Brel’s wee brother Jacques is the new kid on the block in Finnieston. Owner Oli Norman’s latest offering to the Glasgow bar world (he also has his DNA all over Sloans and big brother Brel on Ashton Lane of course) premiered its design last month with an opening night that was a fondue lover’s heaven. Although, it was a bit tricky to negotiate all that gooey fondue and check out the wonderful design at the same time, hence me popping back for a private viewing with GM Alec Dyson, and to get a good look at the place because the launch was busy, busy, busy.
Alec guided me through some of the biggest changes in a unit that used to occupied by Chelsea Market (latterly Finn Market). Said Alec, “The biggest change happened at either side of the bar in what were effectively two ‘dead’ spaces before, well, one housed a staff table and the other just wasn’t where customers would choose to sit. Now the areas that nobody wanted to sit in have become the areas that everybody wants to sit in because the bar has been pulled forward and moved slightly to the right and they have been designed in an interesting and comfortable way.”
He continued, “The other big change is the removal of the acid etched glass that was a feature on the far wall above the steps going down to the toilets and the kitchen.” This wall is now all exposed brick, onto which is projected an image of a young Jacques Brel mostly, but they can change this up to be anything that they choose it to be, obviously. Now for the design breakdown. The floors are mostly wooden (apart from a black and white mosaic tile design detail directly in front of the bar), as are the ceilings, and the walls have been painted a mint green colour, and as well as all the hanging plants all along the front of the bar and the two conifers greeting you as you enter, the greenery theme continues inside thanks to various plants and a big old oak tree behind the bar (real bark, fake leaves).
You enter the corner unit and the bar is ahead of you on the wall opposite the door. To the left of the bar is a cosy wee area called Treetops, complete with a cluster of lampshades and a wood burning stove and lovely tables carved out of trees, that Alec informed me are the handiwork of Oli’s brother, Tim Norman. He’s also responsible for the sensuously carved maitre’d table. Treetops is also available for private hire, with a capacity of about 20. This area also has some acid etched glass, below which is a little arched nook in the stone, complete with candles, casting it as a bit of a shrine. This area is cordoned off with thick coloured wire strands in various colours running from the back of one of the brown leather upholstered seats right the way up to the ceiling.
The right-hand far corner is also a little snug area, and despite there being no fire, is equally as inviting in its own way. Here, they’ve installed a corner seating unit with wooden circular tables. There’s also a lovely portrait shaped recess which has been backlit, plus there are sash windows looking out onto Derby Street, with a lovely original floral stained glass detail.
Back from the point of view of being at the front door again, and the rest of the space is taken up with various types of tables and seating. For example, immediately to the right as you enter is a big old wooden table ideal for big groups, around which are wooden chairs upholstered in a sympathetic minty green. Next to this, along the right-hand-side wall as you enter, are two bright orange horseshoe booths in a chesterfield style. These really pop out in the context of the rest of the design in a daring way but work a treat. To the left, as you enter is a line of window seats with lots of colourful cushions to amp up the comfortability factor, plus more plants hanging in the windows above. These are served by wooden tables and black chairs.
At the end of this line of chairs and tables, that backs onto the far wall where the stairs and projection are, is another big horseshoe-shaped booth that’s been upholstered in a lovely calming blue, above which hangs an etched acid mirror. The bar’s square-shaped with a wooden bar top and front at its front-facing end, with white tiles at on its right-hand and left hand sides, above which are metal wine racks, but it’s dominated by that big tree which is also festooned with twinkly lights which may or not be just for Christmas, and which wouldn’t look out of place all year round.
Right opposite the bar is a high, 12-capacity posing table with metal and honey coloured varnished wood swivel chairs that are very sturdy and almost kind of Victorian looking. I’ll wrap things up by saying that Jacques has proved to be such a popular destination that they’ve had to employ door staff at the weekends, and this must have more than a little to do with the knockout design.