Private drinks in a familiar space
There’s no shortage of bars on Peel Street. Below Staunton, little indie and arty bars like Peel Fresco, Joyce Is Not Here and Makumba have revelled in its relative quiet, creating a cool, tucked-away corner of Soho. But, for some reason, the little building next to the temple has continually missed out. You know the one – the square looking building that was formerly the Temple Bar and, before that, Om Lounge. Just recently, another bar’s moved in, hoping that history won’t repeat itself – it’s called Déjà Vu.
In contrast to the watering holes around it, Déjà Vu is a tiny, shiny bar, aimed at the stylish professional crowd. Through the eerie glow emanating from its exterior (you really can’t miss it), and its sliding front door, the bar opens out into a tiny paved garden courtyard – a small haven for smokers. Beyond is the slick lounge, dominated by red and black, featuring high ceilings and an enormous mirror that helps Déjà Vu’s drinkers from being choked by claustrophobia. For such a minute space, this is a decent achievement. Along the main wall runs a simple, elevated couch – the extent of the bar’s seating – above which hangs an impressively large Annie Leibovitz print. Generally speaking, Déjà Vu is finished well, although a couple of ‘loungy’ seating options would make the area feel a little more inviting.
When it comes to drinks, Déjà Vu refreshingly doesn’t trot out the same old same old. The cocktail menu features some varied and innovative drinks, which is a welcome change from similar spots that claim mojitos or espresso martinis as their ‘signature’ cocktail. The Fleur de Jasmine ($75; vodka, jasmine, honey and tea) is particularly striking, ironically, for its smoothly subtle flavours. Beer drinkers are likely to be disappointed though, with Kronenberg 1664, albeit served in a Philippe Starck-designed bottle, being the only one available ($50).
But even with Déjà Vu’s decent décor, drinks and service, there’s something slightly uncomfortable about it. Firstly, the space is awkward, suffering from a lack of ‘somewhere else to go’, something that probably contributed to the demise of Om and Temple. There’s a lounge and balcony upstairs, which would provide an alternative place to hang, but it’s unfortunately only open for private function (they refused to let us have a peek).
And then there’s the bizarre door policy. Monday to Thursday, Déjà Vu is open to the public. But come Friday and Saturday, entry is by ‘invitation only’. In truth, to get an ‘invite’ and onto the list, you don’t have to be a Canto- or J-pop star – all you have to do is request to be put on the door for that night, provided you’ve registered with them before. Even so, it’s a strange policy. Whether it’s legitimately trying to control numbers, or create an exclusive hype around the bar, it’s a risky thing to be doing in these times of economic implosion, and one that seems quite unnecessary for a new kid on the block. Interestingly, one Friday evening we visited the place was virtually dead. However, compare this to the previous Thursday, where the bar was filled with well-dressed after-work revelers, their pinstripes suits, and a buzz very much absent a week later.
Déjà Vu could become a popular night-starter or quiet post-work hangout, but not if it shoots itself in the foot by excluding potential – and spontaneous – customers. It’d be a shame if it was to disappear before most people had even got round to trying it. That we’ve seen before.
|Venue name:||Deja Vu|
B/F, 41 Staunton St, Central
|Do you own this business?|