IX Bar at Chester Hotel, Aberdeen

A lounge bar specialising in spirits and cocktails has opened as part of Aberdeen’s new luxury Chester Hotel

Over the past eight years, Graham and Gillian Wood have achieved great success with The Chester Residence in Edinburgh, a collection of Georgian townhouses that has been named TripAdvisor’s top UK small hotel two years in a row. They have now transformed the old Simpson’s Hotel in Aberdeen’s Queen’s Road into a luxurious new destination called The Chester Hotel. With its Savoy-trained executive chef Kevin Dalgleish and a strong spirits and cocktail list, it also aims to be a destination for its new IX Restaurant and Bar.

Closed since spring last year, the 19th-century building was officially reopened as The Chester Hotel last month after a £5million investment. This included a new extension at the back of the property to allow a complete revamp of the public areas through from the lounge bar and restaurant areas to the function suite. This part of the hotel was designed by Graven Images, the Glasgow-based design studio that has worked on high-profile bars and restaurants such as Hotel Missoni and Tigerlily in Edinburgh and The Corinthian Club and Blythswood Square Hotel in Glasgow.

“We have tried to make it a series of spaces which have a degree of visual and physical links,” explains Graven Images’ design director Willie Nolan. “But it’s a kind of tease as you can’t see everything as soon as you walk in.” It is a huge improvement on the hotel’s previous undefined public space where the bar and restaurant felt part of a “big shed”, he adds.

In IX Bar, the space is centred by the bold white Silestone bar, with an illuminated front, lined by black-and-chrome bar stools. “Before, the bar was stuck in a corner, but a bar needs to be in the middle of the space, with booths and inglenooks like satellites around it,” Willie explains. The furniture is a mix of booth seating and loose timber-top tables and chairs, in a rich palette of blue, yellow and tan, contrasting with the black and white of the bar counter. A full-height glass partition separates the public space, allowing tempting glimpses of the restaurant’s open kitchen from the bar. Along one side is a series of dark-stained timber booths, each with a table, sleek lighting and their own entertainment systems. The contemporary look is enhance by the lighting design such as the slatted-timber pendants from Finnish design studio Secto.

The bar stocks a broad selection of spirits, but particularly Scottish whiskies and gins, as well as champagnes, fine wines and beers, including The Chester Brew, commissioned from Harviestoun Brewery near Stirling. There is also a menu of bar food to match the restaurant’s fine dining. “IX Bar has assembled a whisky, spirit and cocktail menu to suit all guests, whether they prefer a classic cocktail, a familiar comforting dram or a rarer bottle,” explains bar manager Gary Middleton. “We have a full complement of Scottish blends and high-end single malts and are particularly proud to offer customers the rare Dalmore Constellation 1980 and 1991. We have also, daringly, brought in some exceptional whiskies from Japan and America, which will grace our growing collection of over 130 malts and blends.”

The cocktails, mostly priced £7 to £7.50, include the signature Chester Jester, made with Absolut Raspberri vodka, almond syrup, pomegranate syrup, lime juice and pineapple juice. Spins on the classics include a Hazelnut Batida, combining Sagatiba Velha cachaça with Bénédictine, hazelnut syrup, lemon juice and gomme, while the bar’s Bathtub Gin is a mix of Hendrick’s Gin, crème de violette, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, vanilla gomme, lemon juice and egg white. The menu also recommends “perfect serves”, such as El Dorado 12 Year Old rum with lime and Fever-Tree ginger beer and a glass of AquaRiva blanco tequila with fresh pressed apple juice, Peychaud’s Bitters and a twist of lime. The list was developed with mixologist Bruce Alexander working with consultancy Barnomadics.

“Our cocktails have a highly contemporary gin focus, making the most of Scotland’s growing reputation as a premium gin producer,” Gary adds. “We stock 16 different gins, predominantly from Scotland, and have been inventing new exciting ways of mixing them.” Along with Graham and Gillian’s determination to offer “exemplary service” throughout the hotel, IX Bar is set to be a welcome addition to Aberdeen’s high-end drinking scene.

Chester Hotel Aberdeen IX Bar booths

IX Bar, Chester Hotel, 59 Queen’s Road, Aberdeen AB15 4YP Tel: 01224 327777 www.chester-hotel.com

Who did it
Design: Graven Images
Contractor: Bentleys
Furniture: Naughtone, Spatial, Hitch Mylius
Lighting: Secto Design, Artec, Gubi
Silestone bar counter: Cosentino
Glass: RSD Glass Works
Upholstery: Lecs

Originally published in the April 2014 issue of Bar magazine.

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