With its proximity to Chester Racecourse, The Pelican bistro and bar was a popular destination for race-goers looking to celebrate their winnings or drown their sorrows. The venue has now been taken over by the company that runs the racecourse, Chester Race Company, and turned into The Weighing Room, a restaurant and bar specialising in champagne and cocktails.
The venue, which was formerly a mill, has been completely revamped, working with Style Contracts, a specialist in design and fit-out of bars, restaurants and hotels. The ground floor remains a restaurant, serving up modern European-inspired small plates, but the biggest change is upstairs on the top floor where an underused overflow dining space has been transformed into a stylish cocktail bar.
The drinks list has been put together by general manager Max Baker, formerly of the five-star Chester Grosvenor hotel, and bar manager Sean Dougherty, also from the Chester Grosvenor and, before that, at The Living Room. The cocktails are mainly classics from Mojitos and Bellinis through to a Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri, but original drinks include Sean’s creation, a Grizzly Adams, made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, raspberries, framboise, fresh lime juice and cranberry juice.
Alongside a good selection of wines, there is an extensive champagne list from Laurent-Perrier and Bollinger to vintage and prestige cuvées such as Dom Pérignon and Krug. The range of premium spirits behind the bar includes a good choice of rums, vodkas and whiskies while the bottled beers include the likes of Cusqueña from Peru and Monteith’s from New Zealand.
The sophisticated new interior was designed by David Oulsnam of Style Contracts working with furniture design company Stylematters. Inspiration has come from the links with the racecourse, which can be seen not just in the venue’s name but also in the multi-coloured framed jockey shirts on the walls. New furniture in the ground-floor restaurant and its adjoining bar includes high stools around the counter that have been upholstered in a bright orange fabric to match the jockey shirts.
A spiral staircase to the top floor has been padded in velvet fabric in alternate stripes to add a touch of luxury and softness to the interior. This use of velvet continues on into the top-floor cocktail bar where the oak bar front is also padded with velvet. A new back-bar fitting of back-lit Perspex adds sparkle through the use of colour-changing LED lights, while original structural details have been retained to great effect including exposed beams and an original crane wheel. Original oak floors and exposed brickwork have also been kept.
The room is furnished with Seville two-seater sofas with brass studding, Jester chairs with gold door knockers and round upholstered Snap pouffes with low half-curve backs making them look like an upside-down jockey’s cap. Known as The Enclosure, the top-floor bar is promoted as a private members lounge.
The redesign extended to the rear outside terrace, now dubbed The Parade Ring. It has been enclosed with oak posts and glass screens and furnished with benches and chairs covered in green waterproof fabrics. A striking new outside bar, glowing from internal illumination, has been sourced from Italian company Pedrali after the design team spotted it at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile fair in Milan in April.
While this is the first off-site venue for the Chester Race Company, they have already won awards for their catering at the racecourse, including the 1539 Restaurant & Bar and its terrace lounge The Roof. Richard Thomas, chief executive of Chester Race Company, says: “With our expertise in delivering great dining experiences, we believe The Weighing Room is a great opportunity for us to expand our business and to provide Chester with a unique bar concept.”
The Weighing Room, 10 Commonhall Street, Chester CH1 2BJ Tel: 01244 313258 www.theweighingroom.co.uk
Originally published in the September 2012 edition of Bar magazine.