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Stratford: How Jim And Tonic plans to use Sugar House Island to make gin and rum

Takeover of The Print House at Dane’s Yard includes bar, restaurant, terrace and two distilleries

From left, Jim And Tonic COO Mark Warren, founder Jim Mark and distiller Hendré Barnard – image James Perrin

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A lot can happen in six years.

A long-time fan of gin and tonic, Jim Mark had been on a skiing holiday to Norway and experienced the drink in a new way.

He was served big glasses with quality contents (think Williams Elegant Gin and Fever Tree Tonic), topped off with a variety of garnishes.

Before long he was gently slurring the words “Jim and tonic” and a business idea and brand name were born.

“That experience got me thinking about getting these flavours to everybody and so I bought jimandtonic.com for £20 – that was the beginning,” said Jim.

“We started in 2016 with one van – Genevieve – having agreed to trade on a golf course at a corporate event. 

“It was on a whim really, an idea to try and build a company that was about bringing wonderful gin and tonics with crazy garnishes to people, which not many had seen at the time. It went down really well.”

The day was such a success, in fact, that further sporting events followed as the fledgling company built its business from a mobile base.

“Then we got into Mercato Metropolitano, at Elephant And Castle, which was our first permanent bar,” said Jim.

“That’s where our main distillery is and it really helped our business.”

Jim And Tonic garnished with cucumber and lavender

Further expansion followed, including a partnership with brewery German Kraft, which brings us to 2022.

Jim And Tonic recently took over The Print House at Sugar House Island in Stratford and is in the process of creating a blockbuster home for the brand.

In addition to an extensive outdoor terrace, indoor bar and restaurant, there will be two distilleries – one for gin and one to create rum.

There’s also an events space and plans for a botanical rooftop garden on one of the two buildings the company has taken over.

“We visited this place and fell in love with it – it feels like an open space,” said Jim.

“In terms of hospitality, I think the area is underdeveloped – there’s not much of an offering for people.

“But these are lovely buildings, right by the water – there’s the outside space and we can make this a place that’s great for all.

“We’re a distillery but we want to create great spaces – boutique shops and bars for people to come and enjoy their gin and tonics.”

Located a short walk from Pudding Mill Lane DLR station, Sugar House Island is towards the Bow end of Stratford High Street. 

Jim And Tonic’s patch sits in Dane’s Yard, right on the banks of Three Mills Wall River Weir – a stretch of water that forms a triangle with the River Lea and Pudding Mill River.

With a plethora of wooden benches to choose from, lit by white bulbs strung above them, a bar on an open-top bus and a 40m, multicoloured tower lit by some 600 LEDs, Jim And Tonic makes the area an immensely attractive proposition.

And that’s before you even get to the stuff it serves.

Bar staff sharpen up their skills – image James Perrin

“At the moment we’re producing four gins, and a couple of other products, including a Ugandan project with a water charity to fund wells in Africa,” said Jim And Tonic distiller Hendré Barnard.

“We are a sustainable urban distillery, so we try to source as many ingredients locally as possible.

“Our London dry, for example, has botanicals that can be found within the M25. We also try to work with community gardens, that supply us with ingredients we use in the gin. 

“Our Roobee pink gin uses honey from urban apiaries, literally made in the capital.

“What really sets us apart is that we’re small scale compared to other so-called craft distilleries.

“We produce very small batches but we are looking to grow our sales to both consumers and businesses.

“We’ve got big plans and that’s one of the reasons we came here – to have a brand house, so that people can experience the process, do distillery tours, tastings and allow people to get their hands dirty to a certain extent, so they can see what we do and how we do it.

“We’re also going to be making new products for this area, speaking to the community and using local ingredients.”

One of those new products will be a first for Jim And Tonic – Sugar House Rum.

“Rum’s my favourite spirit and it’s really growing as a category,” said Jim And Tonic COO Matt Warren.

“As well as the distilleries over in the Caribbean, you can see a lot of variations with spiced rums, flavoured rums, and as a result it’s becoming a more popular drink. 

The Print House features an extensive terrace area
The Print House features an extensive terrace area

“It’s great for mixing cocktails and it’s an area that really interests us because there’s a bit of a scene in the UK now.

