The necessity of using every available space in a hotel has been evident across the last two years, with rooftop and basement F&B concepts being launched almost weekly.
We have seen collaborations with chefs and alcohol producers as champagnes and premium spirits love to have their brands plastered all over the most popular new venues.
Meanwhile, hotels with rooftop spaces need to make hay while the going is good, with the fading warm weather meaning that many sky bars shut down during the winter months.
However, the Courthouse Hotel in Soho is creating its own exception to the rules. Not only has it decided to partner a popular central London nightclub for its trendy sky bar but it has also taken the decision to build a retractable roof so that the venue becomes a year-round destination.
Downstairs, the hotel is already kitted out on the F&B front with the Carnaby Brasserie, complete with its own entrance and stand-alone style opposite the famous fashion quarter. There is also the Silk Restaurant, tucked away just off the hotel lobby, offering Asian fusion cuisine in the classic oak-panelled former courtroom – complete with original judge’s bench.
There is also the bar, another quirky gem, which offers the original prison cell blocks as cosy VIP rooms like its sister hotel in Shoreditch.
But it is the Toy Roof bar that is the latest must-visit venue in this part of the West End. It is run in conjunction with the Toy Room nightclub, which also has incarnations at the nearby London Palladium, Mykonos in Greece and Dubai.
“We have been open about four months as Toy Roof,” says restaurant and bar manager Zoltan Nyerges, who is an employee of Toy Room. It was previously open as the hotel’s sky terrace, but Toy Room has come into run it.”
Profits are shared with the hotel in what is an interesting dynamic, with Toy Room already having a large following that it can call upon to visit the new roof space.
“More people from outside the hotel are coming here,” explains Nyerges. “We have many clients from Toy Room visiting. We know them well and they know the staff.”
The two businesses don’t compete, with Toy Roof opening from midday until 11pm, while Toy Room carries on long into the night.
“When I finish here in the evening I can head down to work at the club,” says Nyerges. “It is quite handy with staff – if it gets very busy here more staff can come up here from Toy Room.”
Like the nightclub, Toy Roof is themed on play, with teddy bears making an appearance at every turn. The glass bar is filled with teddy bears, the tables have teddy bear prints on top and the cocktail list is made up from toy-related twists on classics. For example, the Toy Fashioned, made with Sailor Jerry spiced rum, honey syrup, orange and chocolate bitters or the StrawBEARy Fizz made with Belvedere vodka, strawberry purée and Moët Brut Imperial.
There are comfy sofas and a few booth-style seating configurations – presumably to cater for VIPs a la nightclubs – with capacity for up to 80 people standing or 60 seated.
There is colourful and modern furniture a well as patio heaters, while a long bar runs down one side connected to a visible kitchen where a chef can be seen hard at work on the grill.
Food is not really part of the Toy Room club offer, but on the roof they have decoded upon a more social menu offering shared versions of classic hotel club food such as beef, chicken or vegetable sliders, BBQ skewers including Thai chicken, prawn and halloumi, as well as a meze platter, a charcuterie board, cheese platter and bread platter.
So, how successful has the launch of the concept been?
“In the beginning it was a little difficult, with people having to come all the way through the hotel to find us,” says Nyerges. “But now, because of social media and promotion, the word has spread so more people know we are here and we are a lot busier.
“In the afternoon we get more people from the hotel looking for lunch, but after 5pm it is outside guests and walk-ins coming to the bar. When the weather is nice it is packed. If the weather is cloudy or rainy it is of course a little quieter.”
But that is all going to change. The bar will be closing for a number of weeks in October, with the owners of the hotel having a fully retractable permanent roof covering the terrace, and that could be the pull to keep customers returning for the views in the winter months.
“It will be able to be used all year round,” says Nyerges. “It is important to have a destination that
customers know they can come to no matter what the weather.”
For winter the bar will also be changing its theme, moving to a classic ski lodge style.
“You have to have a strong concept to pull people in off the street,” adds Nyerges. “And, of course, having a cover will help, too.”