Nico de Soto of Mace in New York and Danico in Paris is days from opening Wacky Wombat, a new bar in London’s Soho.
Situated on Manette Street, near Tottenham Court Road, the bar will open in the basement space under his partners Julien Ross and Alexandre Giesbert's Daroco, the sister restaurant of which is also home to de Soto's Danico in Paris.
There will be a soft launch of the bar next week, ahead of opening to the public on November 1st.
It's the first time De Soto has worked in London since he co-led the launch of Experimental Cocktail Club in 2010.
He told CLASS: "It's funny to be back here in Soho after being part of the launch team at ECC. I hadn't planned to open a bar here but when Julien and Alexandre asked if I wanted to open a bar in London, I said 'fuck yes'!
"I love London - it's the best bar scene. It's not going to be easy - particularly with Brexit and recruiting staff - but I love the challenge."
The cocktail programme at Wacky Wombat is inspired by De Soto’s travels, with the first seasonal menu drawing on the native ingredients of Australia, before moving on to celebrate other cultures and regions.
De Soto added: "I started working as a bartender in Australia in Melbourne and Sydney so the name of the bar is a personal link. The opening menu is based around dried native ingredients from Australia. I was in Australia early this year for R&D - Luke Whearty from Byrdi has helped me with suppliers.
"I don't like menus to last for more than a year so the first menu at Wacky Wombat will will stay for about nine months before we change it."
The cocktail menu created by de Soto and his team – which will be led by head bartender Kevin Price Houghton, sees cocktails such as the Tasmania-inspired Overland Track, with gin, fermented caju, pepperberry and whey.
Wake Up (No More Fables), which is pictured left, is named after the first hostel de Soto stayed in when in Australia and mixes coffee milk washed cognac, black mustard seed distillate, coffee liqueur, espresso and banana water.
Der Raum fuses coconut oil & flesh gin, amaro, sweet vermouth, jackfruit, koshihikari, and lemon myrtle, while V on P (Vegemite on Pisco) infuses golden beet, lime juice, gooseberry vinegar, toasted corn husk albumin and vegemite bitters.
Wacky Wombat has a lab space - viewable from the bar through a glass pannel - and also supplies pre-batched tap cocktails - twisted classics - to the restaurant upstairs.
Decor wise, soft furnishings and low lighting blend “Soho’s underground vibes”, with a New York cocktail bar ambience and Parisian stylings.
De Soto will share his time between Paris, New York and London, and alongside overseeing operations at Wacky Wombat, also plans to DJ at the bar. "I'll come here for two weeks, every three months," he said.