Team behind Botanical Garden to open new city centre bar
1 year ago
The team behind outdoor summer venues Botanical Garden and Sub Rosa in the Baltic Triangle are opening their first year-round bar in the city.
Sotto, on Wood Street, will be a European-style basement bar specialising in cocktails, spritzes, beers and wines – served with snacks and card games.
In the heart of the Ropewalks, business partners Pedro Hunter and Laura Jackson hope the new indoor bar, due to open mid-July, will neatly fit into an already busy going-out area.
“Sotto’s going to be different from Botanical and Sub Rosa in a few ways – first, because it has four walls and a roof and it’s open throughout the year, so that’s exciting for us, and it’s in a totally different area as well.
“I think the other two are a lot more destination places to go; people wake up and see the sunshine and think, I really want to get pizza from Hot Mess at the Botanical or have a hot dog and a beer at Sub. With this there’s more of a passing trade so you could go to the theatre or go out for something to eat and then go to Sotto afterwards for a nice spritz and olives and play cards with your friends – it can fit more into people’s lives.
“And because it’s on Wood Street, it’s very much in the mix and we’re surrounded by a lot of cool places that we like, so many great restaurants and places like Fact doing amazing things so it all complements each other.
“With the layout and music for Sotto, we’ve really made it the type of place we like to go to. It’s a basement space and it’s got a large egress window which brings in all this natural light so we’ve got lots of plants in there, beautiful tiles along the wall a bit like a European Metro, exposed brick walls and more space for seated drinking.”
He says being indoors for a change, means they’ve been able to include things which haven’t been possible at Botanical Garden or at the larger Sub Rosa, which they launched in the Baltic in spring 2021.
They both only operate for a limited season, usually from March to September, but even then they have to factor in unpredictable British weather.
“We won’t have to battle the natural elements quite as much and that ties into drinks as well, because there are some things that we love dearly but they never really fitted into our outdoor drinking venues. There’s a really nice spritz using a sparkling red wine which wasn’t quite right for Sub or Botanical but it’s really lovely in an Italian-style basement.
“We’re working with Legs wine, who’ll be looking after all the wines we’re going to sell, and we’re planning to do a Pudding Club and other events so we get to work with some really interesting people. It’s things we’ve wanted to do before but if there’s been heavy rain or the elements get involved then even though our other sites have covered areas, they’re predominantly built for people to be outside in so they can’t happen.
“We’ve had playing cards made for Sotto too because I enjoy playing cards when I’m out catching up with people. It’s the type of thing you’d do on holiday and you think it’s great but then you never do it again when you come home.
“It’s those small bits of relief and happiness that we all need, and all the venues in their own way give that.”
Pedro says coming out of the pandemic, and with hospitality facing a staffing shortage and predicted closures, it wasn’t an obvious time to add a third venue.
“A few months ago, if someone had asked me did we want to open another venue in the middle of summer, I’d have said no. But the difference was it was someone saying ‘do you want this venue? And we went in and saw the beautiful concrete beams and it just felt special and a bit magical as a space.
“We’re lucky that we’ve already got a strong base who visit Botanical Garden and Sub Rosa, and they know us and they’re really excited for this one, but at the same time there’s some fear from that because there’s more expectation.
“When you do your first project, you could do anything and people will love it because it’s your first time. I look at the early pics of Botanical now and it was really rough and ready, but with venue three people expect more and we’ve just got to make sure we do the things that we like and meet their expectations.
“It’s always personal, before we do anything I always think, ‘do I really like this?’ and if I do then I hope other people will.”