Angelina Restaurant, Dalston collaborates with artist and filmmaker Mark James to whisk drinkers away to the surreal shanty town of Shinjuku.
Having spent many a lost night in Tokyo’s drinking dens, artist, graphic designer and filmmaker Mark James has used his personal experiences and provocative sense of artistry to transform Dalston’s smallest bar, Golden Gai, instantly.
Mark James – known for his controversial creations such as the Dirty Bird Fried Chicken branding, Chinpira football hooligan toys and the collectible CardBoy series – was set the objective of transported Angelina’s guests to the centuries-old, architectural wonder of the Golden Gai in Tokyo, where a myriad of 6 narrow alleyways house over 200 tiny bars.
Golden Gai bars are known for their eclectic mix of artwork and enigmatic logos – ranging from cats and acoustic guitars to painted lips and nudes. They’re surreal, frenetic, fascinating and mysterious places but interminably warm, sociable and friendly establishments where guests are encouraged to literally rub shoulders with other revellers. With only six seats and a ban on smart phones, Angelina aims to encourage their guests to do the same; escape from reality, losing themselves and all sense of time and place.
A striking bespoke wallpaper designed by James, with the foreboding print of the legendary Tanuki, a mythological Japanese racoon dog that is believed to bring good fortune to business now adorns the walls of Angelina’s Golden Gai. Other eye-catching pieces include the Daruma, a traditional Japanese doll which is a symbol of perseverance and luck and over 50 of James’ well-known Dalston Fried Chickens; a tongue in cheek nod to the East London area.
“I jumped at the chance to work with Angelina on this project.” said Mark James. “I’ve spent a lot of time in Golden Gai in Tokyo, and the thought of making something that represents that in a small space really excited me. Every piece of artwork is influenced by Japanese culture; from the Tanuki to the Daruma doll. In Japan there are many statues of the Tanuki outside bars and restaurants – so it seemed a perfect fit for me to create my interpretation of that. The Daruma doll is a good luck doll, traditionally given as a gift – one eye is left blank, and you fill it in when your wish comes true – they come in lots of colours and all have different meanings.”
“Every time I visit Shinjuku, everyone I speak to always describes it as a hazy night. As a tourist, you’re always jet lagged, you don’t really know where you are, and this place is stacked with hundreds of bars. They’re all tiny, all of them are themed and they only seat about 6 to 8 people. The idea was to recreate that at Angelina – a tiny, unique space, with the idea that you could be anywhere. I wanted to get that hazy feel of Tokyo nights; the neon flooding past. There’s a lot in the small space, but at the same time I didn’t want to overdo it or make it too cluttered. The two giant Tanuki bearing down on people – I love it, but I don’t know what the reaction is going to be, it’s quite intense. It’s really the contrast between the open, minimal space and the dark, almost claustrophobic feeling of the smaller space.”
Golden Gai is open now, offering guests a unique selection of cocktails, wines and spirits. Reservations are not available at the bar.
Booking enquiries can be made via the website www.angelina.london