Upper Deck, Christchurch, Dorset

Christchurch Harbour Hotel's newly renovated Upper Deck RestauraHarbour Hotels Group has created an elegant bar and restaurant in Dorset

The Christchurch Harbour Hotel & Spa in Christchurch in Dorset has had a chequered past. For many years, the 200-year-old Regency building passed through different hotel chains, leading to deterioration and the loss of original features. This all changed five years ago when the waterfront landmark, then called the Avonmouth Hotel in Mudeford, was restored and refurbished by the small but expanding Harbour Hotels Group (HHG).

The hotel’s profile has remained high thanks to its restaurant, initially presided over by Gary Rhodes and then, since 2010, by Michelin-starred chef patron Alex Aitken. HHG has now worked with Alex and interior design practice Etre to create a new destination, Upper Deck Bar & Restaurant.

With its harbourfront location, designer Emily Tyers from Etre took inspiration from the concept of a vintage 1930s yacht and sailing boats, drawing references from the area’s rich heritage and coastline. “We were passionate about creating a space that is culturally and historically relevant to the area,” she says.

The Art Deco style of the 1920s and 1930s is especially referenced in the lighting where Etre installed faithful reproductions of historic designs. One highlight is the vintage signalling light from a ship, standing over six feet tall, which highlights the piano. “We particularly love the feature chrome angled lamps we installed to highlight feature pictures on the walls, created with historical imagery and social photography of the area,” Emily adds. The artwork is by Hampshire artist David Keeping.

The look is enhanced by the pewter bar top and polished stainless-steel stools that are the same as those regularly used on luxury Sunseeker yachts. Subtle nautical references were made in the choice of fabrics and wallpaper such as the wide stripes in the linen curtaining and library wallpaper. A navy and mustard stripe from Dedar Milano fabrics was introduced to bring a playful feel to the bolster cushions and chair backs. The stylish look extends to the outside terrace overlooking the harbour.

Etre’s brief was to create an elegant bar and dining experience that not only created a focal point for the hotel’s guests but would also become “the place to be” for people in the area. They are certainly coming for the food, with a new menu championing fresh, local ingredients such as Poole Bay rock oysters and home-reared lamb, pork and beef. For sharing, there is the “Bring Me Food & Wine” menu while, for light bites, there is a “Quick & Simple” menu. Bar bites include marinated Dorset-sourced olives and tempura prawns with a sweet chilli sauce.

The bar specialises in classic cocktails, priced from £7.95 to £11.95, with a promise that the bartenders can make any cocktail that guests ask for. There are also signature drinks such as the fruity Mudeford Rum Punch, mixing Bacardi 8 Year Old, orange curaçao, cherry brandy, orange juice, pineapple juice, citrus sours and sugar syrup, and the Jetty Sunset, combining Finlandia vodka, Disaronno, orange juice and prosecco.

Champagne cocktails include the Lavalicious, made with fresh strawberries and raspberries plus Finlandia vodka, Chambord black raspberry liqueur and vanilla syrup, and a twist on the French 75 using Hendrick’s Gin and cucumber. The list of Martini-style cocktails ranges from a Polish Martini, made with Zubrowka bison-grass vodka, Old Krupnik honey liqueur, apple juice and sours, to a twist on a Daiquiri that adds pineapple juice and Chambord to the Bacardi Superior rum and citrus sours. Creativity can also be seen in the list of non-alcoholic cocktails, such as the Very Berry, made with fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries with apple juice, cranberry juice and a dash of grenadine blended with ice.

The new look to the hotel’s bar and restaurant is part of a busy year for HHG which is preparing to open the new Salcombe Harbour Hotel & Spa in south Devon next month, with a restaurant, The Jetty, again presided over by Alex. “This is an extremely exciting time for Harbour Hotels as we continue to build our portfolio of stunning four-star waterside hotels, boosting local tourism and providing an end product to be enjoyed by generations to come,” says HHG chairman Nicolas Roach.

Upper Deck Restaurant & Bar, Christchurch Harbour Hotel & Spa, 95 Mudeford, Christchurch, Dorset BH23 3NT

Who did it
Interior design: Etre
Bar: Oates Construction, Strouden Joinery
Curtains, cushions: Dedar Milano
Chair upholstery: Dedar Milano, Zimmer + Rohde, Sekers
Wall decoration: DTU
Wallpaper: Cole & Son, Vescom
Carpets: Ege
Flooring: Grosvenor Flooring, Havwoods Flooring
Reproduction lighting: 30-Something
Bar stools, bar gantry: Oval 316

Originally published in the July 2013 edition of Bar magazine.

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