Drake & Morgan’s vast new flagship venue in King’s Cross is causing quite a stir. Is this the future of the bar and restaurant industry?
Arriving at the vast new Drake & Morgan King’s Cross venue, I spot a large gathering of ladies enjoying lunch to my right in the restaurant, people sipping coffee and tapping away on laptops on comfortable lounging chairs to my left, and a the beer tasting event at the bar downstairs.
‘Drake & Morgan always looks for big locations like this,’ nods Operations Director, Dylan Murray when I refer to the sheer scale of the site. ‘It enables a lot of things to happen in the same building. We want this site to be attractive to as many people as possible.’
Opening late last year, Drake & Morgan boasts two bars on the ground and lower ground floors, an elegant dining room with an open kitchen alongside a deli, lounge, private dining room and outdoor terrace. There was a lot to fit into what has become the brand’s flagship venue.
It marks an important change, too, in the history of Drake & Morgan. It’s been a year since Murray came on board, leaving the Soho House Group after a seven year stint. ‘I loved my time at Soho House, but I looked at Drake & Morgan – with its core of seven bars and restaurants – and thought there was so much opportunity,’ he says on the lure of changing roles. ‘Jillian [MacLean, Drake & Morgan’s Managing Director] is a real inspiration. She’s somebody I admire and look up to a great deal. I knew this was something very special.’
The likes of The Folly near Monument, The Parlour Canary Wharf way, and The Refinery on Bankside have all been big hits for Drake & Morgan – but the King’s Cross launch is a radical change when you consider the name above the door. ‘Part of the work we have done this year is to look at the brand,’ Murray explains. ‘What does the name Drake & Morgan mean to our customers? We needed to put the company name on the map and we needed people to connect with us. We had a group of seven bars and restaurants and they all had their own individual names – none of them tied back to Drake & Morgan.’
It’s phenomenal what they are doing here. I have been in the food and drink industry for 24 years and the best thing about being in the business in London is it changes so quickly
The decision was made, therefore, that the new King’s Cross location would be the first to sport the company name – and in Murray’s eyes there’s nowhere better to do it. ‘It’s phenomenal what they are doing here,’ he says on the rapid development of King’s Cross. ‘I have been in the food and drink industry for 24 years and the best thing about being in the business in London is it changes so quickly. The trends come in and they go out. Over the last five or six years things have become a lot more approachable. People want that comforting element: they want good home cooked food and speed of service, something that adds value to their life. We want to provide an escape for people.’
They are doing a pretty good job of it. I have had lunch here and loved the varied menu, particularly their signature dishes that are cooked on the charcoal-fired robata including a whole host of fish options. There’s comfort food in spades – bangers and mash, lobster mac and cheese, a dedicated burger element on the menu are all good examples – but also a selection of small plates for those only interested in a little bite before the drinking begins. Head to the bar downstairs and it’s a different world, starting with the dramatic emerald green staircase before choosing a leather-clad booth to sink into. There’s a whole host of beers on tap that will please lager and ale lovers in equal measure, but it’s the cocktails that catch the eye, with a menu created by the very clever mixologists at Drake & Morgan. Then it’s over to the DJs spinning some tunes until the early hours.
Visit the company’s website and you can see how Drake & Morgan King’s Cross is taking centre stage. The Refinery, which had a second opening in Regent’s Place, is another strand to the business, with the other locations now falling under the Drake & Morgan Collection, so the future looks bright. ‘It’s been a great first year, exciting and challenging,’ Murray smiles about his time here. ‘It didn’t take me long to fall in love with the business and the brand.’ The same could be said for North Londoners and Drake & Morgan King’s Cross.
WORDS Mark Kebble
6 Pancras Square N1C 4AG; 0845 468 0107; drakeandmorgan-kingscross.co.uk