Bar owner and designer Alex Nettle has refurbished Salisbury’s Russian-inspired Moloko
For 15 years, Moloko bar in Salisbury in Wiltshire was a regular haunt for Alex Nettle. Originally started by Colin O’Keefe and John Turpin, it was one of the inspirations for Alex to get into the bar trade, going on to open Salisbury venues The Kandi Lounge and Kludo. Now he has bought Moloko and put his own stamp on it through a redesign. “It was probably the place that inspired me to get into this business, so I guess I’ve gone full circle by finally owning the one that set it all in motion,” Alex says. “It was always full of beautiful people, cutting-edge design and awesome tunes. The evenings used to finish with all the bar staff dancing on the bar Coyote Ugly style.”
He has kept the name, which is based on the Russian for “milk” and was originally inspired by a milk drink in Anthony Burgess’s classic book and film A Clockwork Orange. “I normally like to make my mark on the design and feel of a bar and then rebrand, but it’s not often you buy a business with such a cool name, so Moloko will stay. Not much has been changed over the years with several different owners since the good old Moloko days of John and Colin. I had been after the place for a number of years, during which time nothing got changed in there and it was becoming more and more run down. When it finally became mine, it was time for a redesign and refurb using the original bars which, post sand-blasting, were good as new.”
Moloko is made up of an intimate ground floor area with period features including a stunning lead window and a sandstone archway. Very high ceilings lend themselves to performances by the venue’s resident aerialists above the main bar, with a large hoop supported by some very well engineered steelwork. The basement, a former wine cellar, has a DJ booth, built-in seating and another bar. A new top-of-the-range sound system from audio specialist Mackie has been installed throughout.
The original Moloko had a Russian theme, specialising in vodka, but Alex has taken that to the next level. Soviet propaganda posters have been airbrushed onto plywood and formed inside a concave curved wall on the left hand side of the bar as you enter. They include an iconic “anti-capitalism” poster originally created by Viktor Deni in 1932 which has been perfectly reproduced in very large format, along with three other historical artworks, by Matt Cook of Salisbury’s Sharp Practice tattoo studio.
An urban industrial feel has come from sand-blasting to bring out the stunning character of exposed brick walls and cast-iron radiators and beams. It is enhanced by a selection of vintage lights including original nautical search lights from a 1940s Russian warship, sourced from Felix Lighting Specialists in Bath. Alex also sourced furniture from Andy Thornton’s Urban Vintage range including cast-iron rivet tables and industrial machinist stools.
The theme can also be seen in a convex curved wall with a rough render finish on the exterior and the upholstered furniture, made up of nine separate hides combined to form a patchwork quilt of differently coloured leather, produced by Andover Upholstery. The building itself dates back to the 18th century, constructed in an Italian Gothic style for the Richardson brothers who were importers of wines and spirits.
Moloko specialises in premium spirits, stocking about 25 rums and 50 vodkas such as Ciroc, Crystal Head, Belvedere, Grey Goose and Balkan 176 as well as a wide selection of flavours. Bearing the hallmark of Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands, cocktails include The Old Blighty, mixing Chambord black raspberry liqueur with fresh raspberries and rosé sparkling wine, and The Petticoat, made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, elderflower syrup, lime juice and ginger beer. There is also the signature Mango Daiquiri, which raises funds for the Stars Appeal for a CT scanner at Salisbury District Hospital.
Being a late-night party destination, the bar also offers shooters such as a Mini Guinness and a Mint Choc Aero. As with his other bars, Alex has made Moloko the place to go for the region’s top DJs. He adds: “Inspiration for the vibe is from the coolest bars in Europe – deep funky house and live freestyle sax from Mambo’s Ibiza and La Folie Douce in Val d’Isere and aerial performances inspired by Via Notte in Corsica. It’s a little bit different for Salisbury.”
Moloko, 5 Bridge Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP1 2ND
Tel: 01722 504255
Who did it
Interior design: Alex Nettle
Russian artwork: The Sharp Practice
Furniture: Andy Thornton
Upholstery: Andover Upholster
Vintage Lighting: Felix Lighting Specialists
Sound system: Mackie
Originally published in the October 2013 issue of Bar magazine. Pictures by Kin Ho.