After the closure of a long-standing cocktail bar ‘White Rabbit’ in Stoke Newington (and not to be mistaken for it’s twin by name in Dalston, a recommended eatery which I wrote about during its advent), mutterings and shifty glances have been made whilst passing by the premises due to the masked windows covertly named ‘125 Church Street’. Match that with a slogan ‘Soul, Creativity & Love’ underneath (which is actually the tag for the interior designers); cue more whisperings. A curious leaning to a creative platform in Stokey? I had to find out more.

After some social media investigation work and reading posts in the Dalstonist, the opening of this beguiling establishment is now in the immediate future, anticipated end of September 2014. With that in mind, I wanted to meet with the proprietors to get a feel of what sort of place was to join the long list of eating and drinking spots in the ubiquitous Stoke Newington Church Street. And so it was that I met with the ebullient Matthew Rix, one of the two partners (Marc Dalla-Riva being the second) responsible for the Blacksmith & Toffeemaker located over in Angel.

Matt and Marc Press

From the offset, I could tell that Matt has a relentless energy that will only lend itself well to the arduous task of opening a new venture. Matt explained that both he and Marc originated from Doncaster and are firm childhood friends. Marc moved to London a few years ago to train as a chef and Matt was working in Marketing over in Leeds. Upon Marc’s suggestion for the conception of the Blacksmith & Toffeemaker (previously known as the Queen Boadicea, the Bull and the New Red Lion & providing a refreshing change in header based on a song by Jack Thackray), a business partnership was born. Matt explains that it was established as a quintessentially ‘English’ public house, which has been adapted continually and is now almost unrecognisable from its initial guise two years ago.

And it would seem that this is similarly what the pair would like to create with 125. “The namesake itself,” says Matt, “is a blank canvas” and they wanted to keep the name neutral so no pre-judgements would necessarily be made. “The best laid plans are fantastic on paper,” Matt continues, “but the key to success is knowing when to ‘give in’ on an idea and when to run with it.” Matt would like to see it evolve, a breeding ground for creative activity. Football will not feature on the menu (not to be misconstrued for elitism either, there are plenty of local places to satisfy our soccer heads after all). With various friends involved in Comedy nights and other creative ventures, Matt is well versed in promoting such talent and looks to provide a platform for Spoken Word, Theatre and even potential Burlesque performances. With prospective film screenings too, the downstairs events space (which will also be available for private hire) also looks to be a hub of expression that will be very welcome to the artistic community of it’s neighbourhood.

Glazed & Confused

Matt is equally passionate when discussing the food and beverage offerings envisaged for 125. Coffee will be sourced from Caravan, doughnuts supplied by Glazed & Confused and bottled hops from the USA, all contributing to a somewhat American Dive Bar vibe from its manifesto of satiation. I ask Matt if he has been to America and he excitedly talks about his road trip a few years ago with Marc, taking them both on a 3500 mile journey over 6 weeks, spanning LA to NYC and taking in locations such as San Francisco, Austin and New Orleans. With Hackney’s Official Sister City pairing with Austin, Texas 2 years ago (of which I am a proud ambassador and colleague that promotes the growth of both), 125 will now also contribute to the US influences infiltrating the culture already beset by prolific burger and beer offerings UK side.

I ask Matt if London is reaching ‘peak burger’, as well as a peak (craft) beer momentum and he assertively states that this is not their intention at 125. With an informal, non-glossy aesthestic, they will be rustling up a small but well formed menu at the bar and the lack of space will inhibit the ability to replicate the multiple choices of meat patties you can find across the Capital. Matt speaks enthusiastically (ensuring salivation) of the speciality sandwiches that 125 will be providing instead, one of which will include ‘The Cuban’.

The Cuban Sandwich

Additionally, he is quite adamant to define 125 as a bar, not a pub. It will be a premium outlet he says, providing the best quality of everything, with a good selection of beers sourced from the UK, US and Europe (although he is also clear to state that they will not be a one-dimensional craft beer spot, which can easily happen), a wine list with predominantly French choices ranging in price from £16.50 to £20+ and NO cocktails. With a license until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays too there will not be too much rest on the horizon for this dynamic duo (and you too can ramp up your energy on the Sandows cold-brew coffee that they will also be stocking) however I doubt this is a concern for the innovative pair.

So remain poised for a post-opening review of the establishment, with now more educated mutterings to be made whilst passing by. Viva 125.

The Dawn of 125


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