Design Focus: The Hanging Bat

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The Hanging Bat Beer Cafe on Edinburgh’s Lothian Road opened at the end of last year and its interior is as quirky as its name. The former Mr Modos, now jointly owned by Gavin Ferguson and Chris Mair, also brews its own beer, and this was a major design consideration in the £100k spend.
Gavin Ferguson said, “Yes we are about the beer, but we wanted to create a great bar, and one that was timeless, and I think that we’ve achieved this through the industrial elements, the exposed stone and reclaimed wood. There are some quirky nods to beer, like the beer pump taps in the toilets.”
Gavin and Craig were greatly influenced by beer bars in New York City, and as well as the design, they also imported the American BBQ theme for the food offering. The credit for what is an unusual name lies with Chris, as Gavin explains, “Chris visited a brewery in Cumbria that was housed in an old barn, and there were hanging bats, and after that he always wanted to use the name for a bar.”
Responsible for implementing the design was Kerr Blyth of KBA+D, but Gavin and Chris were both very hands-on also. Said Kerr, “The design is fairly elemental, and Gavin and Chris had very strong ideas on how they wanted it to look, so it was just a question of assisting them.
“The idea was to reflect the craft beer element, and therefore it wasn’t to look like a typical pub. I’d say that the overall finish is rustic, and as you often find in reimagining an existing bar space, it gets layer upon layer added over the years, and when you strip this back completely, as we did here, you can almost feel it breathing a sigh of relief. The rustic design also reflects the raw ingredients of the brewing process.”
So how successful was the finished result? The first thing that struck me is its uniqueness. The exterior with its twinkling lights and unusual signage, the raft of reclaimed wood inside and a bit of an unconventional layout all conspire to make this an outlet to remember.
As soon as you make your way through the door, you’re confronted by a large bar across the left hand-side back far corner of the space. To the right is a split-level seating area – one slightly raised, almost like a mezzanine which benefits from natural light through the window, and the other subterranean with lots of exposed stone and nooks and crannies for candles. There are also two recesses, one containing the brewing kit just beyond the bar on the way to the toilets at the very back, and the other looking in to the beer cellar where the kegs are settling in the basement seating area. Both are behind glass and illuminated by fibre optic lights.
It certainly is the reclaimed wood that arrests your attention, as it’s not only been used to construct the bar itself, but also as cladding on the wall of the back bar. And the sheer volume of reclaimed wood needed is what posed the biggest headache for the contractor, Edinburgh-based Hamilton and Blackhall. Co-director Alistair Blackhall said, “The biggest challenge this project presented was sourcing the reclaimed materials and timber that are unique to the bar, but that aside, the rest of the outfit was fairly straightforward.”
With wood dominating, the design of the bar is non-fussy with a strong emphasis on the practical, like a simple shelf for spirits and a tall fridge. Elsewhere the stripping back of the bar is in evidence in the exposed stone walls, which do look particularly good.
There are new-looking wooden floorboards on the ground floor which are set off by the bright twinkling lighting hanging from the ceiling, and the mezzanine shares the newness of the ground floor space, with newer furniture. The basement space is lit more softly in candlelight, and its floorboards have more of a distressed quality, as does the furniture which is a bit more old school.
The walls have been painted in a pistachio colour, there are some interesting framed pictures, and a chalk board displaying the details of the current brew.
Opposite the brewing kit recess is also a noticeboard, made from strips of wood, with everything from alarm clocks, wine glasses and beer bottles hanging from it.
On paper this bar perhaps shouldn’t work, but in practice, it all hangs together rather well.

Jason Caddy

Category: Features
Tags: Chris Mair, DESIGN, Edinburgh, Gavin Ferguson, jason caddy, The Hanging Bat