The Edgbaston shakes up Birmingham’s bar scene

Concept Bars - Edgbaston Hotel, Birmingham

The team behind The Kenilworth have created three bars at their new boutique hotel The Edgbaston in Birmingham. Pictures by Richard Southall

Nine years ago, brothers Darren and Stuart Insall put the Warwickshire town of Kenilworth on the cocktail map with the opening of boutique hotel and bar The Kenilworth. They are now stirring up the scene in Birmingham with their second site, The Edgbaston, which has an extensive cocktail list and over 600 different spirits and liqueurs across three bars.

Formerly used as offices, the six-bedroom boutique hotel has been created in a 167-year-old Grade II-listed building in the suburb of Edgbaston, less than a mile from Birmingham city centre. The whole project was designed by Tony Matters of design practice Heterarchy which has worked on other bars and restaurants such as Adam’s restaurant In Bennett’s Hill, Birmingham.

The Edgbaston - Birmingham

They drew ideas from 1920s Art Deco while paying homage to the 1847 buildingg’s Victorian and Romantic roots. Making the most of the original period features, the design adds a new layer of detail and richness, from gold-leaf finishes to finely detailed etched mirrors, Tony explains. “The overall aim with the design was to create something that feels authentic, as if it’s always been there, while adding some contemporary elements that express Stuart and Darren’s desire to push the boundaries of the cocktail lounge concept.”

The main bar on the ground floor has an impressive full-height gold, black and mirrored bar, with added grandeur from two large bespoke chandeliers. There is great attention to detail, from the metallic gold inlay strips on the floor to the subtle geometric wallpaper above the picture rail.

The smallest of the three bars is also on the ground floor, just off the lobby, with a capacity of 30 and laid out to suit master classes. It features polished rosewood, gloss black and mirror finishes, with a bespoke two-tiered crystal chandelier. The third bar is in the basement, the same size as the main bar but with a lower ceiling. Its contemporary interior design features a bold geometric pattern on the ceiling that creates a sense of space, enhanced by exposed filament bulbs and bespoke wall lights. “Gold glitter wallpaper, which in any other situation would be wrong on so many levels, is incredibly effective and adds a sense of visual depth,” Tony adds.

Concept Bars - Edgbaston Hotel, Birmingham

The bars are headed by Rob Wood, who has helped to confirm The Kenilworth as a destination for drinks over the past six years. For The Edgbaston, he and bartender Luke Pearson have put together a list of 87 twisted classics and original cocktails that play with more flavours and techniques than has been possible at the other hotel. “The Edgbaston is a culmination of 10 years of ideas that we came up with at The Kenilworth but didn’t have the infrastructure or space for,” Rob says.

To help people navigate the list, they are split into categories, with a flavour map indicating levels of sweet, sour, rich and dry. One section is influenced by Japan, such as a Clover Club twist using homemade cherry blossom syrup and the Chrysanthemum and the Sword, combining Japanese whisky Nikka From the Barrel with aged sake, maple syrup and Peychaud’s Bitters.

Another section is inspired by Bond girls, reflecting Rob’s love of 007, with drinks such as the Rhuby Summers, created by Calum Anderson who is general manager at The Kenilworth and made with Chase Rhubarb Vodka, Lillet Rosé, G Mielo raspberry eau de vie and a spray of rose and violet hydrosol. The High Roller section features the Dry Martini Experiment – a flight of mini Martinis made with Tanqueray No Ten Gin, with one straight, one barrel aged and the other bottle matured.

Non-alcoholic cocktails are treated just as seriously, given a whole page in the menu and served in the same glassware. Soft drinks include fresh pressed juices and homemade lemonade and ginger beer, alongside a concise but well-chosen wine list and beers such as Sharp’s Cornish Lager. While there is no kitchen, food ranges from cheese and meat boards to tapas-style dishes such as Iberico ham and fried stuffed peppers.

As well as using crystal glassware, they are playing a little with garnishes, partly driven by bartender Mate Csatlos who joined from China Tang at The Dorchester in London. There are plans to be more experimental such as using perfumes, Rob says, but for now “it has to have a level of accessibility”. They have also gained national media coverage for the Local Legend cocktail made with Langley’s gin, from the West Midlands’ Langley’s distillery, and Bird’s Custard power which was first made in Birmingham.

The full cocktail menu, including specials, is available in all the bars, although Rob says they are planning to introduce additional small lists in each of them. “You can get the same quality of drink, food and service wherever you are in the hotel. We have a sign up saying, ‘Consistency, consistency, consistency’. This is all something new for Birmingham. There is no-one else doing anything like this.”

With table service throughout, Rob and his team put as much emphasis on service as any top hotel bar. “One of the things that sets The Edgbaston and The Kenilworth apart is that for 90% of the time you will be served by your bartender at your table, interacting with the person making your drink,” Rob adds. “It breaks down that wall. The bartender can’t hide behind the mahogany.”

The Edgbaston, 18 Highfield Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 3DU
Tel: 0121 454 5212

Concept Bars - Edgbaston Hotel, Birmingham

Who did it
Design: Heterarchy
Main contractor: Shaylor Group
Under-bar systems: Concept Bars
Flooring: Forbo Flooring Systems
Carpets: Lano
Tiles: Capitol Designer Studio
Bespoke lighting: Chantelle Lighting
Decorative light fittings: Lux Lighting
Wallpaper: Tektura, Cole & Son (Mr Perswall)
Sanitaryware: Utopia Projects

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