Sitting on a bar stool at a long glass window overlooking the chaos of Old Street doesn’t exactly set your expectations high, but what Tayer + Elementary does so cleverly is knock every preconception you had of a high-end bar right out of you.
The venue is split into two distinct areas. Elementary is a walk-ins-only all-day bar serving drinks on tap, snacks and unlimited coffee to a hip-hop soundtrack. Through a door at the back you’ll find Tayer, a large square room that feels like a secret space and where a substantial central bar dispenses drinks that are taken up a level.
The duo behind it all, Alex Kratena and Monica Berg, are drinks royalty. Kratena turned Artesian at The Langham hotel into the World’s Best Bar while Berg is behind the equally renowned Himkok in Oslo. Here they change their menu seasonally while also creating new serves from day to day. Two things that remained constant for us were the attentiveness of the staff, who wear hipster cross-back aprons and Dr Martens, and the obvious passion for everything going into your glass.
Kratena and Berg have scoured the globe for ingredients that they’ve turned into custom-made spirits and mixers in place of household names. Beer is a bespoke blend brewed by Partizan in Bermondsey while spirits are created for specific roles.
We tried one made from ingredients that usually go in the bin – cherry stems, corn husks and coffee chaff – that was sweet and warm without the usual burn of neat alcohol. Cocktails are highlighted by their main flavour (ginger or wood sorrel, for instance) and no distinction is made between alcoholic and non-alcoholic serves.
If you’re visiting as much for the food as the drinks you can book a place at the chef’s table. With just four seats and no menu, it’s an exclusive affair, where you’ll watch the chefs work with incredible precision. We loved the Iberian pork katsu sando, which involved layers of butter-rich bread, an unexpected slick of raspberry jam and meltingly tender pork that had the flavour only a good rippling of fat can bring.
There was a risk that Kratena and Berg’s reputations could have resulted in a bar that under-delivered on the sky-high expectations. Instead, this dream team have created a drinking and dining destination that you’ll be seeing on the world’s best bar lists for some time to come.