William Beatty, 28, is the bar manager at Granary Square Brasserie. He grew up in east London and has worked in bars and restaurants across the capital for ten years. He gave food writer Rebecca Seal his expert view on why London is the best place in the world to drink, as well as his favourite tipples to test.
In summer, sitting on the terrace here, it’s amazing being able to look at a blend of the old and new, with regenerated industrial spaces side-by-side with modern buildings. Not many other cities in the world exist where people are so creative architecturally, and willing to invest so much into a local area. In London’s bar world, the bar at The Ivy is practically an institution (it dates back to 1917), as is the American Bar at the Savoy (which opened in the late 19th century). One of my favourite bars in the whole of London is The Ivy, West Street. There are no thrills and spills until you taste the drink: it will be an absolute classic. That’s the one thing I remind myself and others — innovating and being interesting is great, but never forget the basics. If you can’t make a proper martini, what’s the point?
We use a lot of British ingredients here — we have a drink coming up with lovage in it. Our foundations are our raw ingredients and I love that in Britain, you can go out and — if you know what you’re doing — pick some wonderful products. I live in Walthamstow in Northeast London, so I’m in the city but quite close to Leyton where you can pick all sorts of things, like foraged wild garlic for a Bloody Mary.
“Innovating and being interesting is great but never forget the basics. If you can’t make a proper martini, that’s the point?”
Talent is attracted to this city. Recruitment is a bit of a problem in London, but not because there’s not enough talent; it’s because there is a lot of competition. There are four restaurants or bars within 200 yards of each other here, and this is a relatively quiet area compared to somewhere like Soho where bars are crammed in next to each other. But it is a virtuous circle; people with talent share their knowledge, expand it and then pass it on. Training is a massive part of my job. The most fulfilling part is when you’ve spent a lot of time with an individual and you see them grow and change. It’s only been a few months since we started here, but I’ve seen huge changes in the characters of some of our staff already. It’s the biggest reason I do my job — I mean, you can geek out over cocktails, but I don’t think it fulfils you overall.
I don’t think there is better mentorship anywhere else. I worked under Mark Hix, a famous British chef who inspired me to focus on British produce. Every month we were invited to come in and eat, and Mark would cook off with another chef — completely free and just for staff. Mark’s love for food and drink pushed me further in my career. I was doing well but after working with him, my career really took off. I owe him.
There’s so much competition in London that in order to get guests in and get your name known, you have to surpass your competitors. I’ve been to a few countries in Europe and the quality of bars just isn’t as good as in London. It’s only cities like New York or maybe LA that can compare, and that’s mainly down to the competition factor — there’s not as much pressure to succeed elsewhere, for both individuals and venues.
What’s great about working in King’s Cross, is that we very much feel like we are part of a community here, even though we are the new kid. Everyone has been really welcoming. We held a pancake day race this year with local businesses. We just put it out there and ended up with ten teams and raised lots of money for the charity Nordoff Robbins. There was a finance team, a team from Central Saint Martins art school, estate agents — one team was so dedicated they turned up in full sports kit. We were secretly pleased our neighbours on the square — the art students — won, they really appreciated that the top prize was a Åí250 voucher to spend at the restaurant. It was absolutely freezing and I was giving out hot chocolate, which people were using as hand warmers.
The one person I think is the biggest driving force in London’s bar scene is Marian Beke, who opened the Gibson (a beautiful, tiny and award-winning cocktail bar in Shoreditch) in late 2015.
He’s always pushing for innovation in the industry, and I’m always thinking, how did you come up with that? I first experienced his work when he was managing Nightjar (also award-winning) and even back then I used to think he should have his own place.
I got a lot of influence when I was appointed to this role, to build partnerships and develop locally inspired recipes. When I spoke to our head of bars in the group, he said, “If there’s anything you want to do, any products you like, go for it.” And I said I’d really like to work with Sacred, a distillery in North London, because they mirror the heritage we have here, but with a modern twist. I wanted to use their products in drinks like our English Negroni and now we work with them all the time. Micro — and not so micro — distilleries like Sipsmith, plus all the new breweries springing up, are another thing which makes London great.
My menu must-tries…
Passion of St Pancras
Shrubs are a traditional way to pickle and preserve fruit, and they taste wonderful. One we make with passion fruit, pineapple and balsamic is called the Passion of St Pancras. As well as its ingredients, the name references the local regeneration making N1C the next great place to be.
The Flying Scotsman
You have to have a cocktail called a Flying Scotsman if you’re in King’s Cross. We infuse Chivas 12-year-old with rosemary, add sherry and lemon bitters, stir it down and serve it on the rocks. If you like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan, or a whisky drink which is sturdy and robust, then this is the drink for you.
Platform 9 3/4
We worked with local tea brand, Yumchaa, to create a really cool cocktail, teaming their Blue Voodoo tea with Creme de Bergamot and Chase Seville orange gin. The cocktail ‘magically’ changes colour, so we called it the Platform 9 3/4.
Fancy yourself as a bit of an amateur mixologist? You can find the recipes for all three of Beattie’s menu must-tries here. Or if you’d prefer to leave the mixing to the experts, find Granary Square Brasserie at 1-3 Stable Street.
This article first appeared in the spring 2018 edition of King’s Cross Quarterly magazine. Read more about the people and stories that make King’s Cross, or find out where you can pick up the latest copy of King’s Cross Quarterly below.