Last Thursday evening I attended the grand opening of No. 90, a Cuban-inspired oasis of a bar/restaurant located in the bohemian London district of Hackney Wick. On entering, I was impressed by the large, high-ceilinged space, broken by clusters of sofas and long benches for diners. Despite the open plan approach, I found that it still achieved an intimate vibe, showcasing great local art and boasting an eclectic taste in furnishings.
The brainchild of Bruno and Remy, No. 90 is obviously a labour of love. The pair have a background in running events and have previously headed an independent record label, Half Baked. This new business appears to be an organic growth upon their previous efforts, with live music, fantastic food and exciting cocktails being the main draws and a trendy canal-side location sealing the deal. Chatting to Bruno on the bar’s back patio, I was able to get a better impression of the history of the business and of where they intend to take this latest venture. He was clearly very proud of what they have managed to achieve at No. 90 and spoke passionately of how the local arts community have rallied in support.
Art of various forms and live music were in abundance on opening night. The fantastic Ruth Royall, with guitarist, performed jazz numbers from a barge moored on the canal. Inside, ‘Lois and the Love’ got everybody moving to the sound of funky riffs and vocals from an energetic and awesomely talented Lois. Hackney based artist, Charlie McFarley provided a set of unique and distinctively drawn canvases, which colourfully explored the surreal in cartoonish and macabre fashion. I also enjoyed seeing the selection of bespoke clothing designed by Gloria Bellardi, which was an interesting and unexpected addition to the event.
The grand opening food deserves a particular mention; with flame grilled gourmet burgers and ribs served from an open kitchen captained by an enigmatic and mutton-chopped head chef. Canapes were also doing the rounds and I made sure to sample as many options as I could. Vegetable spring rolls with cranberry sauce and goats’ cheese for dipping were a personal favourite. I was also impressed with the cocktails, sampling the rum-soaked ‘Welcome to Cuba’ and the dangerously chuggable ‘Fruity Loops’. A double rum was reasonably priced and generously poured.
No. 90 certainly has a lot going for it, not least the drive within its founders to keep innovating. This summer will see open-air films screened from a barge by the canal and development of the roof space is rumoured to be in the pipeline. All in all a very exciting time for London’s newest live music venue, bar and eatery, with plenty of reasons to make your first visit a top priority. Certainly alternative, certainly entertaining.
Check out more photos from the event on our Flickr page.
Words and photography by Joe Hitchmough