Haycock & Tailbar

There are times when we find somewhere so truly incredible, we just want to climb to the nearest rooftop and declare at the top of our lungs our undying love for it. Doing so about Haycock & Tailbar Associates cocktail and supper room however, would simply go against the discreet nature that makes it so special. Therefore rather than shout indiscriminately about it, we thought it would be best to give a hushed whisper to you fine gentleman. Just be sure not to tell all and sundry now.

Brilliantly hidden away near the Derngate theatre, the cocktail and supper room is the brainchild of Martin Stevens and Sam Dale, owners of the popular Hakamou tiki bars. In a time when enjoying a drink or meal past 9pm means suffering blaring pop music and choosing between which fast food option is the least damaging, Haycock & Tailbar provide something wholly unique, refreshing and civilised. Open till 12.30 am on Tuesday to Thursday and 1.30am Friday and Saturday, the cocktail and supper room do not class themselves simply as a bar or restaurant. Patrons can sit at the bar and enjoy an exquisite cocktail or get a table and enjoy fine food. The focus is on providing the upmost quality to customers in a cool, contemporary setting. The two cocktail aficionados came up with the idea after a rather boozy night in Berlin, sampling the capital’s renowned nightlife and visiting bars with no business rates, licensing regulations and licensing hours. The trip reminded them of the bartender legend of Haycock & Tailbar Associates.

The legend

As the legend goes, the origins of the enigmatic cocktail and supper rooms can be traced back to1947 Berlin and operating under the somewhat different name of ‘Wilhemina Koch und Ernest Talbot’ – named so after the proprietor and his fiancée. Ernest, a diplomat in the US Diplomatic Service with a penchant for fine cocktails, left the service and opened up the discreet café to cater for diplomats and agents of the Allied powers. Ernest never expanded his business, however thanks to the elusive ‘Associates’, it grew globally regardless. Many of the café’s customers desired to follow Ernest’s footsteps and set up their own independent and inconspicuous cafés back home. After receiving Ernest’s blessing and expert tutoring, the ex-diplomats departed Germany and set up their own establishments. These men became known to Ernest as ‘the Associates’ – a title which bestowed upon them equal measures of anonymity and respect. Due to the sensitivity of Germanic names in the post war period, the name was anglicised and became Haycock & Tailbar in around 1952.

All Associates shared a guiding principle: “We take our time, we don’t do cheap, we do things right. People who understand this make the best customers. Anyone else can take a hike”.

Status. Fame. Money. None of that mattered as long as you enjoyed spending what you could on the things the Associates loved to make. It was this very notion that made the subtle cocktail and supper rooms popular with the stars of the 50s and 60s; providing them with a place where they could have a good time and be treated like everyone else.

As one unknown Associate once said: “Think that you’re someone? You’re thinking too much. At Haycock everyone gets looked after the same”.

The 70s saw the decline of the legendary Haycock & Tailbar Associates. Many of the original Associates retired, whilst a changing culture saw the rise of ‘celebrity’ and a young generation of ‘startenders’- bartenders who were becoming celebrities in their own rights. Stars who wanted to enjoy a drink and meal out of the public eye and the average man desiring a slice of the finer things in life were quickly replaced with exhibitionism and a desire to drink to get drunk. The legend did not end here however. In more recent times, whispers globally began to circulate of the renowned Haycock & Tailbar Associates from individuals who wanted to resurrect the classy and covert late night cafés. Northampton is lucky enough to have two such individuals in its midst; aiming one day to be considered worthy of the coveted title, ‘Associate’.

The legend lives on…

And how happy we are that the duo have endeavoured to keep the legend alive. Making a reservation and paying a visit to Northampton’s underground cocktail and supper room is most certainly a worthwhile experience. In keeping with the discreet heritage of the Haycock & Tailbar Associates of the past, do not expect neon signs or booming pop music to announce this establishment’s whereabouts. Instead, look out for a simple, plain door that quietly reveals the establishment’s presence.

Haycock & Tailbar Entrance
Haycock & Tailbar Asscociate. Source: haycockandtailbar.co.uk

One of the brilliant aspects of Haycock & Tailbar Associates is the mystery that surrounds it; leaving you wondering what surprises lie in wait beyond such an unassuming facade. We could spoil some of these hidden joys, but where would be the fun in that? Instead, we suggest ringing the doorbell and finding these out for yourself. Upon entering and descending into the dimly lit cocktail and supper room, the modern and sleek interior creates a wonderfully laid back and intimate atmosphere.

