Bar Blanco, Essex

If you Google “towie” and “bar”, the top results are for a wine bar that has just opened in the market town of Rayleigh in south Essex. The reason for this is that Bar Blanco is the creation of Ricky Rayment, one of the stars of TV series The Only Way Is Essex, and his brother-in-law Danny Salmon.

At time of writing, the bar is yet to feature in the hit reality show, but Ricky’s involvement has already brought it attention from the national media and fans. “The cast regularly come down here on a Friday or Saturday night, which is good for business, but we are not just about bling,” Danny points out. “We wanted to open an upmarket wine bar as there was really nowhere like it in Rayleigh. My wife and I were out with some friends for a meal and couldn’t find anywhere to get a couple of drinks beforehand. We ended up drinking champagne in the local Wetherspoon’s.”

Danny is the son of publicans and managed bars and pubs when he was younger, and he and Ricky also enlisted specialists in bars for the interiors and the cocktails. The venue, which was formerly a furniture shop, was developed by Astounding Interior Design, which has a track record of working on bars, restaurants and clubs.

The luxurious interior features Swarovski crystals and plush glass-beaded fabrics, with high-quality materials used throughout. The magnificent bespoke back-bar display is made from huge shards of high-gloss black 20mm acrylic, while furniture was sourced from distinctive designers such as Origlia and Fabio Novembre in Italy. The high specifications extend to the toilets where the wall tiles are from Cerámicas Aparici in Spain.

Steve Ward, design director at Astounding Interior Design, explains that the brief was to design a glamorous, modern and sophisticated venue that would be both a neighbourhood bar and a destination. “The ‘Bar Blanco’ branding was inspired from the clients’ trips abroad and holidays in the sun,” he says. “To accommodate this notion, we had floor-to-ceiling glass doors that opened out onto the outside area using tiles from Italian ceramic designers Alfalux. The interior floor seamlessly meets the exterior tiles, the only difference being the slip resistance. This venue is truly a marriage of aesthetics and careful space planning.”

At present, Bar Blanco is open every day from 5pm until 1am Thursdays to Saturdays and midnight the rest of the week. However, a new kitchen is being installed which will allow them to open throughout the day from January, from breakfast and lunch through to dinner. The menu is being developed by Ricky’s sister, Nadia Salmon, who is Danny’s wife, with a focus on good-quality British food. When it gets busy on Friday and Saturday nights, the offering will switch to grazing food such as small dishes and sharing boards.

For now, the 25-strong cocktail menu is made up of classics such as Margaritas and Daiquiris, developed under consultant Rob Stephens, an award-winning bartender from TGI Friday’s. However, Danny says there are plans to introduce more original drinks as well as weekly cocktail evenings with flair bartenders.

With an emphasis on premium brands, the line-up of beers includes draught lager Curious Brew from Kent winery Chapel Down which is refermented using champagne yeast. Described by Danny as a “wine bar”, Bar Blanco also has a strong selection of wines which – as any Towie fan would expect – includes a good choice of champagnes. These range from Veuve Clicquot to Louis Roederer Cristal, Armand de Brignac Ace of Spades and the bar’s bestseller, the pink Laurent-Perrier Rosé.

While Danny says that he and Ricky have plans to open another five venues in Essex over the next three years, they are busy developing Bar Blanco. And, if nothing else, it means that they and their friends now have somewhere smart to sip champagne.

Bar Blanco, 27-29 Eastwood Road, Rayleigh, Essex SS6 7JD Tel: 01268 771758

Originally published in the January 2013 issue of Bar magazine.

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