Roxanne Speakeasy Bar Interior

When we heard the news that Dirty Bones were working on a new speakeasy concept our ears pricked up immediately and like many we waited eagerly in anticipation for more news. If you’ve been living under a rock and for some unknown reason are unfamiliar with the Dirty Bones brand (like seriously, where have you been?) then here’s all you need to know.

Dirty Bones launched in 2014 opening up a site in West Kensington and soon after that initial launch were opening sites in Soho and East London. They now have 5 restaurant sites in total, 4 of which are in London and the other is in Oxford. Each location has a strong identity, vibrant interiors, stylish atmosphere and a distinctive vibe that creates a really unique customer and brand experience. Carefully curated old school playlists, regular DJs and live music all help to elevate the experience and really shape the Dirty Bones brand identity.

Dirty Bones Bar Interior | Shoreditch

Dirty Bones believe in using the highest quality ingredients to craft NYC style comfort food and cocktails. ‘High fives & good vibes’ is what should be expected and for us the brand certainly delivers on all levels. If you’re feeling hungry we’d really recommend not clicking on this link right here, it may just take your ‘hanger’ to new levels!

One thing we absolutely love about Dirty Bones is the music (as well as the food), if you haven’t already then you should really get on some of these playlists they are an absolute vibe.

OK so enough teasing let’s move on to the main event. Roxanne is a hip-hop inspired speakeasy concept serving a menu of classic cocktails that have been remixed with a little bit of Roxanne magic.

What do you think of the name Roxanne? We really like it and if you were wondering where the inspiration for the name came from then we’re going to have to give you a little history lesson on the topic of old school hip-hop.

Now, we hope you’re sitting comfortably. If you’re already a fan of hip-hop and are aware of ‘The Roxanne Wars’ then you may want to skip this part. The Roxanne Wars were quite a unique time in hip-hop history. The Roxanne Wars was a music battle between two hip-hop artists of the 80’s. It is an iconic moment for hip-hop in that it was probably one of if not the first ever ‘rap beef’ between two artists. There were 25 recorded responses that were documented in the Roxanne Wars but stories speculate there could have been up to 100 answer or diss tracks recorded.

Roxanne Speakeasy Bar Interior

This all started when a young and up and coming MC named Lolita Shanté was approached by producer Marley Marl to record a few verses for him. If Marley Marl sounds familiar to you then it’s more than likely you’ve heard his name featured on the song Juicy. Biggie gives him a shout out in the following rhyme: 

“It was all a dream, I used to read Word Up! magazine
Salt-n-Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine
Hangin’ pictures on my wall
Every Saturday Rap Attack, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl

Marley Marl had Shanté record her verses over an instrumental version of the hip-hop song ‘Roxanne Roxanne’ originally by UTFO. The song from UTFO was about a girl who had rejected any of their romantic advances and described how she simply wasn’t interested. 

Marl had come up with the idea to call this new song ‘Roxanne’s Revenge’ which aimed to provide a different context and perspective on UTFO’s song Roxanne Roxanne. Essentially providing the other side of the story. Marl had intended to play the track on Rap Attack, a radio show run by New York hip-hop artist Mr Magic.

Roxanne Speakeasy Concept

When recording the track Shanté adopted the name Roxanne Shanté and in doing so created the persona Roxanne. Little did she know but this would have a huge impact on the hip-hop scene at that time. 

The song was an instant hit and even when they (Marl & Shantè) had to re-record the track due to a cease and desist order placed by UTFO on their first track, Marley Marl changed up the instrumental and backing track and still sold over 250,000 copies in NY alone. 

No one could’ve imagined what followed next but to say it kicked off would be an understatement. UTFO crafted a new persona called The Real Roxanne. This prompted a response from Roxanne Shanté and the rest as they say is history. 

So much of the Roxanne brand concept has evolved from this narrative and it really does give the brand, interiors, drinks concept, graphic design and social content such a unique, compelling and distinctive identity.

Roxanne Speakeasy Interior Concept

In true speakeasy fashion the entrance is hidden around the corner and down a little side street that backs on to Dirty Bones Shoreditch. 

Keeping with the brand concept the bar entrance is graffitied all along the exterior wall. A little neon ‘Bar’ sign sits above a plain and very unassuming black door. 

