Now, more than ever, to be a profitable successful bar, you have to diversify. No longer is it enough to merely offer booze to the thirsty masses. If you want to keep your customers – and not risk them peeling off to a nearby restaurant after a couple of Martinis – food needs to be on the cards as well as drink. Oranj has been born into a world where this kind of all-rounder attitude is key to survival and, as such, its vibe is as much supper club as it is ultra-convivial, warehouse wine bar.
But before we start with Oranj’s extremely well-curated kitchen residencies, we must tackle the somewhat confusing mode of entry to this backstreet Shoreditch buzz bar. Your first challenge, should you choose to accept it, is actually getting into the place. There’s no number on the building, but rather a big, heavy and resolutely shut steel door. Yet there’s a gentle orange glow around the edges, and the sound of rambunctious chatter emanating from inside, so we assumed that this must be the place.
It’s as if someone has turned their garage into a makeshift party venue, complete with a corrugated metal roof, speakers and a mixer shoved up beside the open kitchen
A big old heave-ho and we were inside. A swanky West End cocktail joint this is not. It’s more as if someone has turned their garage into a makeshift party venue, complete with white walls, corrugated metal roof, speakers and a mixer shoved up beside the open kitchen and – in a nice nod to the old-school wine bar – wax-dripping bottles holding candles on every table. On our visit, each one was taken to feast upon food from Ha’s Đặc Biệt, a rightly hype-y Vietnamese pop-up direct from New York. Since opening in November 2022, it’s also had the likes of Decatur – the much-loved New Orleans-worshipping one-man kitchen. On the cards at the time of writing are week-long residencies from chef Michael Bagnall of Dudley’s in Walthamstow, and neo-African gastronomic group AYO Collective.
But what of the drinks, we hear you ask! Oranj, which began life as a wine delivery service during lockdown, is well aware that most people don’t know too much about wine, let alone the natural stuff. Its approach, then, is fitting: it’s more pubby than cliquey, with a bottle list for the pros and a short glass list for everyone else (four kinds of orange wine, three white, three red and some bubbles for good measure). Staff were more than happy to help with suggestions – ‘do you want something funky or creamy?’ we were asked – never letting you feel foolish for not knowing the difference between a gewurztraminer and a grechetto.