Tim Adams — bespectacled and tattoo-sleeved rockabilly man-about-town — runs the cozy (and raucous) new watering hole, Mantra.
SO Tim, how did you find your way to Bali?
I was approached to help out with the Potato Head project, so I helped lay some roots with that project and then while I was here, I uh … met my wife, and yeah the rest is history. I was based in Jakarta at that point but was bouncing back and forth to Bali.
Did you always know you would end up in this line of work?
I remember when I was 15 years old, I was in a room with a good friend and she was predicting that I would end up doing bars and nightclubs, and I thought it was really funny because academically I was pretty successful and studied political science. But when I had the fortune to move to Paris I got the opportunity to open a bar. So I opened a bar at a very young age, at the age of 20, and it was a good location and became a very popular bar, and gave me a good reputation in Paris and it just kind of started from there.
Did your family have anything to do with this direction?
My mother had a very prominent restaurant in New York and I grew up around that, but you know everyone ends up trying to do the opposite of what their parents are doing, and that’s why I studied political science. I worked in a plethora of industries, from movies to branding and doing events, which I still do now, but the bar work has always been something that’s a passion of mine. I developed a fascination with the mixology culture and right now amongst certain circles around the world my opinion is validated and I actually have something to contribute to the game and be a part of it. It’s something that’s followed me around the world and it’s something that I am passionate about. I always go back to it, no matter what I do.
So opening that first bar introduced you to mixology?
Pretty much. When I started the first bar, I grew up between London and New York, and so I was very privileged to be able to go to high-end restaurants and bars, and something that always attracted me was kind of the sophistication behind ordering a sophisticated drink, and the anecdotes and stories that go behind it … actually having an opinion about your drink. You know, to me – I see it like if everyone wanted to drive around in a Lamborghini, everyone will drive a Lamborghini … but they’re very expensive … and impossible to drive – so if you can afford to go out and have a drink you can afford to pay a bit more for good alcohol. Alcohol basically poisons your body when you drink it, so you’ve got to have an excuse and a reason behind building it up in different ways, and I like to have an insight about that.
So how did your collaboration with Philippe Starck come about?
It actually came about because I was popular in Paris as a bar-tender and his daughter, Arra Starck, used to come in quite a lot and party and they approached me to work with them on a number of projects in Paris, mainly in that they would be working on a big project and they would need to have the food and beverage base consulted in terms of work flow and what would appeal for the bars, and so we worked together on a number of projects, the biggest of which was the Mama Shelter project, which was a collaboration between the Trigano family, Chef Alains Senderens, Philippe Starck and myself.
What did you learn most from working with Starck?
Philippe is very difficult man to be around – you know he’s the kind of guy that can walk into a project and he knows exactly where it should go from day one, and what I took from that is … I think I definitely adapted a bit more style, a bit more taste towards interiors, and F&B interiors, and also his level of productivity. He’s very focused and he works at an incredible and alarming rate, and I like to think that kind of attitude has rubbed off on me a bit. Which is why I’ve been able to complete a number of projects here in South-East Asia and worldwide.
How does Bali compare to what you’re used to or where you grew up?
When I first got here Indonesia was a huge culture shock, everything here is completely different, and Bali is a small community, hugely creative and hugely productive, but you have to work your way in there to get known and be a part of it. How does if differ? I think everywhere in this industry is the same, you know, that’s one of the challenges I like about it. You learn about an area, you learn about the demographic of that area, and you try and create something that would appeal to that demographic and area, so the same formula doesn’t work everywhere. You’ve got to identify different areas, with regard to my industry of food and beverage and more so mixology – it’s still a growing industry here, not in a bad way, but it’s where New York city was 10 years ago, it’s younger. There’s a lot of opportunity here. I’m seeing a lot of repetition of what I saw in New York 10 years ago, what I saw in Paris five years ago. But what I can say is the energy here is great, the people are great and there’s a lot of potential in the market here.
Funniest or most unexpected situation you’ve had to navigate here so far?