As you step inside you’re faced with what can only be described as a star studded wallpaper of some of the biggest names in hip-hop. Taking the stairs up to the actual bar you have this totally immersive experience. Event posters, famous hip-hop artists and associated graphics provide a vibrant mix of colour and cover the walls from floor to ceiling. The narrative and identity is very unique and distinctive. We had made it only halfway up the stairs carefully studying each poster and reading the historic event details and were already intrigued to explore further.

As you enter into the actual bar you find yourself transported into an interior space that has been beautifully designed and really connects with the overall brand concept. 

Firstly the wall finishes you’d probably describe as ‘unfinished’ or maybe even a patina finish. They are totally stripped back and really compliment the rest of the space. The ceilings had a lot of detailing, kind of like that old school artex patterning. The plaster detailing ran around the perimeter of the ceiling space and around each light fitting was an ornate plaster ceiling rose. Upon visiting we were informed that these ceiling details had been carefully crafted to help with the overall look and feel of the bar interior. 

Roxanne Speakeasy Bar Concept

Just like on the way up the artwork is really well considered. Poster and picture walls have been carefully curated to help tell the brand story and we particularly liked the use of black and white imagery too. It looked awesome! 

There is a little bit of fixed seating and a variety of mid-century tables and chairs make up the other seating arrangements. The bar is a solid timber bar which sits down the far end of the space essentially down the opposite end to where you enter.

The space has a little bit of foliage incorporated within it and lots of amazing little props that you could really imagine a creative or music artist would have in their apartment. It’s clear that they had a very clear vision of this space and the vibe they wanted to create and it really does communicate the story in so much depth. 

Two of the key features of this space have to be the music and the drinks concept. They are both really unique and so aligned with the overall brand concept it is ridiculous. Let’s start with the music setup, in each corner of the space are the old style wooden boxed speakers that give off such a great sound. The playlist is inspired by old school hip-hop and you can tell that each song has been carefully curated and added to the list. Notably many of the tracks are from the artists that shaped that golden period of hip-hop. Staying true to the brand they really do champion many female artists of that era too. As we mentioned earlier in the post the decks are also on hand and come to life when they bring live DJ’s, giving the space a real intimate feel and vibe that is really reflective of the brand essence.

Roxanne Speakeasy Bar Concept

Now onto the drinks concept, where do we start with these cocktails? It’s safe to say that we tried nearly every one of the cocktails on the menu.  We were also super lucky to chat with Cyan Wong who gave us so much of her time to talk us through each of the classic cocktails on the menu and how she elevated each one to give it that Roxanne twist.

Grey Coffee were lucky enough to be invited to the pre-opening by Lyndsay Anderson the Marketing Director of Dirty Bones. Lyndsay was instrumental in implementing and delivering the Roxanne concept. We caught up with Lyndsay and she kindly took the time to answer some of the questions we had in regards to the project. 

Lyndsay you joined Dirty Bones as the Marketing Director in October 2020 can you tell us a bit more about your role/experience and what attracted you to the Dirty Bones brand? 
I joined Dirty Bones right in the height of the pandemic when the venues were still closed. They understood the importance of maintaining brand profile and had just launched at-home-kits; their first foray into e-commerce.  This was my first time in casual dining, something I was keen to experience as I’d done everything from luxury dining, to QSR and hotel to drinks industry, previously. I love having that breadth of knowledge right across the sector as it allows you to draw upon a wide array of expertise, which was helpful as we navigated the turmoil and challenges of Covid.

Many will be aware of the 5 incredible restaurant sites you have associated with Dirty Bones so at what point did you decide that you wanted to develop a speakeasy concept?
Our founders had been talking about the idea of a speakeasy for a while and the space above our Shoreditch venue was ideal as it has its own private doorway so they knew there was something fun that could be done with that. It was an honour to be passed the initial idea and told to run with it.

Can you tell us more about the concept? Where did the brand name Roxanne come from and how did you envisage this brand working alongside Dirty Bones? 
The name Roxanne comes from a period in Hip Hop history called the Roxanne Wars which is this unique moment between two female artists, Roxanne Shante and The Real Roxanne who had a song-battle which culminated in over 100 other artists jumping in and creating a song, in reply to that initial song. With Roxanne Bar we wanted to celebrate the roots of Hip Hop and the incredible culture that has exploded since then but tell it through a female lens. We very much see Roxanne Bar as separate to Dirty Bones though both do share a love for Hip Hop and good vibes.