“Here, we want to expand what we’ve done already, to bring that same vibe we’ve created at other venues to Stratford, with good quality products and music. 

“This is an area that’s developing massively, with offices moving in and a lot of residential property.

“We want to make Jim And Tonic a great place to come, have a drink and some nice food – we have a really great chef here.

“Then add to that distillery tours, gin blending classes and events so we can do private bookings.

“We’ve already had our first wedding, so that’s something we want more of – a full calendar ranging from things like Yoga and community get-togethers to networking events and Oktoberfest.”

With all that in the pipeline, and Jim’s plans to create some kind of gin-on-tap system that delivers spirits at the press of a button, this is a place to try sooner rather than later.

The Print House is also home to Jim And Tonic's bar on a bus
The Print House is also home to Jim And Tonic’s bar on a bus

Read more: How Third Space helps Wharfers make the most of their time

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com

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Bow: Read an extract from Tufayel Ahmed’s recently published novel This Way Out

Tower Hamlets-based journalist, editor and author tackles grief and coming out in his debut work

Tufayel Ahmed has published his first novel. This Way You
Tufayel Ahmed has published his first novel. This Way You

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Bow-based journalist, editor and author Tufayel Ahmed’s debut novel was published in July, 2022 – and to give readers a flavour, he’s kindly allowed Wharf Life to release an extract.

Based on his own experiences of living with grief and the South Asian and LGBTQIA+ communities in east London, This Way Out tells the story of Amar who finds love in the arms of Joshua.

There’s just one problem – he hasn’t told his strict Muslim Bangladeshi family that his partner is a man – and not a Muslim.

So, what better way to announce you’re getting married (and gay) than on your family’s WhatsApp Group?

The novel also tackles themes of loss, with Tufayel partly driven to write by the death of his mother after a long illness.

“In a lot of South Asian families, we aren’t taught to discuss or express feelings, so I didn’t really have a way to channel my grief,” Tufayel said.

“I ended up writing a similar story arc for Amar in the novel – he, too, is consumed by grief and falls into depression.

“Writing about his grief, putting my own feelings down on paper, was quite cathartic, and writing out the ways in which he might resolve his grief – such as therapy – was almost like a roadmap on how to deal with my own.

“I began seeing a therapist too, and between that and writing the novel, I really was able to, if not overcome grief, at least feel at peace with it.”

This Way Out is published by Lake Union and is priced at £8.99.

At the time of going to press it was available on offer with amazon.co.uk for £4.99 in paperback.

This Way Out is published by Lake Union

FROM THIS WAY OUT BY TUFAYEL AHMED

I haven’t been back home to Mileson Street for a few months. Not since last Eid. That was the last time the family were all together, huddled around the kitchen table eating korma and pilau. 

The kids were running around the house, showing off their new presents, and Oli smeared chocolate on his pristine new jumper. 

There is joy and electricity when we all reunite now that everyone is off in their own little worlds, with their own wives, husbands, children and households.  I didn’t eat all day before arriving at Dad’s that Eid, saving myself for Mina’s lamb samosas and Shuli’s prawn bhuna.

“You’re going to pass out if you don’t eat,” Joshua had said, waving a piece of toast with Nutella in my face that morning. 

Then he’d taken a mammoth bite of it right in front of me, teasing me with the irresistible crunch of a perfectly toasted slice of bread.

“I’m saving myself for later!” I cried out, standing firm. Eid is always a big affair in our family. Mina and Shuli usually split the cooking duties – whipping up industrial-sized batches of saffron-scented pilau with juicy, fall-off-the-bone pieces of chicken in it – and Amira always makes at least three different desserts. 

This Eid she made extra-gooey chocolate brownies, a banoffee pie, homemade rasmalai, and mango lassi to wash it all down.

We feasted until we could barely move, rice and meat threatening to return the same way it went down.  After our late lunch, we gathered in the living room for tea and dessert. I felt so noxiously full that even a bite of Amira’s banoffee pie would have tipped me over the edge.

“Do you remember when we were kids, shopping for Eid clothes in Green Street? One of you lot would always cry: ‘I don’t want to be dressed up like him’,” Mina said playfully, smiling at Asad as she basked in the memories. “You could never dress like your big brother: ‘He’s not cool!’ 

