Mark Ludmon reports for Bar magazine on the new-look bar and café at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in London
Dating back to 1932, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre has attracted some of the world’s leading actors from Judi Dench and John Malkovich to Benedict Cumberbatch and Ralph Fiennes. With over 140,000 theatre-goers between May and September, it has the distinction of having the longest bar of any theatre in London, serving an open-air auditorium with seating for up to 1,256. Evening shows start at 7.45pm but queues form before the gates open an hour and a half beforehand so people have time for a champagne picnic on the grass or to enjoy food and drink from the bar and café.
Because of the importance of food and beverage, leading hospitality specialist B3 Designers were brought in to redesign the Summer Café and main bar and create a new Interval Café. As part of their brief, they were asked to rework the existing offerings to maximise service and improve the overall theatre experience.
Preserving the laid-back atmosphere of the space, they kept materials raw and organic, choosing down-to-earth furniture in line with the natural park surroundings. Along with a new impactful, atmospheric lighting scheme, it features materials such as concrete, reclaimed scaffolding and reclaimed timber with expanded metal and mild steel.
In the Summer Café, menus hang off rails for a better view, and food is displayed in a UV-bonded glass counter-top display box and on oak timber boards at different heights. In the main bar, B3 Designers looked at ways to deal with queues better, ensuring visitors can view menus and promotions clearly. Wines are now displayed in mild steel and mesh shelves on the back wall behind the bar while its curved concrete counter, sitting on natural wood cladding, has lengthened the access points for customers. Ledge seating surrounds the main bar area with hooks for ice buckets.
The new Interval Café features more theatrical lighting, promotion boards and pendant lighting, adding extra drama. “Working on a project like the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre presented a rare opportunity to design an F&B space in an important cultural landmark within such a beautiful natural setting,” adds Mark Bithrey, design director at B3 Designers.
For drinks, Champagne Canard-Duchêne has returned for a third year as the theatre’s official champagne partner, with a range including Cuvée Léonie Brut NV and Grande Cuvée Charles VII Rosé. A bottle of Canard-Duchêne is included in picnic hampers along with smoked salmon, Neal’s Yard Wholefood Fruit Surprise, organic clotted cream fudge, ice cream and other goodies.
Wines have been sourced through importer Les Caves de Pyrene which has been the theatre’s supplier for over five years. New for this season are wines from Chapel Down in Kent and, for the first time in the theatre’s history, a beer is available on draught: Chapel Down’s premium Curious Brew lager. With the new design and drinks offering, the bar and café ensure that visiting the Open Air Theatre remains an unrivalled cultural experience.
Originally published in Bar magazine. Pictures from B3 Designers.