SOMA Soho is the first bar venture of chef Will Bowlby and former accountant Rik Campbell, the men behind the three Kricket Restaurants located in Brixton, Soho and White City in London. Bowlby had worked in restaurants in Mumbai and reinterpreted his ideas of Indian cuisine for Krickets, ever since the first one opened in 2015 initially as a pop-up in a shipping container in Brixton.
While the three Krickets are food-focused, SOMA Soho is all about drinks and gathering in a slightly secretive space to share them. Like Krickets, SOMA Soho draws its inspiration from India, although the connection here is visually subtle and more obvious in the unusual and bold types of drinks on offer.
To realize their India-inspired speakeasy-bar, Bowlby and Campbell engaged Cake Architecture’s https://cake-architecture.com Hugh Moncrieff, and interior designer and gallerist, Max Radford.
Located behind a discreet door in a basement on a side street in Soho, SOMA Soho has an air of secrecy and darkness, but also an inviting sense of togetherness. The owners say that they felt that the post-pandemic bar really had to be about interaction and connection. People want to put their phones away and enjoy real human interaction.
The key feature of the main space is a nine-metre, hand-finished stainless-steel bar. It was custom-created in cooperation with BehindBars Agency https://behindbars.agency , a respected, Oslo, Norway-based design agency focused on bar furnishings. The bar is fitted with five sunken communal wine-cooler wells in which the patrons can keep and share their wine bottles.
The designers at Cake Architecture looked into Indian traditions, festivals and colours and selected the hues of dark indigo, saffron, orange, red, brown and silver for the interior. Heavy indigo drapery softens the bar space and also acts as screens and dividers to conceal three more intimate, arch-defined cubicles, a timber-clad lounge and the back-of-house areas.
The owners say that their friend, interior designer Max Radford was instrumental in selecting the unusual materials, including the curtain that is made of an upholstery fabric. He also selected the Dreadnought Staffordshire Blue tiles that cover the floors and extend across the walls and ceiling of the vaulted lobby. They are generally used for outdoor spaces, but at SOMA Soho they help evoke a sense of a midnight gathering on a piazza.
SOMA Soho’s tagline is “In search of the Divine’ — a lofty goal for any enterprise. And according to the owners, soma is a Vedic Sanskrit word that means to distil and extract. And that, in turn, can be interpreted as a practical, albeit extremely demanding task. In SOMA Soho, Bowlby and Campbell have set their sights on something that they will never achieve and therefore — to the delight of their patrons — they will continue innovate and create. Tuija Seipell
Images by Felix Speller