It’s rare to see the chain of reasoning leading up to a design decision as clearly as one can at McQueen in Shoreditch. McQueen is named after the late actor Steve McQueen. Steve McQueen quite famously liked cars and motorcycles. Nice cars and motorcycles often have quite a lot of leather in them. Thus, so should McQueen.
So seems to have been the logic behind McQueen’s decor, which boasts more leather than a Soho sex shop — though at least here it’s mostly in a deep shade of russet brown. In the rare instances when the designers couldn’t justify coating a surface in leather they opted for some Dulux colour-matched wood. The end result is that after a short while your vision begins to blur for lack of anything to focus on that isn’t the exact same shade as the average roof tile.
Thankfully, for what the main bar lacks in decorative diversity, McQueen’s welcome new outdoor space offers (literally) a breath of fresh air. This is no roof terrace or beer garden — instead they’ve taken over the lot across the street, carving out a subterranean open air space. Some creative license is still required — you’ve got to work hard to forget that there’s a car park hidden immediately behind the bar — but given its friendly Tabernacle Street location, it’s probably now one of the largest outside drinking spots Shoreditch boasts.
Here the Steve McQueen theme is interpreted more literally, the walls emblazoned with illustrations of tyre tracks, cars, and the man himself. Most mercifully, there isn’t a chesterfield sofa in sight, the spot instead boasting some more element-friendly seating (in white!) and some cavernous umbrellas to protect from the worst of the British summer.
As for what it’s serving, the beer list is a bit backwards (nary a craft brew in sight) but there’s an extensive collection of cocktails that kick off at around a tenner, and wine from £24 a bottle and climbing to predictably lofty heights. It’s not cheap, but then that’s never why you go to a place that even took the time to decorate its outdoor bar front in cushioned leather. Just like the actor’s own treasured supercars, McQueen is about style and a statement. And an awful lot of leather.
Words by Dominic Preston