Bartending globetrotter Dre Masso is back. Back with a bar, he tells Hamish Smith
Your last launch in the UK was FAM – this time it’s The Last Talisman. Do tell
The Last Talisman (drinking house and Asian grill) is another collaboration with Eric Yu and the Breakfast Group team. We were lined up to partner with the new Bermonds Locke Hotel in Bermondsey with a Cali-Mex concept but at the final hour it went to a well-known chef forced to close his restaurant because of Covid. It was disappointing, but we were respectful of the circumstances. We had researched Bermondsey Street cafes, delis, restaurants and pubs and fallen in love with the area. Eric was quick to scoop another spectacular venue on Bermondsey Street, one of the best areas for food and drink in London and our target audience.
What’s in your box of tricks this time?
We have a decent variety of non-alcoholic and boozy libations at a competitive price and a wide selection of mostly classics cocktails with the Talisman twist. To marry the food I have used some Asian ingredients. I am working alongside chef Tim Ross-Watson with whom I worked in Southeast Asia. Sammy Forway, our art director, has curated an incredible selection of art for the venue, which will rotate throughout the year.
And there’s a bar within the bar, right?
Yes, Mala Madre (Spanish for Bad Mother). It’s a personal space to me, marrying a Balinese and South American feel – two places I have lived. The majority of the cocktails have Latin origins or influence. Eric allowed me to take the lead on this space from furniture to music, decor and style.
In the midst of a pandemic, how has this launch been different?
We’ve had to be as resourceful as possible – we took care of the interior design ourselves. We launched the first week of November with a very small team but had to close after two days – we’re opening again as soon as we’re allowed. We have used lockdown wisely to launch our takeaway cocktails and train our staff.
Anything else in the pipeline?
I’d been abroad for seven years – Bali, Singapore, Colombia and, more recently, Spain – but I moved to a village just outside London at the start of 2020. I am helping restaurateur Oliver Peyton with his new cocktail-in-a-can called Unknown Pleasures; I’m developing a new tequila range; and Eric and I are starting on the concept development for a new cocktail bar in the heart of Soho, which will open early 2021. I have worked with Eric on several projects over the past 16 years. He likes to involve other like-minded people in his projects. He’s brave, honest and loyal. We all need a partner like that.