Graphic Bar, Soho
  Club: Graphic Bar, Soho
  From: Night Magazine June 2008 Issue
  Date: June 2008


Since, and no doubt before groups of swarthy moustached gents gathered around the central statue of George II to debate the social currents of the 18th century’s day, the auspicious nature of Soho’s Golden Square has been apparent, enhanced by its magnetism of politicians and ambassadors during the early 19th century. A surprisingly calm retreat from the vigour of pedestrians and combustion of drivers on the nearby Regent Street, the area is now enveloped by a host of media companies, continuing its connection with wealth and social dynamism. The newest kid on the varied block of businesses that face the square is Urban Leisure’s social inclusion zone, Graphic Bar, launched to the masses on 14 May.

Formerly Midas Touch, Graphic Bar has transpired from a project coordinated by Indigo Design & Build, with design direction from Spread Design, but not before co-owner Hezi Yechiel and bar manager Simon Nicolian had their say, as Hezi explained: “We pretty much handed it over to Spread and they came up with a few different options. Initially we weren’t going to move the bar but Simon insisted; that was a very good move in terms of how the space works.”

Working to a concise brief of only a few words: chic, urban and smooth, Spread Design’s involvement came via an existing collaboration with designer eye retailer, Oliver Goldsmith. Stuart Taylor, director at Spread Design explained the occurrence: “We are doing a project with Oliver Goldsmith and were introduced to Urban Leisure through Claire Goldsmith (Oliver’s great granddaughter and managing director), they are very good friends and thankfully we were recommended. A credentials presentation was made and the process began, so basically word-of-mouth and trust. This seems consistent through many of our projects where we roll from recommendations, which to me is one of the greatest marketing tools.”

The design is dominated by rich, dark chocolate tones that engulf the eye, refreshingly broken up by a deliberately over-the-top series of lampshades that give real character and a unique dimension to the look and feel of the bar. Albioncourt supplied 100 shades of various size, all drum shaped with a chocolate brown exterior and an interior that is digitally adorned with the Graphic logo.

Deep-buttoned leather seating provides sumptuous support for the fastidious patrons, a technique that sweeps round to the bar’s frontage and DJ booth, giving a true feeling of opulence. The bar top has been crafted by 3D Foils Ltd using glitter infused acrylic that catches and deflects the light from various sources in the bar, which adds to the contemporary feel.

Indigo Design worked to realise the complete conceptual frameworks formulated by Spread Design in a tried and tested collaboration. The smooth transition from drawing board to fruition was no doubt aided by this efficacious relationship, limiting the project’s timeframe to only four weeks. Stuart explained: “The furniture, apart from the tables, were made by our contractors Indigo who we have a great relationship with and work on many projects with. They created all the elements in the bar for us, and helped make the project complete.”

The white, oversized tables provide a bold contrast to the brown colour scheme as well as the perfect functionality for the different needs of the clientele. Their generous size is equally good for daytime patrons to spread their work over whilst sampling one of the ‘mini shots of health’, as they are for large social groups at night, focused more on expertly crafted cocktails and interaction.

Gold leaf artwork gives character to the walls and works well with the branding that runs throughout the bar. The consistent involvement of the Graphic logo in the design, communicates on a level with the media savvy crowd and perhaps lays the foundations for future expansion of the brand, as Hezi explained: “Initially we liked the idea of having different places, each with a different personality to suit the area but I think this place is quite different on the whole. You don’t walk in and think ‘this looks a bit like somewhere’, without it being over the top. I guess we’ll see how it goes, how Graphic does as a brand, give it a few months and decide. We’ve agreed to take over another site in West Hampstead and possibly we can make that a Graphic, it’s early days though.”

A contemporary, bespoke cocktail menu is matched by a quirky, skewered food selection, popular for the taste and time conscious custom.

With a café/bar feel, ambience is key, which was fundamental to Viba Sound’s audio installation. This is also conveyed through a non-commercial music policy, stepped up on weekend nights with DJs of a particular ilk, as Simon explained: “We keep it very funky, very soul, funk, disco, boogie; no house, no funky house, no hard house. [We] keep it jazzier earlier on in the day and a little bit of the old-school break beat funk really – touching on hip-hop but nothing too up-to-date.”

As Urban Leisure’s first venture out with West Hampstead, Graphic has captured the imaginations of the local crowd whilst instilling pride in those involved. Stuart at Spread Design has been especially pleased with the final product, as he enthused: “It’s a cliché, I know, but I’m proud of all of it: creating the brand, the name, the graphics, the menus, the stationary, through to the exterior and interior and handing over a complete project. The comments that are coming back to us make it all worthwhile! If I was pushed for one aspect [I’m most proud of] it would be the gold glitter or the menus, but these are nothing without the totality of the bar.”

Words: Michael Nicholson
Images: Jim Ellam

Griphic Bar



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