World’s Best Bar Winner Alex Kratena Opens His First Solo Project in London
For four years––from 2012 to 2015––Czech bartender Alex Kratena lead London’s Artesian to the coveted title of world’s best bar, per the prestigious ranking list, The World’s 50 Best Bars. And after clocking nearly a decade at the plush place, post-2015 win, Kratena jumped to pursue his own project.
A chance encounter between Kratena and Scandinavian bartender Monica Berg (then working at Aqua Vitae in Oslo) in 2012 at New Orleans’ Tales of the Cocktail beverage symposium set the stage for what would become one of the world’s most highly anticipated bars: dual-concepted Tayēr + Elementary, which debuted in East London on June 1. Approachable, yet forward-thinking, with an industrial meets minimalist aesthetic, Tayēr + Elementary is the joint project from Kratena and Berg, along with Ana Gonçalves and Zijun Meng of wildly successful London pop-up, TĀTĀ Eatery.
“London is super diverse,” says Kratena, explaining that although he may be known for serving complicated drinks in whimsical and avant-garde vessels, he wanted to open a space that would serve the local community. “The two different and distinct offerings ensure our community is sorted for all their needs,” he continues, speaking to the team’s decision to flip a defunct post office into a dual-concepted bar. Elementary, up front, functions as a casual all-day bar serving simple, seasonal drinks and snacks; Tayēr, positioned behind a concrete partition, references the Spanish word for workshop (taller), and proffers a more progressive, elevated imbibing experience, with daily-changing beverages and bites.
“It's not necessarily where you'd go for your favorite cocktail, but to try something new,” says Kratena. Such as a whiskey and aquavit number flavored with oakmoss––a type of lichen prized by perfumers for its earthy aroma––then balanced by Marsala wine and sesame; and a blend of Calvados, fino sherry, Lillet blanc, and black currant leaves.
And while Elementary bills itself as a more straightforward affair, the menu offers a sophisticated list of “Core” cocktails, which are Kratena and Berg’s take on classics, with a few seasonal numbers peppered in. There’s a gimlet imbued with Peruvian palo santo wood extract, and a silky vodka-aquavit sour spiked with whey. The team is also partnering with industry friends to debut bespoke creations, like ēe X es, a spirit distilled with cherry stem, carob, coffee chaff and Citra hops in collaboration with Copenhagen’s pioneering liquor-makers Empirical Spirits, and a pale ale brewed with local London beer producer, Partizan Brewery.
Meanwhile, on the food front, chefs Gonçalves and Meng have written two globally-reaching menus that pay extra attention to Asia. At Elementary, one might find casual bar bites like a burrata and pickled seaweed-laced quesadilla, or an Iberian pork sando with XO sauce and raspberry jam. Over at Tayēr, expect more elevated plates including cuttlefish chow mein, and aged Dover sole with pil pil sauce.
And while Tayēr + Elementary offer two unique approaches to beverage and food, the venue’s overall industrial yet minimalist aesthetic connects the two. Designed by Prague-based Edit! Architects in collaboration with Czech art director Maxim Velčovský, Tayēr offers a U-shaped oak bar (the space itself holds 30), which sits beneath an unfinished concrete ceiling, and swatches of wall covered in emerald green subway tiles. Up front, sun-drenched Elementary––which accommodates 50 guests––is equipped with a long oak bar, behind which runs a perched counter looking out to the street.
When scheming his 2,000 square foot venue, Kratena opted to expand beyond traditional bar design by creating spaces better suited to bartenders’ needs. He constructed a hexagonal bar station in the center of Tayēr’s counter that’s “designed to constantly change according to the needs of the modern bartender, taking into consideration efficiency, flexibility, and storage maximization.” So, for example, the flexible work station’s interchangeable components can be used to hold ingredients, or flipped upside down to serve as extra counter space. In the summer the station could be used as an ice well, in the winter it could keep certain drinks hot.
After three years of development, Tayēr + Elementary is finally ready for its public debut. Will it one day be the world’s best bar? It very well could be.
152 Old St, London EC1V 9BW, UK