Bedford is not well-known for its bar culture, so the arrival of Modello Bar & Kitchen has caused quite a stir. At the opening, journalists brushed shoulders with the town’s great and the good including business leaders, councillors and the mayor. For many, it is a relief to see a neglected nightclub called New York New York transformed into a stylish Mediterranean-influenced bar and restaurant with an interior design to rival the best in the UK.
It is the second Modello for Atmosphere Bars & Clubs, which is best known for operating Chicago’s, Jumpin Jaks and other ex-Luminar sites. The concept was created in Watford but has been developed further through one of the UK’s top bar designers Dominic Taylor, who grew up in Bedford. His practice Dtwo Design, which he heads with David Knight, has worked on London bars Callooh Callay, The Lonsdale, Barrio Central and the No-Tell Motel at Mahiki.
Dominic describes Modello’s interiors as “rustic chic” mixing “laid-back comfort” with contemporary design. Soft leather banquettes and booth seating in light brown contrast with the patterned wallpaper and deep-red walls and ceiling. The frontage of the bar counter is also in soft leather, coloured burgundy and charcoal grey, with a walnut top. There is incredible variety in the lighting design, from mismatched Anglepoise lamps to a striking fixture made up of glass bubbles of light.
One of the most popular areas is a snug (pictured top) at the front of the bar, with charcoal-grey armchairs, a trunk as a table, wood panelling and rowing paddles on the wall referencing Bedford’s rowing heritage on the River Great Ouse. At the back, a large outdoor space has been filled with stylish furniture, wooden decking, planters, giant umbrellas and heaters, making it a sought-after area even in the winter.
The 600-capacity venue is open all day from 9am, offering Illy coffee and croissants, with the added incentive of wi-fi. The key focus is its open kitchen with a wood-fired stone-baked oven serving up pizzas and rustic Italian food. Other main dishes and sharing plates are also available.
The bar offers a good selection of spirits, especially whiskies, vodkas and rums, alongside a select range of wines. The cocktail list features many of the popular classics from Margaritas, a Screaming Orgasm and a Long Island Iced Tea to a Mojito and a Caipirinha (both helpfully accompanied by phonetic pronunciation guides in the menu). There are also frozen Daiquiris and ice-cream cocktails such as an FBI (or Frozen Black Irish) made with vanilla ice cream, vodka, Baileys and Kahlua. Peroni, San Miguel, Stella Artois Black and Amstel are all available on draught plus imported bottled beers such as Tyskie.
Modello is open until midnight during the week and until 1am at weekends and hosts regular acoustic live music nights including jazz and soul. Manager Ronnie Singh, who was previously at Modello in Watford, says the new venue aims to offer a relaxing atmosphere throughout the day. “We have had such a fantastic response from the people of Bedford already, and the feedback about the food, drink and look of Modello Bar & Kitchen has been really positive.”
Modello, 18-20 St Peter’s Street, Bedford MK40 2NN Tel: 01234 343 455 www.modellobedford.co.uk