Drink, Shop & Do. 9 Caledonian Road, London N1
Six years ago, a couple of best friends sat on a pub bench in the summer sun, nursing a pint of cider. They were 24 year olds on the cusp of change; one becoming bored with her job, the other in a reflective mood because of an illness in the family. “What would your dream job be, if money were no object?” they asked each other. Within a year, they had made their dreams a reality, in the form of a shop/café/bar in London’s King’s Cross.
Coralie Sleap and Kristie Bishop met in a quiet, rural town in Kent, aged 11. Instant friends, they shared happy times: making camps in the swimming pool, baking cakes and chocolate biscuits, arranging and rearranging Kristie’s bedroom furniture (Coralie’s was built-in) and later, as teenagers, “getting up to mischief.” What kind? “Normally involving parties, alcohol, boys…,” Kristie tells me at our interview, with a sideways grin at her friend and business partner.
After high school, they followed a similar path. An art school student at Central St Martins, Coralie met up regularly with college mates to “make stuff;” informal, fun gatherings that sometimes turned into a house party. Kristie studied photography and explored its commercial side, shooting weddings. A natural events planner, Kristie’s own house parties featured legendary cocktails and an actual sweet shop she set up in her bedroom – great CV fodder for her first proper job, in the drinks industry.
It’s not surprising, then, that Coralie and Kristie’s pipe dreams on that pub bench revolved around shopping, decoration, booze, parties and making things. As Kristie remembers it: “We were just throwing out ideas, like ‘imagine if our jobs were to go round and buy things in markets… we’d have loads of cakes… loads of people our age… get them a bit drunk and then they’re all playing lego… or…?” Coralie was chief instigator – the one who said ‘Let’s do this.’ She knew of an available space in (then slightly dodgy but soon-to-be redeveloped) King’s Cross: a huge, multi-level old Victorian bathhouse that she and fellow students had used as a gallery. The owner encouraged her to try a ‘pop up.’
Loads of people have dreams they never realize. What made Coralie and Kristie stick to theirs? I have two theories. The first is that they never believed it wasn’t possible. Each has an entrepreneur father and the dads gave their daughters money to start up. Kristie explains: “For me, it was like, do you want this money for a wedding one day, or do you really want it for this bar you’re opening?” The second reason for their success is their friendship. They give each other unconditional support, and along with it seem to be very good at “egging each other on” at things…the more ridiculous, the better. These two bright, confident women have shared many years of big schemes and plans and are “equally naughty,” they assure me.
In creating the marvellous Drink, Shop & Do, they really went for it, encouraging each other to think big, each step of the way. Coralie rang Kristie after that pub conversation to ask, “Are you up for it?” and weeks later, Kristie had already maxed out her credit card on things to sell at the shop: “I was doing my job by phone and spending hours on ebay buying stuff – driving to collect it in Birmingham, Manchester… I’d call Coralie and say ‘I’ve got four chairs, they cost me 99p and it’s taken me 6 hours to get them!” Coralie got busy securing the space, the council licenses and the designers whose products they would feature in the shop… Before you knew it, their ‘pop up’ was a reality. Coralie opened the door, Kristie stood behind a bar laden with cakes; “we’d all made them,” she remembers. It was, from the beginning, a runaway success.
Six years later, Drink, Shop & Do is very much a permanent fixture on a now vibrant, even trendy Caledonian Road. Today’s DSD is everything Kristie and Coralie intended it to be: a gorgeous, huge, multi-function space dedicated to drinking, dancing, eating, shopping and “doing” fun stuff.
The DRINK bit happens by day and night in the café and downstairs in the bar. DSD’s creative drinks menu includes cocktails like “the Sherbet One:” Chairmans Reserve rum, ginger beer, lemon & raspberry sherbet; or one for the brave and shameless, “Wag Juice:” a mixture of Campari, Aperol and Cocchi Torino topped with prosecco. Dedicated to dancing, the dark, sultry basement was a sex club in its previous life and contrasts nicely with a bright and cheerful ambiance upstairs. DJ’s are chosen because they are the “best” on London’s party circuit.
Eating happens here, too. Cake trays and platters of scones and sweet things line a very cool, streamlined and retro-looking bar (made by the ex- of Coralie) in the café. Afternoon teas (including a ‘man’s’ version) as well as simple sandwiches, salads and breakfast foods are also available. Sweets can be bought from an in-house mini-sweet shop, an echo of Kristie’s original.
The SHOP part isn’t just a separate area, it applies to the whole shebang. Absolutely everything in the place is for sale: from the tables and chairs to the stuff on the walls, even the teapot you’re served with can be carted away. There’s also a dedicated space in the front selling cool things made by a variety of local independent designers: gifts, homewares, cards and stationery, balls of wool and coffee table books.
So far, so good. But what makes Drink, Shop & Do truly unique is the DO element of its name. Before my first visit, I imagined a weekly set of activities for arty, crafty, talented types – knitting and quilting and the like, i.e. not for me. I was wrong. The type of “Do’s” put on by Coralie, Kristie and their team require no creative ability whatsoever, just: “a strong drink and a good sense of humour,” as their website states.
These events are about enjoying the ‘doing’ rather than the end product. Although sometimes the results are surprisingly good, Kristie says, talking me through “Lionel Rich Tea” night (when ‘rich tea’ biscuits are piped in icing with the likeness of Lionel Richie): “We did samples and mine was rubbish, Coralie’s was ok, but the customers’ Lionels were AMAZING…”
Other popular ‘do’s’ include: ‘lego robots,’ ‘dot-to-dot disco,’ ‘play with clay,’ ‘musical bingo,’ ‘flower-power headbands,’ ‘vintage hair and make-up,’ ‘temporary tattoo parlour’ and even ‘dance class’ nights featuring specific songs, like “Push it” by Salt & Pepa or “Stop! Hammertime…” Most activities don’t require pre-booking* and are truly accessible, as Coralie explains: “you wouldn’t think: ‘I can’t do that, I can’t stitch like that or draw like that’ and feel embarrassed. Everyone’s just really silly together.”
It’s that same fun, light-hearted, ‘can do’ approach that has made Drink, Shop & Do the stuff youthful dreams were made of.
*Although some do. Best to check here before you go.