If you’re like me, and tend to stick to the same part of London, it usually takes some persuasion to venture out of my borough. As a West London resident, I logistically avoid East. That was until, I was introduced to Three Sheets, a refined cafe-bar on Kingsland Road, that’s unquestionably worth the mission. Nominated by Timeout for ‘best new bar’ and ‘best bar team’, Three Sheets is quietly setting the bar high in the rapidly changing East London.
Three Sheets is an intimate rarity with a content of taste, from the decor to the menu. The only signage is the bespoke brass window lettering, in fact, I almost walk past the unassuming speakeasy. Outside it’s roughly painted black, you can still see the remnant of ‘Betty’s Cafe’ above the door which stood there just a year ago. Inside it’s a balancing act between exposed brick and the elegant emerald green walls with brass fixtures. The only statement piece is a mid century Polish railway mirror which stands in the entrance reflecting the afternoon light and the blissfully happy customers. It’s humble and honest, marble worktop and leather stools built by the owners themselves.
As well as the interiors, ingredients are foraged, delivering a refined, weekly rotating menu inspired by seasonal produce. Wherever possible, the cordials and ingredients are made from scratch in their apartment turned laboratory. Decorating the Apple and Plum cocktail is the Mexican Orange blossom that was (perhaps from someone’s garden) on the way to the bar.
Max and Noel Venning opened Three Sheets in June last year to begin their own journey, after working for others in the industry. Max, one half of the team, has a wealth of experience under his belt. Brought up in Manchester, he headed further north to Edinburgh University, before setting his sights on London. He has worked from barman to mixologist for the acclaimed 69 Colebrooke Row and Bar Termini in Soho. I talk to Max about his future visions and what it’s like to be a part of a new era of sincere, light hearted alchemy.
What is the meaning behind the name Three Sheets?
The name was intended to be unknown, unattached and ambiguous to give scope to our future plans. I read the book ‘Real Life in London’ by Pierce Egan, it was written in 1821 and was one of the first and only accounts of what life was like in East London. The main characters are brothers; Tom and Jerry, which was fitting. I came across the quote ‘three sheets in the wind’ which is a sliding scale of drunkenness whereby an inebriated person could be anywhere from one to four “sheets in the wind.”
What are the values of Three Sheets?
It’s characterised by a necessity for a relaxed, welcoming and unfussy environment. Our menu is short so the quality of our produce is top priority and we locally source where possible.
Have you seen a change in the clientele in East London since opening Three Sheets?
There’s been a noticeable change in the last 18 months with an increase of affluence and discerning drinkers. Dalston is at a cross roads in its development whereby it is beginning to price out the locals who are integral to the community. It would be a shame if the we lost the roots of East London.
How does Three Sheets set itself apart from the all singing, all dancing London scene?
We are reigning in pretence with an acknowledgement that this is nothing serious. There are no ulterior motives. It’s intimate, fun and lighthearted. People can actually talk, that’s a scarcity in Soho.
In addition to best new bar, you have been nominated for best bar staff – do you think it’s because of your northern charm?
[Laughs] It amazed me because all the bars in Soho have big, well oiled machines, here it’s just me and Noel, just the two of us. I guess it’s a rarity customers will be served directly by the owners of the bar, we get to know everyone that comes in, we care.
For those who haven’t been yet, what is your specialty?
The French 75, we mix and carbonate it ourselves, it keeps fresh for up to a week but it became so popular we make it every few days. (Ingredients; Star Bombay, Moscato, orange flower water, lemon juice, Verjus, Minus) – not sure what this is
Have you any other passions apart from cocktails?
I dabble in latte art (photos below). My other passions align really well with owning a bar, I love travelling and meeting people in the industry around the world, sharing knowledge and experience, like a collective.
Who is your muse?
My girlfriend, Helen.
What venues inspire you?
Attaboy, NYC, set a new standard for a fun, relaxed atmosphere with specialty cocktails. In London, Sagar and Wilde Paradise Row , just simply well put together drinks.
Would you open a bar anywhere else other than London?
Manchester would be the obvious one. NYC would be the dream.
What are you future visions?
Our ambition is to expand into different areas of the industry, whether that be craft beer, wine or food. The site is the most difficult part of starting a new venture, we hope the location will determine the type of place it will be.