Mario Schifano wants to create the best cocktail bar around. And why not? Hundreds of Brixtonians would say that he already runs the best café for miles around – San Marino on Brixton Road. Simone Richardson listened to his plans and tasted the cocktails
Bar Marino is Mario Schifano’s new venture. He is Italian. His partners, Mar-Ka Peake and Razib Sammy, are from Thailand and Bangladesh.
Not content with having Rabano AIff-yanes serve me and many others the best decaf latte ever at San Marino, Mario and his colleagues want to repeat that performance with cocktails.
The morning and lunchtime queues that have been a feature of San Marino for nearly 30 years tell their own story of quality, value and service.
And those attributes are set to be features of the Art Deco cocktail bar that is now open alongside the San Marino.
“Running San Marino since 1993, says Mario, “I was always looking for something to add to it, but I never got round to it.
“Then Covid came and that threw a spanner in the works because everyone was not working
“As you know, everyone lost a lot of money. Everyone was locked up for a year and a half, so at that point I thought – well, I’m not going to put all my eggs in one basket.
“So I started looking for something to add and I was thinking about it, and a bar was always number one on my list.
“I didn’t know anything about bars, so I got a couple of guys who know the business really well.
“We are moving forward to get the bar done so we will probably make it the best bar in South London!
“That’s where I want to be. It’s the reason for it.
“It will be top end cocktails, beers, top wines, top tequilas. Everything top. All the classics.
“We have got a mixologist who will be literally experimenting with bubbles – and fire too.”
As well as the new bar next to the café, there is a 1920/30s Art Deco bar downstairs where private parties can be arranged.
Mar-Ka Peake and Razib Sammy are the dynamic duo delivering cocktails and more.
Mar-Ka Peake explains that his first name is from Thailand and that he moved from London and lived there for seven years from the age of two.
He moved to New York as his father worked in Manhattan, but he came back to London at the age of 15, and later studying architecture and industrial design at University College London.
His journey changed route while he was at university: “My mother passed away, so I didn’t finish my degree, but went on to start a bicycle shop in Notting Hill – my first venture – with a friend of mine, Charles Nicholson.
“We mainly sold bespoke bicycles and tech accessories designed and created by us – we sent the designs to our team in China to build and manufacture.”
While at University I spent a lot of time working in bars to pay for my degree fees. After a few years, I saw how the bar industry could be streamlined by making use of technology, people and individual skillsets.
“I then spent a lot of time working in hospitality for many different groups, from fine dining to casual cafés.
“Nowadays I feel that the merger of fine dining in a casual atmosphere is becoming more common and that’s the service I want to provide for our guests.
“I would like to define our attitude to customer service as ‘Good service with good manners’.”
Currently in Herne Hill, Mar-Ka has been living in and round Brixton for 11 years – including Streatham and Clapham too.
“I have been working in Brixton for almost five years in a few different companies,” he says.
“What I love about Brixton – reggae, jazz, live music, the diversity, the community and the food – it’s all on the doorstep.
“Caribbean, Thai, Indian, Greek, Japanese cuisine. If you see somewhere on a world map, the chances are you can find it in Brixton.
“Since I’ve moved here, I have really learnt the concept of community and what it means to be a part of one. The only other experience of community I have had like this was in Thailand and that’s why, for me, it feels like my home.’’
Mar-Ka met Razib Sammy after answering an ad for a cocktail bartender in Herne Hill at a place called The First Aid Box
Razib Sammy Khan is Bar Marino’s “resident mixology expert” who perfected his skills at some of London’s most exclusive venues.
“My full name is Moniruzzaman Khan Razib,” he says. “But I prefer Razib Sammy. I born in Bangladesh. I moved to London in 2010. I live in Brixton Hill.
“I went to London College of Accountancy and I really enjoyed it.
“I went into bar work in February 2010 and fell in love with the hospitality industry. That’s why I have been working in this industry almost 11 years.
“I love the idea how easily we can meet different people from different cultures and be friends with them. Also, there is lots of creativity, passion and hard work involved in the hospitality industry that made me fall in love with it.
Razib Sammy met Mario and the Schifano family through Mar-Ka.
“Bar Marino is a cocktail bar with fabulous wine, beer and a food menu,” he says.
“We will have over 200 premium spirits from all over the world.
“We will focus on classic cocktails as well. Our guests can order most of the classic cocktails – from an old fashioned to naked and famous.
Sammy’s work in the industry has taken him from Canary Wharf to Mayfair and the West End to Liverpool Street – becoming a bar manager at one of Time Out’s 50 Best Bars in London along the way … and now he’s here for us in Brixton.
Bar and San Marino
Cocktail Bar 6pm – 12am
Cafe 7am – 7pm