It could have been a very different story when two lads that had never worked together before became flat mates and business partners almost overnight – but these two have a shared dream and more importantly – a shared work ethic and so, so far – so good!
Homeboy (owned by Aaron Wall and Ciaran Smith) has a very clear ethos – make people feel absolutely welcome the moment they step in the door. And for the last fifteen months – that’s exactly what they’ve been doing. With a dream team of staff that as well as being trained and are incentivised to keep fit, build their own profiles and pursue their own career paths – this is a hospitality lifestyle we wholeheartedly approve of.
Their customers seem to be a perfect mix of Londoners looking for a great time, but also locals – who have taken the bar firmly under their wing. In fact, this January – it was almost entirely filled with neighbours who were still looking to be out a “bit” but just not “out-out”. A dismal Saturday in January was their busiest night to date – eclipsing Paddy’s Day in 2019 – no mean feat.
Who are these people!?
CS : “From Monday through til Thursday – we probably know 80% of the people in the bar – they want to sit at the counter and initially it’s our job to entertain them, but now we’ve introduced them to each other and there’s groups of people that now hang out because they met at Homeboy.”
Talk us through your menu…
AW : “The menu is designed to be approachable. Maybe 25 drinks – across four pages but all with a picture of the glass it comes in and a three word descriptor. Definitely not rocket science, but we want our guests to be looked after as quickly as possible. The time it takes to get your first drink is important. And when you’ve had a long day, it’s chilly outside and you read the description of “Tea-Biscuits-Home” you kinda immediately know where you are."
Who and what inspire you?
CS : “We want to always offer five star service alongside world class drinks. It’s a big aspiration but entirely possible and we see it in lots of places around the capital. The Artesian at The Langham is a great example of a five star establishment that always makes you feel so welcome – The Beaufort at The Savoy too – we were there the other week dancing with the floor staff – they promised they loved it!”
AW : “When we first conceptualised Homeboy we envisaged Satan’s Whisker's style of drinks and service during the week with the opportunity to party like you're at London Cocktail Club late on a Friday or Saturday night. Then mix that with the best pint of Guinness in London and some live music on a Sunday. It's working out well! When we knew we were ready to open our own bar, we actually bought the site from my previous employers – they certainly didn’t just hand it over, but knowing we had that kind of support from people that I really looked up to made a huge difference.”
And it’s round the corner – but what does St Patrick’s Day mean to you?
AW : “When you go to Ireland – you don’t go for the architecture – you go for the people and that’s what we aspire to recreate at the bar. St Patrick’s Day means more to us now we’re living abroad. We have a real sense of pride of what our little country has gone through and achieved – it means so much to celebrate properly.”
CS : “We have DJs, live music and most importantly – we'll be open late, so if you’re looking to be well taken care of this St Patrick’s Day – we’re the boys for the job! Actually – we’ve stretched the whole thing out to a full week – so there’s basically no excuse not to come and have a drink with us!”
And what’s coming next?
CS: “We’re actively looking for a second site - but we refuse to get emotionally invested in any of the buildings until we’ve signed! The next site will be a similar size and not too far from Essex Road so we can take time to learn how manage two sites! This is definitely a case of learning on the job! The third site is yet another challenge! But let’s not talk about that just yet!”
Not content with all this – from our interview we also have the inside scoop that the boys are also working on…
*Homeboy Irish Coffee Bitters – bottled in Ireland and designed to fix Irish Coffees - even then they're made with instant or espresso coffee.
*Homeboy Irish Whiskey – they just couldn’t resist any longer – but this is finished in something unusual. Wouldn’t tell us what. Mean!
*Three bottled cocktails (soon available via Deliveroo) which are crowd pleasers from their menu; a Champagne Paloma, a Sparking Strawberry Daiquiri and an American Cream Soda (made with Irish Whiskey of course).
*And… by no means least - a podcast – created by one of the Homeboy team and discussing all things to do with Modern Irish Hospitality. We can’t wait.