Cantina, Croydon

The team behind a group of Italian restaurants have created a stylish new late-night bar underneath the Croydon Flyover

A sophisticated oasis for cocktails, wines and Italian food has been created in a former nightclub under the Croydon Flyover. Over the past year, the building has been transformed into a restaurant and café on the ground floor and, in the final phase, a late-night basement bar called Cantina.

The whole project was carried out by Brighton-based Blenheim Design, led by Maja Myall, whose previous projects include Tonkotsu bar and ramen restaurant in Soho, London. They were brought in by experienced restaurateurs Anselmo and Tina Chiofalo who own Italian restaurants Il Ponte in Crystal Palace and Sutton in south London and Espom in Surrey. After taking on the site of The Hub nightclub in Croydon in south London, they created the new Ponte Nuovo restaurant and Caffè del Ponte before embarking on Cantina.

Blenheim Design, which worked on all three venues, was briefed to create a late-night bar to appeal to a professional, upmarket crowd, with a strict over-21 door policy. It was important to dispel all memories of the building’s past which, before becoming The Hub in 2008, was a troubled nightclub called Escapade and then short-lived cocktail bar Svelte.

The new restaurant, café and bar have their own entrances, and Anselmo is keen that Cantina is seen as a separate entity to its upstairs neighbours. A new fully-glazed entrance takes you to moodily side-lit stairs leading down to the 250-capacity bar. With a blue colour palette, the walls are clad with custom-cut slate at the main entrance and behind the bar, which also acts an additional sound barrier between a neighbouring restaurant.

Evidence of the Croydon Flyover above can be seen in the interior design. “The main space is dominated by the internally illuminated glass bar enveloping the principal flyover supporting column which was incorporated into a back-bar display,” Maja points out. “We persuaded Anselmo to retain the existing brick wall and dress it with lighting. This now acts as a backdrop to banquette seating.”

Two other rooms lead off the main bar space and can be booked for groups and private events. Open from 6pm, it offers Italian cicchetti small dishes alongside an extensive list of wines, focusing on Italian and Spanish vineyards, as well as champagnes and classic cocktails. Open till midnight on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, DJs take over on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays to keep the party going until 3am. “There are lots of bars and nightclubs in Croydon but we don’t want to be like them,” Anselmo adds. “We are targeting a more mature, professional crowd.”

Cantina, 82-84 High Street, Croydon CR0 1NA Tel: 020 8726 0654

Who did it
Design, lighting: Blenheim Design
Slate tiles: Stonehouse Tiles
Wallpaper: Andrew Martin

First published in the February 2013 issue of Bar magazine.

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