The bar with shapes for a name

Above the door of a bar on 232 Kinglsand Road will be three shapesThere will be no name. Or at least, not one involving words.

So the name is: Yellow Triangle, Red Square, Blue Circle? Yes, but no, says the bar's co-founders Remy Savage and Paul Lougrat, “the shapes are the name”.

If you’re not shaking your head right now, you’re probably scratching it. That’s not the intention, but it’s not not the intention either. When Savage is involved, you can always expect more questions than answers. His curiosity is naturally disruptive and in Lougrat he has found a co-conspirator. Besides, Savage has form in form. At Little Red Door in Paris he devised a menu in which artwork was the medium of cocktail description, then followed up with a drinks list inspired by applied architecture. At Artesian in London he and Lougrat worked on menus designed around evoking moments and memories and then a list of drinks that questioned the constitution of a cocktail – each drink had two principal ingredients.

If you haven't got the link, the bar is inspired by the functionalism and minimalism of the Bauhaus movement; the name a reference to the work of one its key architects Wassily Kandinsky. Among the 20th century artist’s achievements was to find correspondence between form and colour; his work found commonality between yellow and triangles, red and squares, blue and circles.

When the bar opens – around December 10 – it will be very different from first imagined (and reported on in Oct 2019). Then, Art Nouveau was going to be the directing theme, but one step into the 60-cover ground-floor site closer to Haggerston than Hoxton, and it was clear they had to change the concept to something more functional. After their homage to Bauhaus, the decorative, naturalistic period of Art Nouveau could be the sequel of their own little movement.

“What we want to do is take an artistic vision and bring it to life in a way that isn’t pretentious, but is funny and playful,” says Savage. “Bauhaus was a movement for the people – and so will be the bar: approachable minimal drinks and super-fast service,” says Lougrat. “We are trying to follow the same process as Bauhaus but for drinks. We are trying to imagine what the pioneers of Bauhaus would create as a bar.”

Born in Germany between two world wars, Bauhaus was also a movement of scarcity, and so the bar will only stock 20 lines – each chosen by blind tasting. “Our goal is flavour,” says Savage. “In the Bauhaus it wouldn’t make sense to have 400 bottles. One of its pioneers, Mies van der Rohe, coined the phrase ‘less is more’.” So don’t necessarily expect conventional choices – Green Spot is their house whiskey and a quince spirit is just one of three eaux de vies included.

“We want to create problems for ourselves in order to solve them,” says Savage. Lougrat adds: "We asked ourselves if we need a bourbon, or can we find a way to make one from other whiskies.” Their 20 choices will underpin nine of their own drinks and five or six twists on classics. Twists not of whim but of a function of the limitations of their back bar. There will be wine and beer and in terms of food, they launch with one dish: Duck Egg Parfais, cooked sous vide in lapsang tea water, with caviar and bread crust.

The bar takes its form over two rooms. The lab at the back, while also open to guests, will host speakers twice a week; the classroom of their Bauhaus school. “The front room, will be the clean design as you’d expect from Bauhaus,” says Lougrat. Here there’ll be louder music and more fun. It’ll be affordable too. “One of the principles of Bauhaus was affordability,” says Savage. “We want to be the cheapest bar in a cheap neighbourhood, despite the fact we will be using quality ingredients.” Outside of pandemic restrictions, there is also a late licence, indeed, 5am is pretty much a morning licence. Good and bad news for bartenders looking for after-shift drinks.

As any school, the exchange of information and the debating of principles, is key. “I want us to argue,” says Savage. In this spirit, all recipes will be shared on the bar’s Instagram. There will also be a student exchange programme. So, the opening team – owners Savage and Lougrat – and Maria Kontorravdis, will be joined by paid interns. “Every three months we’ll have someone different. We start with a married couple from Belgium.”

The bar has all the elements to be a hit. But the name is both a conversation piece and a conversation hurdle. “It was important for us to have a name that could be understood in every language,” says Savage. “So in English it will be known as Yellow Triangle, Red Square, Blue Circle. In French Triangle Jaune, Carré Rouge, Cercle Bleu… For locals it will just be their local bar,” he says.

In written or spoken form, it is human nature to reduce long names to short, normally editing from the back. So we may end up with Yellow Triangle. Ironic then, that the yellow triangle emoji is currently unavailable on Facebook, Instagram, Iphone and this website. The closest you can get is a yellow warning triangle. A sign? “Being conceptually coherent is the only thing that resonates,” says Savage. Indeed, the pair have written to Apple and its emoji producer Unicode to release a yellow triangle. And there has been a social media campaign. There’s something comforting about protesting the right to a yellow triangle emoji during a pandemic.

And what about the bar’s Google listing? It’s hard to imagine a bar you can’t Google. “I like the idea that life without Google can be a thing,” says Savage. “In the era of technology, we can be a technological speakeasy.” After all, creativity through limitation is the Bauhaus way.