackbaby shot’, Steve Manktelow, to discuss his now one and a half year old New York-Italian restaurant, bar and speakeasy, GOAT.
How did you get into the restaurant/bar business?
One of my friends called me up on Christmas eve in 1992 and asked me if I wanted to earn any money. I was in my first year of uni and said, “Yeah, absolutely”, so ended up working in a bar in New Zealand for about 9 months and absolutely loved it. I can remember thinking that this was the coolest job in the world and that I wanted to stay in this industry forever. Two days after graduating I got on a plane and came over here and worked in bars. Then in 1998 Pharmacy had just opened in Notting Hill with Damien Hirst, alongside Dick Bradsell and Chris Edwards who were running the drinks list. I was lucky enough to get a job with them – I learnt so much from those two – and that was a proper cocktail bar for the first time and I’ve jut kept on doing the same thing ever since.
How did you come about opening up GOAT?
I got to the stage where in order to progress I needed to do my on thing. We (myself, my business partner Tim Cunliffe, and my wife Katia) came up with a couple of concepts and then started looking for a site that would fit one of them, and then this place came up. We actually put an offer in without having seen the whole site. I can remember going through and seeing it for the first time feeling completely elated; it had so many amazing possibilities. Coming from a bar background, I’ve always wanted to open a speakeasy-style bar and the space upstairs aligns itself perfectly with that.
Tell us about the restaurant side of GOAT
We also realised that the way the industry is moving, we needed to have a strong food offering as part of the concept; having a food element gives people more of a reason to walk through the front door. The way that we are laid out at the moment with having restaurant and the two bars is that we can take somebody’s entire night; they can have a reception drink in one of the bars upstairs, move to the restaurant for dinner and then go up to the other bar after dinner.
We say our food is New York-Italian. We wanted to base the menu around wood-fire pizza but didn’t want to do traditional Italian, as we wanted to put dishes on which were more contemporary. Both my wife and I love going to restaurants in New York; we love the vibe and everything seems noisier, more bustling, busier more contemporary in their design and they seem to borrow elements from a lot of different cuisines. That’s kind of what we wanted to do here. A good example is our lobster pizza; we do a crème fraîche and tomato base and then lobster and pancetta on top. We also do a tuna tartare one where we use soy and little bit of wasabi in the mix so it’s almost like a sashimi-style tartare. And then we put a burger on the menu eight weeks ago and it’s quickly become our biggest seller.
Give us a breakdown of the bars
Upstairs we’ve got a cocktail bar which has DJs Fridays and Saturdays. We also hold a 1920s event once a month up there, and there are another couple of fun nights we aim to put on once we come out of summer.
The speakeasy, Chelsea Prayer Room, is completely separate. You enter it through a secret door from the main bar. The idea of that was that we’d knocked down a wall in the old pub (whch the site of GOAT used to be) and found a bar that had been there for one hundred years.
We play a lot more jazz in that space and it has a completely different feel and décor so that it appears cut-off from the rest of the world.
What differentiates GOAT’s cocktails from other bars’?
We initially wanted to have different cocktail menus for each section of GOAT but it became very difficult running three separate drinks lists so what ended up happening was a natural progression of the three melding together to form our overall cocktail concept. Now we have a lot of drinks that use ingredients such as vermouths and Aperol, as well as an Italian-style port. We substitute a lot of these ingredients into classic recipes. Coming up with the names for new cocktails is the tricky part. Chris Edwards, who I used to work with at Pharmacy, always came up with clever puns and we try to do that; for example, we have an apple and pear cocktail called a ‘Paddington Pear’. That’s the sort of thing he taught me, that names should always be memorable and a bit tongue-in-cheek. Drinking should be fun. You don’t go out to a bar to discuss the merits of Vodka A over Vodka B, you go out to hang out with friends, chat, relax and enjoy yourself so I think the elements of drinking and cocktails should accentuate that not suck the fun out of it.
What is your favourite cocktail on the menu?
The ‘Little Tokyo’. It’s one of the first ones we used a powdered fruit in which is freeze-dried fruit that is grinded down to make this 100% fruit powder which intensifies the flavour as there is no water dilution. We used a powdered plum for the ‘Little Tokyo’, which is quite an interesting flavour as you don’t see it very often in cocktails. We thought that juniper would go well so we used some gin with it, added some citrus to bring out the sour element of the plum, then we added a little but of plum wine to add some sweetness, then a tiny bit of egg white to add a fluffy texture.
Apart from your own, what is your favourite bar in London?
Why should Candid readers come to GOAT?
I think that there are enough interesting aspects in the three sections to create a whole evening. What I’d say is, come over, have a drink upstairs in the bar or outside in the sun; have some diner, try the pizzas or the steak or the monkfish which is amazing; so back up to the speakeasy and have a couple of drinks up there, and then you’ve also got clubs right on the doorstep for after that. It’s an evening without having to go too far, once you’re here.
Vicky Ilankovan – Lifestyle Editor