If you were to sum up Roxanne as a brand in just one word, what would that word be?

Roxanne Speakeasy Concept - Entrance

Roxanne is located via a hidden door just around the corner from your Shoreditch restaurant, tell us more about the space and the discussions you had as a team around the interior design and the overall brand experience?
The idea was to create a space that felt like a musician’s apartment. You head back to the apartment, grab whatever is in the fridge, mix up drinks, someone jumps on the decks, others show up, someone starts mixing cocktails, more people show up, before you know it the party is in full swing! We’ve all had those nights; you can’t predict them but they end up being legendary and you’ve made new friends along the way. That was the essence of what we wanted to capture, and we had a lot of fun getting there.

As we all know 2020 was a challenging year for many (hospitality in-particular), can you tell us about some of the challenges you faced with the project and how you overcame them?
Was there a day that didn’t present a new challenge?! Seriously, there were so many and they’re so well documented from right across our sector but our take on it is that businesses don’t fail, people just give up so for us it was about staying tight as a team, getting our head down and getting through. In the background we were working on an investment deal and am really delighted that we came through this difficult time and have a new partner in Hero Brands. That’s a testament to the excellent business and brand that Dirty Bones is.

No speakeasy concept is complete without a great drinks concept, can you tell us more about some of the signature cocktails and where the inspiration came from for the cocktail menu?
The cocktail menu was also based on the idea of the apartment. We wanted to create something that sounds simple but turns out to be more unique and uses ingredients and spirits from across the globe, the kind of things you might have picked up from your travels, a bottle of this and a bottle of that. For instance, we have a Tequila ‘n’ Lemonade on the menu except it’s twisted: purple perilla and flavours of pink grapefruit and elderflower are shaken with Arette Tequila and a dash of Wray & Nephew, it’s a nod to tequila and lemonade but elevated.  We also have a punch on the menu because someone is always mixing a punch at a house party.  Our Roxy Disco punch tastes like a grown-up Solero ice lolly and its total summer vibes.

One element that really made the whole experience for us was the music, that old school hip hop vibe is so cool! When it comes to creating hospitality experiences how important do you think it is to create a holistic experience where everything feels connected? 
Crucial! It’s about creating the whole experience and for us, what was essential at Roxanne was underpinning everything with the right people and guest-experience, in that respect we tried to consider every detail from who the DJ line up is, so that it reflects the roots of Hip Hop as well as showcasing female talent; right through to that experience as you turn the corner and first see Roxanne Bar. In doing that, we have already started to create a space that is celebrating the culture of Hip Hop and we’re super excited about the artists that have already partied with us and the myriad of listening parties and events that are coming up.

We are sure that the Roxanne launch will be a huge success, are you able to share any insight on what’s next? Do you have any other ideas or concepts that you would like to launch under the Dirty Bones brand? 
Right now our focus is on Dirty Bones and Roxanne and putting them in the best light by marrying the entire experience together so that guests have a really fun, overall time at our brands. We have some really exciting events, collaborations and news up our sleeve so watch this space!

If we know one thing for sure this Roxanne will not be starting any wars, far from it in fact. We have nothing but love for this incredible brand and bar concept. Hopefully this post has given you some great insights into the brand design and bar interior design, if you want to know more, go and check them out on instagram @roxannebarlondon

Better yet, get down to Shoreditch and check out the vibes for yourself. You won’t be disappointed! 

We want to express our thanks once again to Lyndsay for inviting us to the pre-opening and taking the time to work with us to create this amazing piece of content for our website.  

We finished this whole section with some of the original lyrics from Roxanne’s Revenge and wanted to find a good way to finish this post. We couldn’t think of a better way to sign off than this.

Roxanne Speakeasy Bar Concept

“And If You Don’t Know, Now you Know *****”
The Notorious BIG | Juicy

Would you like to work with Grey Coffee? 

If you have a bar interior design project that you would like to discuss with us then please do get in touch. We believe in creating hospitality interior spaces that are highly connected to your brand DNA. 

If you’d like to know more about our brand design or commercial interior design process, lets talk. 

If you enjoyed this post you may like to read some of our other insights:

Bar Design Guide
Hospitality Interior Insights
Brand Interiors

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