Listening bars have firmly established themselves in the capital, with many new spaces springing up over the past few years. Brilliant Corners in Dalston is one of the pioneers of this renaissance, and the London stalwart is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
Brilliant Corners was co-founded in 2013 by brothers Amit and Aneesh Patel and is an audiophile’s haven – a listening bar and Japanese eatery with understated interiors that have changed little since it launched a decade ago.
‘The space was abandoned when we found it but had many lives before that, including having been a bank at one point, and later an African restaurant,’ explains Amit Patel. When they got their hands on the shell, they transformed it into the kind of unpretentious space they’d want to hang out in.
Eschewing an expensive design team, they engaged a ‘cheap by pragmatic builder, with no drawings or plans, and made it up as we went along,’ he adds. ‘The vision was always to keep the space simple and humble, and not distract from the mission of the sound system.’
That mission has been a meteoric success: Brilliant Corners boasts one of the best audio setups in the capital and is outfitted with a crisp and clean end-to-end analogue setup without digital processors or controllers.
Modified technics turntables play records and are controlled by a custom valve mixer built by Isonoe. Two Mcintosh tube amps power two pairs of 1970s Klipschorn speakers, anchored discreetly in the four corners of the dining room, to encircle diners and patrons in a carefully executed orbit of sound.
That’s not to say other senses aren’t indulged too: diners can tuck into Brilliant Corners’ izakaya-inspired five-course set menu, centred around sushi and sashimi, and made using traditional Japanese techniques and seasonal produce. The bar’s specially curated wine list has also won its fans, especially its short list of sakes and cocktails.
‘Lighting has played a big part in our identity’ says Patel, ‘and [our globes] now features in all of our projects. [With Brilliant Corners] we wanted lighting that felt natural, and did not detract from the music.’
The bar’s inky interiors are illuminated by moon-like hanging globes that cast a soft, dreamy glow across the space without superfluous colour or flashing.
“The vision was always to keep the space simple and humble, and not distract from the mission of the sound system”
The listening bar was lightly renovated a few years ago to add an extra room for larger groups. But aside from making the space bigger and its design more robust, it remains faithful to the pair’s original vision.
Are there any anniversary plans afoot to change Brilliant Corners? ‘No. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ Patel replies emphatically.
Perhaps it is this consistent devotion to a pure and unassuming experience that has become the listening bar’s greatest legacy.
The Patels have gone on to launch Giant Steps (a giant, travelling sound system), wine and record store Idle Moments, and most recently, Mu, which opened a few doors down from Brilliant Corners earlier this summer. But Brilliant Corners still sets the standard – and the tone.
470 Kingsland Rd, London E8 4AE, United Kingdom