Dramatic new bar SaltBox has been created in Nottingham by Mick and Tony Iacovitti with Unknown Design. Pictures by Richard Southall
Next to Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena a new venue has opened up with a look that is as dramatic and theatrical as many of the acts and shows playing next door. SaltBox has been created in a new space on the ground floor of the Premier Suites development of serviced apartments – known as the Ice House – by brothers Mick and Tony Iacovitti of popular Pizzeria Savai in the city’s Lace Market.
Covering nearly 900 square metres across two levels, it has been designed to be more than just one venue but four different areas, operating from morning to night: the 70-cover restaurant, the main lounge, the cocktail lounge and the Mezz Box with its own VIP area.
In a project that took five months to complete, Mick and Tony worked with Nottingham-based Unknown Design and main contractor Linear Developments. “We developed a concept for the development which was ‘a box within a box’ – that is ‘venues within one large venue’, explains Unknown Design director David Wrigglesworth. “The look and feel of it was to be somewhat theatrical, and we wanted there to be an interesting and dramatic view wherever you looked.”
Starting with an empty shell, Unknown Design was involved in full project co-ordination – including the gas, electrics, water and drainage – as well as the exterior and interior design. Overlooking Bolero Square, the entrance to SaltBox is signposted by weathered Corten steel panels and a fin-like structure to break up the fully glazed 42-metre-long frontage. Unknown Design also created a striking logo for signage throughout.
The entrance opens up inside to the large main lounge, with an island bar made of a mix of solid wood and travertine marble tops, with back-lit carved face panels. Up to five metres high, this lofty space features exposed ducting and a full-height wood-panelled wall with inset illuminated acrylic boxes spelling the word “SaltBox”. Below are three extra-large sumptuous red leather deep-buttoned booths for larger groups.
To the right is the cocktail lounge, which features an eye-catching five-metre-high backdrop of colour-changing fabric alongside luxurious curved button-backed booths. Large curved pendants, 1.5 metres in diameter, punctuate the high ceiling space to bring more intimacy to the lounge bar.
The extensive cocktail list features a mix of vintage and old-school classics through to quirky original recipes, developed under bar manager Lauren Davey, previously team leader at the Slug and Lettuce in Nottingham’s Cornerhouse complex. Priced around £7 to £8, they include the popular Secret Garden, combining Hendrick’s Gin, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, lime juice, sugar syrup and apple juice, as part of a list of gin cocktails. A selection of “soft and velvety” drinks features the likes of Peanut Butter and Jelly made with Absolut Raspberri Vodka, Frangelico, Chambord, milk and cream.
A section of luxury cocktails priced at £8.50, developed with Moët-Hennessy, includes the Dolce Scorza, mixing Ardbeg whisky with honey syrup, blood orange juice and orange bitters, and the Money Honey with Belvedere Pink Grapefruit vodka, honey syrup, lemon juice, strawberries and tarragon. SaltBox also offers a good selection of wines including champagnes and prosecco as well as beers on draught, from Sharp’s Wolf Rock IPA to Peroni, Coors Gold and Staropramen, and more in bottles such as Robin Hood Pale Ale from Nottingham’s Home Ales – part of an effort to offer guest and permanent beers brewed locally.
On the other side of the main space is the restaurant, accessed through a fully glazed partition to allow for a more private dining experience. It has cedar-clad ceilings and walls of exposed stacked stone finishes to create texture and warmth. The same food menu is available throughout, with an emphasis on dishes from the grill such as burgers, fish and steaks as well as pasta – popular dishes include the beef and venison tortellini.
With the venue’s floor space being 600 square metres, an extra 290 square metres was added by creating a mezzanine level. You are directed upstairs by theatrical signage to the Mezz Lounge, which has softer seating, bespoke wallpaper and lower ceilings to create more of a lounge feel. Overlooking the main space, it is fully glazed but still feels visibly linked to the action below. A suspended bridge walkway leads to the VIP Box, which hangs above the main island bar, offering private dining with seating for 13.
Open from 10am weekdays and 9.30am at weekends, SaltBox is a destination for breakfast through to lunch and dinner, open until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays – thanks to licensing specialists Fraser Brown Solicitors. Entertainments range from DJs to live music including regular jazz and soul sessions.
While SaltBox is well positioned to attract crowds going to the Motorpoint Arena and the neighbouring National Ice Centre, its unique and relaxing atmosphere is pulling in people from all over, says Mick Iacovitti. “There has been a gap in the market for such a venue in this area and SaltBox will undoubtedly fill it.”
SaltBox, Bolero Square, Nottingham NG1 1LY
Tel: 01157 841 700
Behind the scenes
Design, project co-ordinator, cost control: Unknown Design
Main contractor: Linear Developments
Ducting, heating, ventilation, air-conditioning: Batecool
Flooring: Polyflor, Sherwood Carpets
Lighting: Northern Lights, Chantelle Lighting
Signage: Apollo Signs
Joinery: Woodcock of Nottingham
Lighting, sound, alarm installation: Dave Woodcock Electrical
Glazing: Attenborough Doors
Originally published in the July 2016 print edition of Bar magazine.