After securing a stonking £36k via Kickstarter last year, the brains behind Stokey Bears restaurant and the Burger Bear pop-up events unveiled their ambitious plans for a multi-partner, permanent venue located slap bang in the middle of Old Street roundabout. In June 2015, they opened said venue, and so, The Magic Roundabout was born.
For the sake of clarity; when they say it’s located in the middle of the roundabout, they really mean it. The space is situated directly on Old Street roundabout (or ‘Silicon Roundabout’ if you’re a budding tech entrepreneur justifying your sky high rent), only accessible via a secret-ish staircase within Old Street Station. That said; once ‘inside’ you’ll be forgiven for forgetting you’re essentially standing at the centre of one of London’s busiest junctions, because there aren’t many indications you are. It’s open air (with plenty of nooks to hideaway in if the weather isn’t playing ball), with the bars, foodie hubs and seating areas on the perimeter – and happily, you can’t see, hear or smell the traffic outside. Instead, there are a number of painted structures around the outside, with Google’s advert-screen-thing hanging above, constantly updating with local information. As it stands at the moment, the venue is geared towards summer, however they’re in the process of adding in movable roof covers for some of the areas, to ensure the roundabout is a fun winter destination, too.
Food & Drink
A cool collaboration between a number of pop-up heavyweights, The Magic Roundabout is most definitely a joint effort. Drinks range from hand-crafted caffeine goodness from Relax, It’s Only Coffee, expertly mixed cocktails from the internationally acclaimed White Lyan, and delicious mixes from Bethnal Green favourite, Craft Cocktail Co, as well as locally brewed beers and ciders at the main bar. Naturally, as with any good night, we started with cocktails. Highlights were the Orange Mocha Frappaccino and the Damn Fine Fizz, both which come in at a reasonable-for-Shoreditch £8. On the food, Burger Bear front with delicious meaty prowess and they’re joined by fellow street food aficionados, Prawnography. We opted for Burger Bear, and as expected, found them in damn tasty fettle. I went for their signature patty; a ‘Grizzly Bear’, topped with bacon and bacon jam. Yes, bacon jam. Because bacon jam is a thing and it’s delicious. Trust me. On recommendation I also had the hot wings and 'angry' fries which were topped with ‘helluvapino’ relish and ‘#HolyFuck’ hot sauce. Word of warning; if you can’t handle heat in your food, probably steer clear of these – they’re delicious but the hot sauce has a profanity in its name for a reason.
Ambience & Clientele
We visited on a Tuesday, so it was quite a chilled vibe. Music is played through multiple speakers around the venue, but just in the background; it’s a really good after work spot for sure. At the weekend they’ve teamed up with a number of cool promoters and DJs to promise a later night/party vibe. They’re keeping it eclectic and the space is so versatile they can host anything from wild day parties to post-work drinks, private hire corporate dos to chilled evenings. They’re still very much in their infancy, and it feels like the secret’s just getting out about the Magic Roundabout, so with that expect a mixed crowd.
There’s still a lot in the pipeline for The Magic Roundabout; they’re up for partnering with other brands, pop-ups and promoters, and in that I think lies the strength of the venue. I was a little dubious of just how chilled a space could be when on one of the busiest roundabouts in London, but the truth is you just don’t notice where you are; it’s open, fresh and a novelty for London.
All hail the Bear (and friends).