On our visit, we decided to just sample the cocktails. All drinks are served sitting down and upon taking a seat at the bar, you are welcomed by the friendly bar staff and handed a leather bound menu, displaying the delights on offer.  Whilst deliberating over the cocktails, it is impossible not to let the wonderful aromas of other customers’ food leave you salivating. When it comes to food, Haycock & Tailbar Associates have an effective formula – not too spicy, not too big and not too fussy. The cuisine focuses on the notion of simplicity, using the best quality meats and ingredients to create the supper. The starters include mushroom and pate Rossini, mini Marrakesh meatballs and the particularly interesting flaming chorizo – slices of chorizo that can be barbequed over flaming 60%abv overproof rum. The old adage most certainly holds true in this instance that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

haycock&tailbar associates cocktail 1

The main courses at Haycock & Tailbar Associates revolve around the incredible steak suppers. Served on granite rocks of 450 degrees and steaks arrive at the table slightly seared. The decision is then in your hands how you choose to enjoy it. The eclectic choice of steaks served by cocktail and supper room is dissimilar to anything you will find in Northampton, with a wide range of exotic meats carefully selected and sourced. The 8oz fillet steaks are sourced from a local butcher, whilst those in the mood for something more adventurous can select from kangaroo, wild boar, venison, bison, ostrich and zebra. Haycock & Tailbar Associates always have at least two of the exotic meats available, however if there is a particular meat you are longing to try, then customers can contact them to have it made available.

An inside tip; try the Gressingham duck. We’ve been told it is particularly delicious and fabulous when cooked pink on the rock.

Accompanying all steaks is slow baked and then roasted chopped potatoes and homemade dips, including their own original Peruvian version of a pesto – the Chimichurri. The granite rocks give you complete control over your meat, whilst the smokiness created by the cooking meats creates a superb fragrance and acts as a brilliant substitute to the smoky interiors of the Haycock & Tailbar Associates rooms of old, which would have been filled with cigarette and cigar smoke. The dedication by Martin and Sam to producing an experience authentic to the legend is nothing short of incredible.

If your stomach allows, the cocktail and supper room also does a range of delectable desserts; the highlight being individual baked Alaska. These homemade delights are comprised of chocolate sponge, raspberry sauce and cookie dough ice cream which are all oven baked inside Haycock & Tailbar Associates’ in house marshmallow-like meringue.

haycock & tailbar cocktail 2

Whilst sitting at the bar, ruing our foolish decision not to eat and quickly making plans to return for a meal,  we were amazed at all the different cocktails to choose from. Haycock & Tailbar Associates offer a diverse and creative range of cocktails to suit all tastes; serving up cocktails with the finest spirits, homemade syrups and shrubs and hand squeezed juices. If you come in search of a Sex on the Beach, Blue Lagoon or WooWoo, you will leave disappointed. These are true cocktails that should be slowly savoured as each sip reveals interesting and different flavours to explore and enjoy. The nature of these beverages is to excite the senses and be appreciated over a period of time; never for quenching thirst. The cocktail and supper room accommodate the need for hydration with complementary water, helping cleanse the palette and assisting the kidneys in processing the alcohol from the strong cocktails.

Many of the cocktails available are Haycock & Tailbar Associates original masterpieces whilst others are well known or virtually forgotten classics. If you are considering paying the cocktail and supper room a visit, there are a few choice drinks you may want to consider sampling, including the Old Fashioned selection. You can choose what spirit and what bitters you want to indulge in and have it lovingly mixed and served with a giant ice ball. We had the Elijah Craig bourbon and cranberry bitters and never looked back. Whilst you may be sceptical of The Corpse Reviver’s ability to reanimate the deceased, it certainly packs enough punch to give it a good go. Made up of gin, Lillet Blanc, Cointreau and abinsthe, it was originally meant to be enjoyed for breakfast, although we would not recommend having one before making your daily commute. And lastly the French Correction is one of the Haycock & Tailbar Associates unique creations, consisting of red grapes, raspberry vinegar and their homemade muscovado sugar shrubs, which takes almost three weeks to make. Raspberry vodka and Chambord black raspberry liquer are added to produce a sublime concoction. The friendly bar staff are eager to impart their expert advice as to which cocktail will perfectly suit your desires and as we sipped the particularly delicious Old Fashioned, it became very clear that these gentlemen knew their way around a bar.

haycock 7 tailbar associates cocktail 2

Haycock & Tailbar Associates offers something exceptional in Northampton. The experience is refined and sophisticated without the pretentions and showiness that other bars suffer from. The guiding principles of the original, discreet Associates; that being it does not matter who you are, as long as you come seeking a good time and a slice of the finer things then you are welcome, hold true here. The dark and seductive setting makes it an ideal location for dates or a few cocktails with select companions. If you have enjoyed a late night show at the Derngate theatre or the Errol Flynn Filmhouse, or simply seeking somewhere to enjoy fine food and even finer cocktails at night in a relaxed and stylish environment, we would highly recommend paying Haycock & Tailbar Associates a visit. Actually, we would insist. If you have not been then go. If you have been then go again. If you want to stay up to date with the cocktail masters, check out www.haycockbartender.blogspot.co.uk. Just remember, being discreet is key, so hushed tones and whispers.

15 Derngate, Northampton, NN1 1TY