“Mum and Dad always had to make sure you two had different outfits. God forbid you matched. You were worse than us girls.”

“Well, he wasn’t cool,” Asad said, laughing at Abed. “He still isn’t. I had a reputation to uphold, okay?”

“Oh yeah, what’s that? As one of the bad boys of the estate?” Abed teased him back. “What was it you and your mates called yourselves? The Globe Town Krew? Yeah, you looked real hard tagging the side of the library!”

“Could never get your hair cut with him, either,” I said, joining in. “Remember his Beckham curtains? The barber had to spend an hour on them, and I’m just sitting there waiting for my No. 1 side and back.”

We all broke into laughter, reminiscing about the adventures of our youth – when our problems were trivial and life felt simple. As the evening wound on, the photo albums came out, as they always did when we got together. 

Photos of Mina, Abed and Asad as children, posing with long-slaughtered cows during a holiday in Bangladesh, before Amira and I came along. Photos of the five of us dressed up in garish outfits at Mina’s wedding. The suit I’d worn was too big. The trouser legs were twice the width of my legs. 

Abed, Asad and I all had all worn pinstripe black suits with hideous silver waistcoats. In our defence, it was the turn of the millennium and we were foolishly led to believe this was cutting edge.

“Amira, you were so chubby,” Mina said, pawing at a photo of Mum in hospital holding Amira just a day after she was born. Three-year-old me can be seen lying on her hospital bed, as if insisting I was still a baby, too.

“You two were the heaviest out of all of us!” Mina continued, looking between me and Amira in mock horror. “I don’t know how Mum did it.”

“Thankfully, not chubby any more!” Amira laughed, surreptitiously glancing over at Asad, who was starting to develop heft around his stomach, just like Dad.

“Oi, I’m not fat. I’m just big-boned!” he hit back.

The laughs continued well into the night, by which time we were ready for second helpings of food. 

Still, there was more than enough for everyone to take home containers of leftovers, which I savoured for days after. No matter how much I try, I can never replicate the taste of home.

As I walk down Globe Road, cutting through the children’s playground near our street, I revel in my childhood memories. Mileson Street is the next left turn, a tucked-away, homely cul-de-sac only a five-minute walk from Whitechapel High Street. 

No fewer than three blocks of flats stand in front of and behind our street, which is filled with modest three-storey semi-detached houses. 

Before Amira and I were born, the family bounced around estates just like this all around east London. For a time they lived adjacent to Victoria Park, tales of which I listened to with envy as a child. 

Then, when I came along, the council moved them into 18 Mileson Street – a real house, with a garden and a front lawn. Amira was next and the house was filled to capacity, but there was no need to move again.

As I turn the corner on to Mileson Street, I slow my pace to take in the old area. It looks much the same, and yet I feel like a stranger.

We were lucky to live on Mileson Street; despite the inner-city locale, high crime and poverty rates, our area always felt oddly safe and suburban. Everyone always looked out for each other. 

It was like a mini Bangladeshi village at times, especially in summer, when kids from across the estate would play football or hopscotch in the streets carefree, only being wrangled into the house at sunset.

The road looks the same as always, but now the kids we used to play with have kids of their own. Sometimes I hear about so-and-so from one of my brothers, who still keep in touch with some of the boys from the neighbourhood. 

But I never really formed the same friendships. For one thing, I didn’t like playing football every Saturday like they did. Also, I was never any good at football, so was never picked for any teams. The Spice Up Your Life dance routine, however, I knew inside out. I’ve taken the long way round, hoping that the walk will keep me calm, but as I get closer to the house, my stomach muscles tense. 

Stopping, I lean against a wall adjacent to the street and call Joshua. I want to hear his reassuring voice one last time before I cross the threshold, before I meet my family face-to-face. 

And maybe I will suggest he send out a search party if I don’t make it home tonight.

His phone rings several times. Each ring is shrill to my already ragged nerves. No sign of Joshua. I nearly give up, but then he finally answers and I sigh in relief.

“Hey,” Joshua says, his voice deep and calm.

“Hi…,” I reply a little shakily. “I’m here at my dad’s. Just getting ready to go in.’

“Oh.”

“Yeah. Oh.”

“I don’t want to say it’ll be fine because you’ll shout at me, so I’ll just say I love you.”

