Bottle Bureau is the pet project of Essex restaurateur, Justin Cracknell and his business partner Jon McKee. Justin founded Limeberry Catering in 2009 and later opened The New London in Chelmsford. Last year, he joined forces with Jon to open The Ship Inn in Burnham-on-Crouch.
Justin explained, “After updating and re-launching The Ship Inn with huge success we were keen to find our next project. Location and concept were imperative as we wanted to open something not seen before in Chelmsford.
“When you think about a lot of the cool bars in London they are often built in basements, old churches or chapels so when we discovered this basement venue, which had been closed for over a year and was in disrepair from flooding, we knew it was ideal and could deliver our vision.
“Yes, it needed a lot of work but we absolutely loved the quirkiness and history of the place.”
Steeped in history the main building was formerly a police station, and the basement was used to house criminals from in and around Essex. There’s even a boarded-up tunnel between the bar and Shire Hall from the days when it was a courthouse.
Setting about the interior design theme the duo were keen to maximise on keeping authentic features with a strong focus on wood being at the heart of the design, mixed with metal elements to introduce modern industrial touches.
Warm, characterful wood panelling is interspersed with industrial metal finishes, and furniture combines an eclectic yet cohesive mix of woods, metals and leather, along with re-imagined beer barrels for stools.
The team had previously installed V4 Woodflooring in The Ship Inn, and delighted with the quality and aesthetics of the floors once again turned to the V4 collection to select a wood floor that would complete the space.
“We installed Urban Nature Foundry Steel in The Ship Inn but wanted something a little lighter yet still full of the same character and warmth for here. We revisited the Urban Nature collection and selected Tannery Brown. It has the ideal tones to balance with all the other elements in the bar and enhance the basement’s ambience.”
Opened in November, the bar has become a welcome addition to Chelmsford. A menu of over 45 gins has been curated, along with 48 different beers, wines, craft spirits, ciders and cocktails.
Even the bar menu maintains the wood inspired theme, with bar snacks served in quirky wooden bowls, and meat and cheese platters served in mini wooden crates.
“We’re delighted with the finished bar. It captures the essence of our vision. We’ve maintained the historic origins and atmosphere of the basement whilst introducing Shoreditch inspired industrial chic style. A visit to the bar is more than just a drink; it’s an atmospheric hideaway for laid back drinking and an exploration into gins and beers from around the world.”