Happiness Forgets

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8-9 Hoxton Square, London N1 6NU

By Alexander Barlow

Another solid year for Alastair Burgess’s consistently lovable, easy-going east London bar. And, two years in, the unabated bang-on-ness of sequel venue Original Sin up the road shows that Happiness Forgets was no flung-together fluke.

Both venues happily share the same uncontorted, unstuffy vibe – if some London bars are justifiably known to occasionally disappear up their own backsides with parody-ready complexity and silly gimmicks, well, not here. And not ever, promises Burgess, who reckons the success of his small empire is mostly down to one proof-point – service. And that’s it.

Innovation for innovation’s sake, he adds, has never been his thing. “The menu is always evolving. The team is always working on new stuff. And when the drink is ready, it goes on.” Wholesale reboots to court press or mine trends are, he adds, “just not our style. Our drinks have been, and will always be, classically styled – spirit, with sour, bitter or sweet modifier and a simple garnish”. Homemade ingredients are supplied but only when necessary and when they don’t stifle service. “Happiness Forgets has been built on consistent quality,” Burgess says. “That’s always been our goal.”

Proof, then, that you don’t need barmy garnishes and a big PR spend to hold a crowd, or run a world-class venue. Done right, simplicity still works. And that’s not to say it’s easy – it isn’t. A point so lost, you could say, on the last bartender in London to serve a drink made from – please, no – insect tincture.

Happily, the team at Happiness Forgets is way more level-headed. Formerly of The Library, general manager Rhys Wilson joins after a stint at Dré Masso’s Bali opening, Akademi, and works alongside City Social-pedigreed bartender Oliver Cush and Daniel Garnell, who joined at 18, five years ago. This is a point of pride for Burgess, who has extended his mentorship with a cocktail competition, Happiness Unforgettables. “We wanted to shine a spotlight on young, or slightly less experienced bartenders, from outside of London.” After heats in Bristol, Liverpool, Leeds and Glasgow, the winner will showcase their drinks at Happiness Forgets for London Cocktail Week.

Two new venues in the next 18 months are in the works. No details yet. But that Burgess-ian mantra, we’re promised, will stay intact: “Great cocktails, no wallies.”