  • I close my eyes and wish I could bottle up the comfort I find in his voice and take it inside the house with me. My heart swells in my chest. It is precisely what I need to hear right now

Read more: Discover David’s Play at The Space on the Isle Of Dogs

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Bow: Why Cody Dock is determined to raise funds for next phase of its visitors centre

Gasworks Dock Partnership sets target of £250k plus VAT to complete transformational project

GDP CEO Simon Myers at Cody Dock
GDP CEO Simon Myers at Cody Dock – image Matt Grayson

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Cody Dock has been in a constant state of evolution since the Gasworks Dock Partnership (GDP) began its regeneration project there a decade ago.

Its rolling bridge scheme, an important piece of the puzzle that will ultimately enable the re-flooding and reopening of the dock itself, is due to start construction next year. Huge improvements seem tantalisingly close. 

Structured as a social enterprise, GDP has accomplished the remarkable clearance of the dock and site, both piled high with rubbish, rubble and industrial waste through the tireless labour and commitment of thousands of volunteers. 

Each of these participants has given their time and energy in pursuit of improving the site on the banks of the Lea to provide a lasting, sustainable legacy for both Newham residents and visitors to the area.

As work to repair the dock’s brickwork and to remove the polluted silt that’s built up over the years continues apace, permanent washblock and toilet facilities are set to arrive in the coming months to better service volunteers’ needs and allow the area to become a base for watersports alongside its burgeoning community of studio-based craftspeople.

But it’s the planned visitors centre that will really become the heart of the site.

This structure is set to be built in two phases and will, when completely finished, contain a multi-purpose hall, an information point, a shop, a dining space, a cafe and a kitchen.

With funding already secured from Veolia Environmental Trust for the first section, which will house the hall, fundraising for £250,000 has now begun in earnest to see the centre completed.

An artist’s impression of the Rolling Bridge

“The second phase will really be the engine for Cody Dock,” said Simon Myers, GDP CEO since its creation.

“It’s central to our plans as it will support activities in the main venue space and includes a large canteen and a home for a community cafe.

“The hall itself will have a capacity of about 150 seated but it’s multi-purpose, so it can be used as an intimate venue for theatre, for live performance or as a gallery or function space.

“It’s a single storey building but is triple height at the back, with a roof that’s perfectly angled for solar panels and we’ve just received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to install them to make the centre operationally carbon neutral.

“The reason phase two is important is that we have armies of volunteers here every day, so the canteen will give them protection from the elements when they’re having their lunch.

“It will be a place where people meet, whether they are tenants from our maker studios on-site, volunteers or just people who are visiting.

“Having that communal, social space is where conversations happen between people who don’t know each other. It will unlock the potential of the community that lives, works and visits here quite significantly.

“There will also be a reception area that will act as a staffed information point. We’re located halfway down The Line sculpture trail, so we have a lot of walkers coming through. We’re hoping this space will act as a visitor space for the Lea, especially the tidal section of the river, and it will be where a lot of our ecology activities take place.”

An artist’s impression of the new visitors centre

The second phase is also crucial in making Cody Dock financially sustainable in the longer term as it seeks to develop income streams that will fund its upkeep and ongoing operations.

“From the financial point of view, it’s what makes the venue – hopefully – self-sustaining, and that’s our goal,” said Simon.

“We have a five-year plan, which we’re nearly two years into, to make the whole Cody Dock project self-sustaining so that we’re not reliant on having to fundraise.

“We have always set ourselves up to be a social enterprise with that goal and the venue will be funded by the income from the cafe itself.

“The other thing about the building is, while there will be a wall between the two phases, we’ll be able to fold that back to open the space right up, all the way through to the cafe.

“It’s also creating jobs as there will be a reception position and space for a shop, which will be another income stream for us.”

For more information or to contact GDP about donating to the second phase of the visitors centre, go to codydock.org.uk

  • With a host of things to do and see there’s always a good reason to visit Cody Dock.

The latest is the arrival of the Story Of Water exhibition on November 25 featuring sculptural pieces made by pupils from seven local schools in response to humanity’s impact on the environment.

The project saw the schools partner with counterparts in Ghana with the aim of improving the curriculum in both countries and enriching children’s education.

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