With their extensive background in running and designing bars, it is no surprise that Paul and Verity Craig’s latest venture aims high with creativity and innovation in both drinks and décor.They have created Bohemia in the heart of the Lanes in Brighton, completely transforming the former club Ink into a cool and laid-back bar and lounge. Many of the 19th-century building’s original features have been restored, with the addition of elements salvaged from the city’s ruined West Pier.
Paul and Verity designed and built the venue themselves, drawing on the expertise of their company Showtec, which provides interior design and build services for clubs, bars and restaurants.They have also run eight other bars themselves in the past, including the award-winning Karma in Brighton Marina, which closed in December. As well as running events, the couple are also behind lifestyle magazine Absolute Brighton.
After a £400,000 refurbishment, Bohemia is made up of several different sections. The Grand Café, on the ground and lower floors, opens all day, seven days a week, serving breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea through to cocktails in the evening.Areas range from the library room to the central island bar downstairs, with interesting features such as an original 1980s Pac Man table and Beatles-decorated bentwood stools lining the bar.
On the first floor is the Late Lounge specialising in champagne, which opens Fridays and Saturdays till late, with DJs and a Funktion One sound system. It is an opulent space, with framed champagne bottle images on the ceiling and booth seating covered in crystal-embossed black faux leather crocodile skin.As well as offering table service and a cigar menu, it includes the Barman’s Table where groups can learn about different spirits or champagne.“We are making it fun but also trying to educate people in spirits, wines and cocktails,” Paul says.
The Veuve Clicquot Champagne Roof Garden, open seven days a week, is a beautiful glass-walled garden featuring Astroturf flooring and giant sun umbrellas. At the front of the venue is a terrace where people can enjoy food and drinks amid the bustle of the Lanes. On Thursday evenings, Bohemia hosts the Jazz Lounge, with live jazz, candlelit tables and table service.
Paul says they stripped the interior back to its original brickwork, which dates from when it was a paper warehouse in the 19th century.“We wanted to give it back some of its soul and history.” On top of this, the West Pier Trust provided them with salvaged fragments from the now-ruined West Pier which also dates back to the mid-19th century.These include two old balustrades hanging on the wall and two sections of the promenade that now hold up the bar.
Bringing the venue right up to date is an innovative projection system which beams special effects onto the front of the building. Using a technique known for one-off lighting displays, Showtec has had the façade videomapped, allowing for digital projection of images such as fireworks, flames or cocktails, using 6,000-watt projectors on the roof of the building opposite.
An extensive cocktail list, with a strong molecular element, has been created with help from Brighton Mixology School and presided over by bar manager Lee Pitman and general manager Sebastien Gay, formerly of Havana in Brighton and Havana Spoon in Hove.Alongside original cocktails and twists on the classics, there are drinks made with foam,dry ice and airs.ATommy’s Margarita, made with Patrón Silver, agave syrup and fresh lime juice is transformed by the addition of a light bubbly sea salt air. The Mozart’s Chocolate Tonic combines Red Label Tonic Wine, crème de fraise and Mozart Chocolate Bitters, served as a julep with a mint and berry garnish and dry ice. “The idea is to try to push people to try different cocktails rather than everyone just having another Mojito,” Paul says.“We are trying to educate people and take them on a journey through an interesting cocktail experience.”
Where to find it: 54-55 Meeting House Lane, Brighton BN1 1HB
Tel: 01273 777770 www.bohemiabrighton.co.uk