DESIGN FOCUS: The Atlantic Bar and Brasserie

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Mario Gizzi and Tony Conetta celebrated the opening of their 18th restaurant last month, The Atlantic Bar and Brasserie, which is situated beneath the duo’s successful Anchor Line venture on Glasgow’s St Vincent Place.

And while Anchor Line celebrated Glasgow’s great shipping past with memorabilia from across the ages, The Atlantic Bar and Brasserie celebrates the Empire Exhibition held at Bellahouston Park in 1938.

Says Tony Conetta, “People love the fact that Anchor Line celebrates a bit of Glasgow history and we wanted to continue this tradition with our new venue.”

Mark Brunjes of designers CM Design explains, “The brief for the new venue was to create a French inspired interior for a new bar and brasserie and it was important the offer reflected the quality and tradition of the Anchor Line upstairs.”

He continues, “I had always been fascinated by The Empire Exhibition held in Bellahousten Park from May until December 1938. It’s a bit of a hidden secret, and part of the reason is that it was completely demolished by July 1939, with the exception of The Palace of Art which still stands. The main restaurant was Atlantic which was operated by The Anchor Line, one of the biggest shipping companies in the UK. It was built in the shape of a ship, complete with an external decked area. Some of the figures for the Exhibition are staggering, over 12 million visitors, with the highest daily attendance being 364,000.”

A1 a_b_c_tonemapped_optSays Tony, “We could have just done a bar in the basement but we are fundamentally restauranteurs, and after the success of Anchor Line, which operates as a restaurant and a bar, we believe that’s the way people now want to eat. They want to be able to come for a drink and have dinner, or have dinner and stay for a drink. They don’t necessarily want to traipse about from venue to venue.”

He continues, “We wanted to do something really special with it, and we wanted it to be comfortable and luxurious. It had to appeal to females too and give the impression, perhaps that you were in the lounge of a ship. Obviously The Atlantic isn’t as massive as Anchor Line, but we wanted people to think of it as a find, as in, people who are in the know…know it is there.”
As you come through the front door of The Atlantic you can go to the right towards a lovely cocktail bar or stop by the maitre d’table to wait to be seated in the restaurant, which is on the left.

Immediately you are struck by the light and airy feel of this basement venue, actually it doesn’t feel like a basement at all. The clever use of mirrors, off-white tongue and groove panelling, brass railings, subtle, lighting, and luxurious looking leather chairs and damask banquettes are inviting.

There are intimate tables for two as you enter the restaurant, and a raised area takes you to tables of four or more. Light colour blinds are used on the windows with classic ‘Atlantic ‘branding embossed on them.

At the rear of the restaurant is a large banquette in a gold and black damask-like upholstery which stretch the length of the wall, beneath two large antique glass mirrors. The back of the banquette is curved, and you can see the whole restaurant from these seats. The juxtaposition here is that you can also see the open and bustling kitchen. There is a marble-topped bar here, eight comfortable leather bar stools, and on the bartop quaint french-style lamps. Small panels of frosted glass, divide the diners from the nitty gritty of the kitchen but allows them to be entertained by the chefs.

Further round there are large booths, upholstered in black leather, with marble-topped tables. Says Tony, “The booths are quite private and protected. When you are sitting in them you don’t know who is in the next booth. We wanted some of the booths to mimic french sofas, and they all booths have arm rests.”

The main colours in the Atlantic are cream, gold, black and all shades of brown and caramel with some pale blue too. The colours in the tiled floor areas are also subtle cream, pale blue and green.

Mark adds, “It is not huge, and the ceilings are quite low, but we have used mirrors to make it appear bigger. It is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Obviously a key thing was making it female friendly and we have done this, I think, by using lots of different fabrics and furniture style – we have 12 different chairs and 9 different kinds of fixed seating. The furniture was deliberately selected from several different sources. The tables are different too in the different areas of the bar and restaurant. All the furniture is bespoke and we have different luxurious fabrics throughout. The tables too are different, some have deep aprons and mouldings and are quite elaborate while some are in the same style but with a different top – and in the booths we have marble topped tables.

A10 a_b_c_tonemapped_optAbove the booth area on the roof there is a collection of mirrored squares, which also reflect the light, and by the kitchen area, and above the cocktail bar, there are tin ceiling tiles. But you wouldn’t know they are tin… they look antique. Mark explains, “Ranald McColl did these for us. He painted them with gold leaf and then painted them with cream paint and rubbed them down. It gives them an aged patina. We have also used different finishes on the ceiling to create a bit of variety, it was low, and we didn’t have much height to play with.”

In fact it is the sort of venue in which you see new things every time you go. For instance the steel beams with the rivets are original but have been painted with gold leaf, and they remind me of the steel rivetted beams in ships. The fixed seating areas have arms, and the booth rims are lined with leather which has been fixed with studs.

Says Mark, “The Atlantic interior has lots of classic French details, tiled mosaic flooring, painted panelling, antique mirrors, marble counters and tables, brass handrails and ‘antiqued’ pressed steel floating ceiling rafts.

Great attention was made in even the smallest details, such as the leather and brass stud detail to the top of the beveled glass and timber painted screens.”

The bar is a classy cocktail bar. It stretches more than 20ft, and has a rose coloured marble-top. It boasts some heavy but stylish bar stools and the back bar is back-lit. Above the bar, gleaming brass rails hold bottles of wine and glassware, while the foot of the bar has the same cream and tongue wood panelling as the rest of the brasserie.

The bar area is differentiated from the restaurant not only by the tiled flooring (it is wood flooring in the restaurant) but also by the lighting which is a stand-out feature. Mark explains “The large brass ceiling lights over the high marble top tables next to the bar were custom designed and hand-built abroad to CM Design specifications.”

The lights hang above two poseur tables which are stunning – marble topped with curved ends and a brass rail which goes all around the whole table.

To the back of the bar there is a raised area for dining, which is carpetted. This is likely to be an over-flow area for the restaurant.Says Tony, “We wanted people to have the experience of coming in for a drink, it’s not just a restaurant, it is a full cocktail bar too.”

Upstairs in the Anchor Line there is a vast quantity of memorabilia however here in The Atlantic it is more subtle. There are a few stunning framed prints, but of a more personal nature is a season book from the exhibition which was handed to Tony Conetta in the Anchor Line. When it was opened a photograph fell out, and it was the gentleman who handed it in as a young boy standing outside a car with his mother in 1938. Look out for it on your right hand side as you walk into the restaurant!Dimension, Di Maggio’s preferred contractors, did a sterling job. They were tasked with  co-ordinating and managing the whole projectfrom start to finish and as usual completed the job in a timely fashion and to the usual quality.

What strikes you is the quality of everything in The Atlantic – from the fabrics to the leather chairs, the lighting, the bar itself. It shouts luxury and it definitely has a ‘Feel Good’ factor. It’s also not like anything else Glasgow currently has to offer. Once again the Di Maggio’s Group has over-delivered. They have set the bar high. Congratulations to all involved.

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Category: Editors' Picks, Features
Tags: Atlantic, Bar, beer pub glasgow, brasserie, food, Glasgow, Mario Gizzi, SCOTLAND, Tony Conetta