Quick Take: Little Red Door has recently launched their latest conceptual menu built around universal values and it’s a winner.
Creating a conceptual drinking experience can be a challenge. With more and more talk about conceptual cocktails and conceptual bar experiences comes concern that establishments will favor the the gimmick over the genuine, move into esoteric “naked emperor” territory, or simply sacrifice cocktail quality and let the theme do all the work. Fortunately, Little Red Door has risen to the occasion on three separate occasions for conceptual menus and committed none of the above errors.
This latest menu coming out of LRD, is based around Universal Values and the belief that there are ten commonly held values the span all of humanity, regardless of location or culture. For inspiration, the team looked to the work of philosopher Shalom H Schwartz, who developed this idea.Working together in pairs, they created a cocktail inspired by each of the ten values: strength, stimulation, hedonism, achievement, conformity, benevolence, self-direction, tradition, security and universalism.
While this might seem a lofty concept, LRD is known for sinking fully into their annual menu projects. Previous concepts linked cocktails to art as well as architecture and they took things seriously by studying in the area over time, taking related classes,and multiple staff meetings and tastings to rework each drink until they were just right. Universal Values is also an interesting theme because it has a lot to do with what fundamentally makes the bar a success: inclusion, cohesion. One of the underlying principles of LRD is making people feel welcome, from creating a cohesive team, to making the customer feel welcome as soon as they walk in the door. So, it somehow seems right they would take on an idea touches on what unites us and encourages us to consider our common humanity.
For each drink, the duos decided on an inspiration and built everything around that, including the glassware. For example, “Stimulation” was inspired by a particular Berlin nightclub, to which both team members had been. You know that moment when you are walking down the long, dark hall to the door of the club? You can hear the thump of the music but it’s kind of muted? Then suddenly you open the door and – BAM! – hyperstimulation of all the senses! They mimicked that hallway with a simple black cup, with a red interior. You gaze down into the drink, as if you are gazing down that hall. Then you “open the door” by taking a drink. Otherwise you might try Strength, which was inspired by a dam in Scotland or Hedonism, which was interpreted through passion and ‘forbidden fruit.’ I’m, personally, particularly tickled by one of the cocktails served in three seperate not-quite identical cubes. Rather than over analyze it here, I’ll let you get down there and discover it for yourself.
The physical menu itself is whimsical and worthy of a look with adorably appealing illustrations from Laura Sheldon that express the sentiment behind each value. They’ve also created a few videos that further express the intentions behind each cocktail – like this one for Hedonism.
The concept behind the menu also creates potential talking points for guests. Do the drinks adequately reflect the values? Are these globally held values? Thus, encouraging those present to converse and share ideas, further reinforcing the cohesive nature of the drinks, menu and team.
Rory Shepherd, Head of Operations and Creativity comments, “We’ve always made it our mission at Little Red Door to create cocktails that tell emotive stories and challenge perceptions whilst remaining accessible and simple in their delivery. We have a large international audience at the bar; a concept such as Universal Values which transcends cultures and geographical locations gave us a great starting point to create an accessible menu. It offers layers that guests can discuss or explore, or not, and they just enjoy a great tasty drink!”
I was interested to see how this would shake out with the departure of their previous head barman Remy Savage (who is currently crushing it in the UK at the Artesian).But clearly Remy has left behind a team that knows how to build on their past learning and successes, continues to develop, and actively fosters worthwhile team collaboration. That’s a testament to both him and the current team.
Admittedly, I have a lot of love for the LRD – and i think it’s very well deserved. The consistently work at it to deliver something interesting. But, most importantly, they make people feel welcome.
Little Red Door
60 Rue Charlot