Upon entering Fools and Horses, owner Collin Nicholas wants people to be immediately immersed: the smell of coconuts and aromatics emanating from the kitchen, the bartenders shaking and fidgeting, the black-green of the walls allowing the pressed pewter back bar and borderline art deco wallpaper to pop. And straight ahead, a few tables overlook the dining room from an elevated stage, as if the drinks and food are the real show.
That’s of course the goal: Nicholas, who also owns Pink Rabbit in the Pearl District, has helped open more than 20 bars during his tenure, often serving as a consultant. For Fools and Horses, his soon-to-open cocktail bar in the former Vault Cocktail Bar space, he wants to let food and drink take center stage, a sophisticated spot with Hawaiian fare and an array of cocktails. meticulously incorporating culinary elements.
Sophisticated elegance and a focus on menu and service played a big role in the design of the space, says Nicholas: The restaurant eschewed the bright colors of Pink Rabbit and opted for something more subtle. He hired Lonesome Pictopia to design custom accent wallpaper, an intricate yellow and olive pattern that brings out the greens of the space. To create even more privacy within the bar, Nicholas ensured that the space offered smaller and tighter seating centers around the room: with the platform towards the front of the restaurant, the bar houses a small area with “a kind of energy lounge”, with a black leather sofa in front of the fireplace. The darker tones of the restaurant are in direct juxtaposition with the brightness of the bar, the light reflecting off the pressed tiles line the walls behind the bottles. “Fools and Horses will be darker and sultry and sophisticated,” he says. “You can sit at the bar, in front of the bartender, and have a really thoughtful conversation.”
If the conversation will likely involve the drinks, which Nicholas says are meant to be both accessible and interesting. “It was very important to me that our food and drinks were not only aesthetically beautiful, but also simple and really delicious,” he says. “We can really create a really intentional, thoughtful and inspired offering for people.” For example, the bar’s 50/50 martini relies on Timberline vodka, distilled with Pacific Northwestern apples, served with a variety of optional add-ins and garnishes: lemon twists, pickled apple wedges, and a small jug of lemon juice. pickled apple, instead of olive brine. Another apple-based cocktail combines Big Gin with Clear Creek apple brandy, in addition to green apple, fennel, ginger, cardamom and celery.
Many of the bar’s cocktails incorporate kitchen produce and ingredients; for example, a rum and sherry cocktail combines gastrique of pineapple, orange and guava jelly, topped with a few bubbles. Alternatively, another sherry drink – this one using gin as the base alcohol – draws its sweetness from coconut, grilled rice and miso horchata and lychee, with a tincture of Japanese curry for flavor. ‘balance. “While there is this focus on the ingredients, and even a point of view on the profile, I never consider this a reinvention of the wheel, but rather a better one,” says Nicholas. “This gin and curry cocktail is a loose evolution of a gin sour. It’s quite an evolution from there, but it incorporates our food program, our vision, our concept, and they’re all in balance.”
As for the food program, chef Alex Wong (formerly of the Portland Sesame Collective restaurant group) draws much of his inspiration from the Paniolo culture, Hawaiian cowboys originally trained by Mexican vaqueros in the 1800s; thus, Paniolo cuisine often blends native Hawaiian foods and traditions with North American culinary influences. On the menu, for example, a cassoulet with lima beans and corn sprouts, but also a Mahi Mahi in a coconut crust and lilikoi butter (purple passion fruit). A dish of candied taro and potatoes is seasoned with piri piri and rosemary, with schmaltz for a flavorful boost. A staple of the food menu is Wong’s pipikaula, a seasoned, semi-dry beef similar to jerky; it’s available on the bar’s Paniolo range – a snack board with cheeses, jams and lilikoi – as well as a main course, with purple sweet potatoes and coriander chimichurri.
Overall, Nicholas wants Fools and Horses to continue to emphasize exceptional hospitality, a principle that has become borderline dogmatic for him. “As professionals in this line of work, I require my staff, my team, to approach every interaction the same way, with a bright smile, giving off that air of welcoming someone into their own home, making sure they have what they need,” he says. “The guest is there to enjoy the experience, and it’s our job to create a seamless experience.”
Fools and Horses will open in late August at 226 NW 12th Avenue. Take a look inside the space below: