Laura Foster talks to the Happiness Forgets owner on why he closed his successful bistro to open a bar
‘Success means many different things,’ muses Happiness Forgets owner Ali Burgess while we talk about his now-closed French bistro Petite Pois, a venue that had been awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand just a year before it was surprisingly shut down in January, this year.
‘Was it successful in the sense of the food was delicious, we won an award, we were nominated for awards? Yeah, in that sense it was 100% [a] success,’ Burgess explains. ‘However, does that translate to financial and bank balance success? Not every time. Our biggest problem was that we set out to open a really small, informal French-inspired bistro, where the food was fresh, the menu was ever changing.
The perception of it became something a little bit out of our hands
‘And it was in a good space, a really nice local neighbourhood dinner spot. However, getting things like the Michelin Bib Gourmand – which is amazing in itself – as soon as we got that it automatically felt like people treated it as a bit more special, or more of an event restaurant than we were trying to get to.’
Rather than chasing a dream that had never been theirs, Burgess and his business partners decided it was best to close Petite Pois and open an entirely new concept. ‘It really breaks my heart, we worked super hard,’ he says. ‘But the perception of it became something a little bit out of our hands.’
Enter Ever After, a bar-with-food in the same location on Hoxton Square in Shoreditch, which was intended to be an all-day venue until Covid struck.
‘No one’s really come back to work in the offices yet, people aren’t milling around city town centres at the moment. And to have a good solid day-drinking venue, I think you need to be in a bit more of a specific neighbourhood,’ Burgess explains.
And so Ever After opened above Happiness Forgets with little fanfare in August, five months after its intended launch date.
A bar has been installed along the left side of the venue, making clear what the focus is.
‘This time around was much more about fitting it in with the style of operation that we have at Original Sin and Happiness Forgets, keeping it really nice and casual, with ever-changing drink-led menus,’ says Burgess.
The cocktail menu is sizeable, featuring over 20 drinks, ranging from no- and low- offerings through carbonated sparkling drinks to Old Fashioneds and Martinis.
Burgess points to two signature…