It is two years since the saucy and stylish venue The Bathhouse burst onto the scene inside a former Victorian Turkish bath built in the 19th century. Located in Bishopsgate churchyard in the City of London, it is more than just a bar, restaurant and café, offering entertainment and club nights featuring burlesque and other alternative acts. Founders Tava O’Halloran and Daniel Wright have now taken many of the elements to create the Baby Bathhouse in the more conventional location of a former Barracuda bar in Stoke Newington Church Street in north-east London.
It is a decadent gem on what is an increasingly smart street of boutiques, pubs and restaurants, serving up good-quality cocktails in a setting as glamorous and morbid as the original Bathhouse. “I live around here and love the area,” Tava tells me about the choice of Stoke Newington. “There are lots of nice pubs and restaurants around here but I didn’t think there was anywhere to go for a cocktail and a glass of wine.”
The venues have been designed by Tava herself, a former actress who moved to London from Australia and worked in marketing and promotion at Old Street club 333 for three years. The original site’s concept was inspired by the 19th-century bathhouse building and its graveyard setting, with elements of Victoriana including pictures of skeletons on the walls and in the wallpaper patterns. “I picked up on it being a building from the Victorian era which has developed into an obsession for me,” Tava says.
In Stoke Newington, this theme is again seen in the large pictures of skeletons on the walls, lit from behind, as well as 19th-century anatomical diagrams and skeletal deer. A seating area at the front leads through to the bar and then to a large garden at the back. The tables and seating of church pews, old and new, have been painted gloss black, complementing the plush velvet of the upholstery and drapes and the Tiffany-style lights. Small gilded bird cages containing fresh flowers sit on each of the tables, while the garden features large bird cage-shaped gazebos. In the basement is a small club which wasn’t finished when I visited but was due to be completed imminently, with a design that Tava says will add more daring elements such as Victorian erotica.
The bar area itself presents more quirky Victoriana, such as broken doll parts and a pair of children’s shoe lasts, arranged in glass boxes inset into the counter like museum displays. A classic absinthe fountain sits on the bar, provided by La Maison Fontaine, for customers to drink absinthe in the traditional 19th-century fashion.
The drinks list has been put together by bartender Daniel Walters who also worked at the Bishopsgate site. Alongside several classics, his own concoctions include the popular Doris Gay made with Finlandia grapefruit-flavoured vodka, St-Germain elderflower liqueur and sweet vermouth, shaken with ice and strained into a Martini glass. Oliver’s Twist combines Disaronno amaretto, Frangelico, cranberry juice and lemon juice while the Bronte’s Bubbles mixes champagne, gin and crème de violette.
The Baby Bathhouse is open from 5pm on weekdays and all day at weekends when there is a barbecue in the garden. In contrast to the supper club in Bishopsgate, there is a simple food menu of sharing platters. “I wanted the Baby Bathhouse to have its own identity and be more approachable and more relaxed,” Tava says. “Bishopsgate has developed into more of a special-occasion place.” There is occasional “pop-up entertainment”, such as alternative circus and burlesque-style performers, but on a smaller scale than Bishopsgate, Tava adds. “It won’t be the whole focus of the evening but it will add to the atmosphere.” Live music and DJs are also on the playlist, with the venue licensed to open until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays.
As the reputation of The Bathhouse and now the Baby Bathhouse grows, Tava and Daniel are already considering another site, possibly in west London. “We found that a lot of our customers were coming to Bishopsgate not just from east London but from far and wide,” Tava says.
The Baby Bathhouse, 125 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16 0UH Tel: 020 7920 9207 www.thebathhousevenue.com