Northern heritage inspires Newcastle upon Tyne’s Bonbar

Bonbar bar newcastle upon tyne

A cocktail bar and restaurant has opened in Newcastle upon Tyne’s historic Assembly Rooms

Since the late 18th century, the Assembly Rooms in the centre of Newcastle upon Tyne have been a place for society to meet and party. The grand Georgian building’s current owner Antony Michaelides and his team are continuing that tradition after transforming its ballroom into a stylish restaurant and bar called Bonbar, specialising in cocktails and champagne.

The historic interior of the Grade II-listed building, which dates back to 1776, has been enhanced by a design scheme by Simon Bartlett of Voidesign who has worked on bars, restaurants and clubs across the north-east including Newcastle’s former Popolo cocktail bar. Influenced by champagne glasses, it features a striking centrepiece bar, with chocolate-coloured hardwoods, curved corners and colour-changing LED as well as individually designed booths.

In a second room called 467 Club, a wall mural runs around the full perimeter that complements the zinc bar top, large back-bar display, retro colouring and illuminated champagne tables. “It’s a playful, deeply theatrical space, colourful and witty,” Simon says. There is also an outside terrace with its own bar, sheltered by four jumberellas and two smaller umbrellas.

Display cabinets are filled with high-end spirits which bar manager Johny Hume says is intended to make it “the best back-bar in town of quality spirits”. There is a good list of twisted vintage cocktails such as a Mary Pickford, a Blood and Sand and a Vieux Carré as well as original drinks based on the heritage and ingredients of the north of England. These include The Novelist (pictured below), which is inspired by South Shields-born author Catherine Cookson and combines Tanqueray Gin stirred with sherry, lemon sherbet, red wine reduction and teapot bitters, served with a perfumed origami bird.

The Locomotive references George Stephenson, pioneer of the first locomotive railway from Manchester to Liverpool, and mixes Ron Zacapa 23 rum, Newcastle Brown Ale syrup, Italian aperitif Picon and walnut bitters, served on a smoked Macallan whisky barrel shard.

The bar also offers a barrel-aged Negroni and Zombie as well as bottled cocktails such as Italian classic, the Bicicletta, mixing Cynar, Pinot Grigio, soda and citrus. Its punches include the signature Coal House Punch made with Brugal 1888 Grand Reserva Rum, The King’s Ginger, pimento dram, cola, Newcastle Brown Ale syrup and Dr Adam Elmegirab’s Boker’s Bitters, served in a coal bucket with pewter tankards.

As well as hosting DJs, Bonbar has a main stage for live music , ranging from jazz and R ‘n’ B to big-name acts. “The mood of the place changes from relaxed in the daytime to the hustle and bustling of diners to electric in the evenings,” Johny says. “We pride ourselves on being able to cater for all ages and have something for all. We are very much an upmarket place for everyone to enjoy.”

Bonbar, The Assembly Rooms, Fenkle Street Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 5XU
Tel: 0191 232 8695

Behind the scenes
Design: Voidesign
Furniture: CSIS, Stylematters
Lighting: Lee Broom, Graypants
AV: SVN, Bose, Projected Image
Jumbrellas: Global Parasols

Originally published in the July 2014 issue of Bar magazine.

Bonbar The Novelist cocktail

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