Finding Experimental Cocktail Club, the secret mixology den at 13A Gerrard Street in Chinatown, is no easy feat. But, once you spy the unmarked door tucked between two bustling Chinese restaurants and make your way up the narrow flight of stairs, your efforts will be rewarded with a seductive speakeasy vibe, unbelievably delicious cocktails boasting exotic ingredients like saffron syrup and violette liqueur, and, rarest of all, a late-night liquor license that doesn't quit until 3 a.m.
It's all just another day at the office for the ECC boys, co-founders Pierre-Charles Cros, Romée de Goriainoff, and Olivier Bon, and new partner Xavier Padovani, whose cocktail empire extends from their native Paris (where they also have a wine bar and steakhouse) to New York City. Their next big move? Opening an ECC in Ibiza's Salinas National Park in time for the 2013 season. Start booking those flights now, kids.
With endless projects in motion and a train to Paris to catch, the London-based Cros kindly found the time to take us to some of the local spots he frequents when he's not playing host at ECC until the wee hours of the morning. Click through for a taste of Soho's most fascinating finds.
Photographed by Kate Cox
What’s next for the Experimental Cocktail Club team?
"A lot is going on! In London, we are looking to open a wine bar and another cocktail club. In Paris, a seafood-oriented venue is in the works. And we have a few more international projects in mind."
Etiqueta Negra jeans, Paul & Joe coat, John Smedley jumper, Pantanetti shoes, Reiss scarf, Lock & Co hat.
Lock & Co is a millinery store founded in 1676. What about it speaks to you?
"I love the extensive collection, and the fact that you have virtually an unlimited choice of fabrics, colours, and styles, always with the same British elegance. And the staff is extremely knowledgeable. Stepping in there is like taking a step in back in time."
What are some of your favourite things about London and British culture?
"I greatly appreciate the juxtaposition of tradition and modernity. Tradition is very important and is honoured here, which I profoundly respect. At the same time, London is always changing and is open to modernity without losing its soul and its culture."
What do you miss most about Paris when you’re here?
"My family, my friends and the venues I have there, but I commute almost weekly so it’s not really an issue."
, 16 Piccadilly Arcade, SW1Y 6NH, 020 7499 3360 On partner Xavier Padovani: Son of Stag Edwin jeans, Fred Perry jumper, Barneys Co-op T-shirt, Vivienne Westwood scarf; on Pierre-Charles: Paul & Joe coat, J.Crew jumper, and Jeffrey West scarf.
What clothing brands do you favour?
"I like Commune de Paris and Dries Van Noten. For shoes, Jeffery West. You cannot go wrong with them, and the people that work there are top-notch."
Xavier, you're also a huge Jeffrey West fan. Why?
"I just love the way David at Jeffrey West runs the brand and the shop. The shoes are cool, they're comfortable, they're amazing. I'm wearing their limited-edition Hannibal Norton biker boot because I own a Triumph and they're great to wear on the bike."
Brietling watch and Jeffrey West shoes.
What's the last great book you read?
Pierre-Charles: "The Great Gatsby."
Xavier: "It's a gift from my friend Rafael in Corsica called Comprendre la Corse from Jean-Louis Andreani, and that's exactly what it is. I am also reading a present from a friend that is a compilation of great writers on Napoleon. And the last one is called K.I.S.S. Guide to Cat Care by Steve Duno with a foreword by Christopher Walken. Yes, Christopher Walken the actor. We recently got a couple of Devon Rex cats and I'm trying to teach them tricks, but it's not working that well."
What’s it like being a Frenchman in London?
"It feels really natural. There are so many French people in London! I find Londoners to be very welcoming and friendly. I wish I was not always recognized as being French, but my accent betrays me, I guess."
Jeffrey West shoes on both; Junghans "Meister Chronometer" watch on Pierre-Charles.
Any other favourite clothing shops you frequent?
Xavier: "For jeans, Son of a Stag in The Old Truman Brewery. They are the only people in the U.K. to have a special machine that can create the same thread if you cut your jeans. The brands they have, you cannot find anywhere else."
What’s it like working in Chinatown?
"It’s a very peculiar atmosphere. By simply turning a corner, you literally travel to a different world! Early in the morning, Gerrard Street is full of delivery trucks and people getting ready to start the day. As the day wears on, the street fills with Londoners, tourists, everyone. At night, it comes alive with people having dinner, going out to drink. For me, and for the other owners, it’s a great community and we love being part of it. I like being anonymous too and feeling that people around you don't really care about who you are and what you are doing."
Costume National coat, Prada jumper, Commune de Paris shirt, Gucci shoes, Bompard scarf, and Etiquete Negra jeans.
What are some of your favourite Chinatown joints for food?
"Four Seasons for the crispy duck. From the outside, the restaurant can look suspicious, but their crispy duck is one of the best I have ever had."
, 19 St. James's Street, SW1A 1ES, 020 7930 3787
How do you spend your off hours?
"I really like going to JJ Fox for cigars. It’s steeped in history and they have a ‘tasting room’ upstairs so I can buy a cigar and smoke it right there. It’s not often you can find that anywhere these days."
What, in your opinion, should every well-stocked home bar have?
"Well, according to me, you should have some rye whisky, gin, rum, vodka, tequila, mescal, absinthe, sweet as well as dry vermouth, and bitter. Plus, a few syrups and sweeteners like agave honey. Add some fresh fruit and you could make hundreds of different drinks."
What music are you listening to right now?
What's the appeal of 10 Greek Street?
"First off, it's close to ECC, so it's ideal for lunch meetings or a quick bite in the evening. It certainly helps that the food is excellent with a wine list to match."
Etiqueta Negra jeans, Paul & Joe jacket, Club Monaco shirt and cardigan.
What’s the scariest thing about opening a bar?
"The stress about financial and legal issues."
And the best?
"Being able to create a project that you design from scratch and being able to provide a space where you can welcome your friends and regulars."
Photo: Courtesy 10 Greek Street
Do you have a hangover remedy that you swear by?
"Unfortunately, no! The 'secret' is to drink one glass of water for every drink you have, drink plenty of water before going to bed, and keep a bottle [of water] on your bedside table."
What’s your favourite piece of business advice?
"Be confident and try to develop an ambitious long-term vision."