Note: This is a very old post from April 2013 when The Library first opened. I've carried it across from my old website because this bar remains one of my favourites - it's not changed much, just got better.
Take a look at my new local. Young restaurateur and former UK barman of the year James Fowler has done something completely magical. He’s transformed a shabby two-room space above The Larderhouse, his restaurant in Southbourne, Bournemouth, into a drinking venue. It’s called The Library and it’s amazing.
Enter an unremarkable side door in the restaurant, continue up the wooden stairs, turn left on the landing and you suddenly find yourself in an Edwardian library. It’s lined with burnished wood panelling and mirror-backed cabinets gleaming with bottles of liquor. Everywhere there are fantastic things to look at. A stuffed fox chases a pheasant in the bay window… … a set of bagpipes waits to be played and a sepia-coloured globe wants to be spinned. You can play chess in a comfy chair by the fire ... or rent a vintage suitcase to store your own special tipple to enjoy when you visit.
Amazingly, the space was an empty shell five weeks ago. James had been tinkering with the idea of opening a bar above The Larderhouse for a while. But when he spotted some original antique wall panelling for sale on ebay – salvaged from a private bar in Middlesborough that hadn’t been touched for 20 years – he bought it straight away. From that point he had no choice but push ahead with the bar idea. Lucky for us.
The bar is most extraordinary. It’s been salvaged from the famous Macintosh Pub in Aberfan – the Welsh mining village that was devastated in 1966 when a man-made mountain of coal waste slid down the hill, crushing homes and the school and killing 144 people, including 116 children. You can see from the iconic images taken inside the pub (click here to see them) by J.C Rapoport that ‘The Mac’, as it was known, was a vital hub for the community in the aftermath of that terrible day. The Mac is no longer a pub (inevitably apartments I think). But it’s wonderful that such a special bar has been preserved in a happy new home.
There are lots of very special things to drink here: fine spirits, wine, sherry, bubbles and cocktails made by clever mixologists. You need to make a reservation, as it's always busy. Sometimes they open it for Sunday roasts, and special tasting evenings and events. You can also book it for gatherings in the daytime. Just ring and ask James, the chief librarian.