City gent and supreme cocktail-maker James Wreglesworth has spent the past few years wowing palettes and winning friends with his mixological innovations at The Blind Swine and (now sadly departed) And All That Could Have Been. Naturally, we were more than a little excited when we heard a rumour that he’s set to open up a new drinking den, The Ouse on New Street next Monday (4th Feb). We held a Q&A with James to find out a little more.
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What’s the concept behind The Ouse?
It’s the idea of putting a mixture of great cocktails, craft beers and great music in a small space. Although it’s going to look quite opulent and elegant, it’s going to be very much a party venue. No airs and graces, though there’s gonna be a great service and a great product at the end of it. It’ll definitely be a great place to relax and come and have fun until the wee hours of the morning.
What do you think are the key differences between The Ouse and your previous projects in York?
It’s a completely different concept. I didn’t want to replicate anything that we’d done with The Blind Swine and And All That Could Have Been, I wanted to do something that was a lot more customer focused rather than menu focused. We want to make sure it’s a place for them to come back to again and again and again.
We want to create a community feel, almost like a community public house where people can come any time of day and know they’ll get the things they want from that kind of place. It’s a busier street as well which is kind of a new one for me.
You may well end up poaching customers from the other bars in the area…
We’re definitely not going to try and poach anyone from anywhere. I don’t really believe in the idea of it being a competition between bars. It’s just another bar in the area that’ll give people more choice. On a night out I’ll tend to go to five or six places, and if there’s a new bar in town I might go to seven.
You mentioned great music earlier. What’s going to be on the playlist?
It’s going to be kind of rock and roll focused, slightly less hard rock than The Blind Swine. Kinda similar music to what I was playing in And All That Could Have Been, lots of garage rock and indie, but we’re going to mix it up and put all sorts in there. We’re gonna do themed evenings as well – they’ve not yet been worked out, but one of our ideas is to do a northern soul night once every week. Without saying ‘something for everyone’, it’s going to be a big mixture, and as the night goes on it’s going to get louder until we close.
What’re the stars of the drinks menu for you?
There are a few surprises in there. They’ll be exceptionally well thought-out drinks. There are a couple I’m going to bring over from And All That Could Have Been, tweaked and re-jigged for 2013. There’ll be some interesting flavours on there that might make people wonder a little bit. They’re all very beautiful and balanced.
Is there going to be a ‘theme’ to the bar?
Because the variety of ingredients you use in a cocktail in the present day are from all around the world, I didn’t think it’d be right to link the theme to any one country. Just a very modern, forward thinking way of putting drinks together. We’re not going to particularly specialise in gin, or bourbon, or rum, we’ll just have a good selection of each and a cocktail menu that spans across a good range. I’ll kinda just be playing the music I like and serving the drinks that I like, so we’ll just have to see if people go with it.
How late is this place going to be open?
We plan to serve until 4AM, which is the latest I’ve worked for a while actually. It’s equally as late as anywhere in York.
Is The Ouse going to be a long-term fixture?
Yeah, well Jamie who owns Blue Fly and the Vanity Lounge approached me to see if I wanted to do something in there. The idea is that I’m gonna be setting up and running it for him for a period of four or five months, and will then set up a structure to pass that on to someone else. I suppose in a sense it is a pop-up, but for those four or five months it’ll be all my work. I like playing the role of consultant, because you can create the dream for someone, and then at the end you give it back, y’know? And there’s no sadness with that. People often ask if I feel bad about leaving this place or that, and no, I think it’s a natural evolution. I like the idea of being quite prolific.