Had you walked past 432 Bethnal Green Road six months ago you would have passed a rather grubby bar that looked like its better years had, to put it frankly, never happened. It was one of the last bastions of an area that has been gentrifying at the steady pace of the proverbial tortoise.
Today if you walk past that same address you will be greeted by a very different bar. So changed we doubt you’ll actually walk past, instead making a sharp turn into the newly launched Coupette.
Coupette is the latest opening in a scene which two years ago we called burgeoning. Considering Bethnal Green now boasts the line up of Peg + Patriot, Satan’s Whiskers, Sager + Wilde, Sun Tavern, LCC and Mother Kelly’s, this once up and coming area is now a fully fleshed evening out, rounded off by the day and night offering of Coupette.
“When I first say it I thought I’d discovered a rough diamond,” says owner Chris Moore, ex-head bartender at The Savoy’s Beaufort Bar.
Rough is an apt word considering the multitude of problems the build threw at the opening team. Let’s just say crumbling ceilings weren’t Chris’s only problem and move on. But despite its tricky birth, Coupette finally launched to the world a mere three weeks ago.
Its concept is the much underappreciated Normandy apple orchards and their incredible cidre, made closer to wine than the overly fizzy two litre cider bottles that possibly spring to mind, available in every good corner shop, as well as this cidre’s distilled and mildly aged calvados. Of course it’s not all neat brandy and cidre but this true fruit flavour lies at the heart of what Chris and his team are creating.
“I literally remember the day I came up with the idea,” says Chris. “I was standing behind the Beaufort Bar looking up at the back bar and thought what’s missing? I gave my notice in the next day – it was just something I thought had legs. Calvados still expresses the flavours of the fruit at its base, and who doesn’t like apple? With things like rye whiskey and mezcal on the rise, which can be so challenging, I thought selling calvados shouldn’t be hard.”
Never heard of French cidre? It’s unsurprisingly got a better reputation than the British stuff, known for its dryness and complexity. It’s also increasingly made as a vintage, with more producers striving to push the stiller, quality liquid into the wine category. And good cidre equals great calvados.
Thanks to many of the venues that paved the way here, Bethnal Green’s community have already embraced the concept – even the few gents who come looking for that old pub.
Of course Coupette isn’t just here for a glass of cidre and a shot of Normandy brandy. Tucked inside its thick cocktail menu are 36 drinks, ranging from vodka and ice cream concoctions to those with some serious nightcap strength. But at its heart is one drink which, even before the bar opened, had London’s bartenders (who had seen the build evolving on Facebook) frothing at the mouth for a sip of the Champagne Piña Colada.
“It’s become a rite of passage,” says Chris, “a drink which is a perfect juxtaposition of these two drinks, so far from each other.”
It is, by the way, utterly delicious. But just as great (dare we say better?) is Apples, a simple drink which highlights a featured calvados of the month and a featured apple juice, clarified, served long. It’s refreshing, light, slightly sweet and perfectly tarte.
The sorbet drinks are inspired from Chris’s time working at Edinburgh’s Tonic where the sound of blenders were as common as the cracking of ice in the shaker. And based on Coupette’s first week, they’re going to need to order it by the truck-full.
So what else do you need to know about Coupette? The bar top is made of old French coins Chris bought by the kilo from Ebay and it’s an excellent talking point. The venue is open from 11am and starts its day with coffee and pastries before moving onto a full food menu. Chris’s chef comes from Atherton’s Social Group and if that doesn’t sell you on the food, the fact they’ll be specialising in croquet monsieurs should. Think weekend brunches, light lunches and heartier plates come the evening.
“I want it to feel like a classic European style daytime venue where you might go for a long lunch and a glass of wine. That said I didn’t want it to scream French – we were very adamant this isn’t another café rouge or bistro,” says Chris.
Ubiquitous Coupette certainly isn’t. What it is, is a venue that’s launched at just the right time in Bethnal Green’s journey from crummy pubs to owner operated bars, with just enough finesse to get the creatives in and enough rough and readiness to pull in the old boys (and girls). It’s a local you may wish was yours, and a destination worth travelling to, if only for a Champagne Piña Colada.
DrinkUp’s Guide to Coupette:
Sit: For drinks only head to the bar to get acquainted with all that out-dated money. For a spot of food hope to land the front booth and some natural light and people watching.
Order: A Champagne Piña Colada and an Apples or if here for more than one start with a few cidres, apple or pear.
Visit: Early evening is perfect vibes at the bar. We also love it for a chilled Sunday afternoon.
Be sure to ask: about all the incredible calvados bottles.