I’ve so many weird and funny situations here – man I’ve got so many…okay I can’t go into too many details because I might get in to a lot of trouble, but it was Jakarta Culinary Week, that’s probably too much already… and we happened to be hanging out with a very famous singer who decided to retire to bed. He met a girl and left early, but in the meantime by this point everyone knew I was hanging out with this celebrity and they were calling me relentlessly, two or three nightclubs were calling me to bring this guy to their club, and they were offering us girls, money, to make an appearance – so in the end I was with my friend who happened to be an Asian British guy who was like, ‘what the hell’, let’s just pretend that I’m a guy working in the band. So I don’t know, I was very drunk, and this is something I would never do, but we called up the guy and said we’re coming in a bit with the bass player of the band, and we rocked up to this nightclub and we didn’t realise how much of a big deal it was gonna be. It was like Beatlemania, so we walk up and there’s girls all lined up, cameras flashing everywhere, we had to be escorted to our table and got given special treatment with our space. The funniest thing was that when it was time to go home, they insisted on driving us using with their drivers. So I couldn’t take the friend to my house because they would figure it out, so we had to go back to the hotel where the band was staying, and then wait till they left so we could go. In the end no one was the wiser and it was actually mentioned on the radio the next day. There’s been a plethora of stories.
You recently staged Seminyak’s first proper iPod battle at Mantra – will this become a series or was it a one-off?
We want to do another one and do lead-up battles in between and really capture people’s imaginations, including the air-band battle, but I won’t give away too many details – you know you come with your friends and pretend to be a band – like air-guitar. The iPod battle was a huge success; we used to throw them in Paris about five years ago. The reason I did it here is because there’s all these party crews here in Bali, and let’s be honest they’re kind of cliquey…so I wanted to try and pit them off against each other and make the challenge and they would all step up. Some people tried to flake on the day, but we convinced everyone to show up and it was insanely popular. We want to do another one here, and we’ve already got Jakarta in the works, and I’ve got calls from Singapore as well. It was great.
How about your own iPod – what’s been heating that up lately?
I’m really into SUBTRKT at the moment and then…Wave Machine, a new band that’s come out. I was hanging out with Foster The People recently when they were here so been listening to their stuff. What else? Mac Miller? I’ve been getting back into HipHop – I’m a huge music head so I could go on and on.
What’s your toughest challenge these days?
That would definitely be bringing up my newborn son. He’s 11-months-old. It’s not just a challenge, he’s changed my life so much already, especially working in this industry I have now reduced my sleep by about six hours, which sucks, yeah and married life, that’s about it – those are the toughest things for me right now, but you know we’re living in Bali so it’s amazing too.
How do you enjoy time away from work?
Looking after my son is a big escape for me. It makes me do a lot of things that I wouldn’t normally do. Go to museums and do things that are good for kids … but I guess my most favorite thing to do is go visit bars. I’m just really interested by bar culture and restaurant culture. For example if we go on vacation, my highlights of the vacation are from the restaurants and bars.
Is there any personal mantra that gets you through trying times?
Honestly I think Indonesia has taught me patience. Definitely when I came here two years ago I was a different person than the one I am now. I realised that being humble and being patient can be a way to getting your goals in life. And testament to that is our bar Mantra itself, and my wife and having a kid. I’m more complete now than I ever was in my entire life. I really put it down to learning from the Indonesian people and their examples of humbleness and patience.
What’s your dream?
I’m really pretty content with my life right now, and if anything I’m pushing myself to do more of what I’m already doing – travelling, consulting … I guess if I were honest with you I’d want to be a rock star. I still fantasise about being on stage and rocking out with a guitar in front of people, but in the meantime I’m pretty content. My wife is actually a performing entertainer so it’s nice to be on the sidelines and watch her go through it, and I do a lot of promotions in Jakarta which may come here soon, so looking at some pretty big names, you know, I’d rather go big or go home.
Patrick Cox, but since we are in Bali – I really like what Suedehead is doing … and my trusty Chuck’s of course.
Thanks for your time, Tim and the silky Sazerac cocktail (try one yourself) and see you soon back at Mantra.