After weeks of hard work renovating the basement of the Hoxton Square building that houses the Cube & Star restaurant and bar, a final push in the week before its opening as a club should see the job finished. So proprietor Mark Turner and manager Ben Jones are looking happy, if a little tired.
Turner does confess to feeling somewhat nervous, though. "Opening parties are just too much stress," he says. Lessons learnt from the restaurant opening in May meant that the invitations sent out for the club's first night included the many local businesses and residents. "We've based the guest list on customers - those who come into the restaurant and those who register online - and paid much attention to local businesses and residents," says Turner. "It's very different from last time. We don't want rent-a-crowd - it's for people who have already found us."
The response has been good, with 80 acceptances flooding in the morning after the invitations went out, and Turner is expecting 300-400 guests at the party, spread over the two floors. There will be no restaurant service, but canaps will be served and there will be 1,500 free drinks, including the signature Mojito cocktail, with the help of stock support from suppliers. An ice luge for vodka has been ordered, sculpted in the shape of the Cube & Star cross.
Over the past few weeks, Friday and Saturday nights have seen the reception desk in the restaurant transformed into a DJ booth between the hours of 11pm and 1am for the purpose of trialling potential DJs - a fruitful exercise that has produced several successful candidates. "The idea is to have three or four house DJs who will work in rotation," says Turner. On opening night the decks will be in the hands of the renowned DJ Food, and there's a jazz band booked, too.
Great attention - and expense - has been paid to the acoustics and soundproofing, for which consultants were brought in to advise. Extra personnel have been hired to staff the club, including three bartenders, three waitresses and a hostess. The search for an assistant manager continues.
The renovations have mostly gone to plan. Black textured lino around the bar area at the back of the room merges into carpet throughout the seating area with tables until it meets the stained-oak stage and padded velvet DJ booth. The walls will be adorned with Cuban images similar to the ones upstairs in the restaurant, but in colours rather than black-and-white.
Because a bass bin was needed to house speakers, there was no room for the VIP booth next to the stage as originally planned, so it has been relocated further back and to one side in a more private area. Two booths on the opposite side of the room provide comfy banquette seating.
A few changes have also been made to the restaurant, with the existing lighting replaced with dimmable fittings, a task that involved temporarily taking down the Cuban photography that covers the ceiling.
Nerves were frayed for a few days when an antique Florentine crystal chandelier bought by Turner six years ago, and on which the restaurant's wall lights were modelled, went missing. Luckily, it turned up in the hands of a neighbouring business, whose owner fancied it for their premises after finding it dumped in the skip by the builders. It will now be cleaned and take pride of place in the restaurant.
New sous chef Benot Bretaudeau has been on board for about three weeks, and head chef Arnaud Stevens took up the reins within the past week. With the exception of one commis chef and a kitchen porter who remained, the whole brigade has changed. Immediately on Bretaudeau's arrival, amendments were made to the menu. Although no new dishes have been added yet, three tapas dishes that were not selling particularly well have been taken off and changes have been made in the way some dishes are cooked and presented. For instance, the snapper is no longer fried and served whole, but filleted, cooked in oil and herbs and served on a seafood paella with coconut rum sauce.
A full menu change, introducing contemporary European cuisine with a Latin twist, will come into operation after the club's opening night.
Cube & Star
- Address: 39a Hoxton Square, London N1
- Owner: Mark Turner
- Restaurant opened: May 2005
- Club opening date: November 2005
- Budget for club project: £180,000