The Balloon Bar at The Engine Yard at Belvoir Castle.
The Balloon Bar. When you get an invitation from The Duchess of Rutland to go to an exclusive press only night, you just have to go! As a well brought up girl, my répondez s'il vous plaît, was toute de suite, of course. Before I knew it, Ian and I were driving towards Belvoir Castle in torrential rain. Despite the weather there were some amazing views of the castle and, once we got to the entrance for the castle, The Engine Yard is close by.
The Balloon Bar is situated within The Engine Yard which has plenty of free parking too.The Engine Yard houses a selection of exclusive shops and, when you are shopped out, you can now relax in the beautiful Balloon Bar which is underneath The Fuel Tap restaurant.
The tables along the wall of the bar are designed as if you are sitting in a balloon basket, complete with ropes. Tucked into a cosy corner, I had a chat with the Duchess about her new venture, in particular the inspiration for The Balloon Bar. The Duchess explained that, as the area was underground, with little natural light, it was a very dingy and dull space. She really wanted to inject some fun and colour into the space, and as a former interior designer, she has certainly put her talents to good use.
With a vision of a romantic hot-air balloon flying above the grounds at Belvoir castle, originally designed by Capability Brown, the Duchess has a passion for the minutest detail and is arguably a perfectionist! From the tromp l'oeil walls to the balloons and furnishings, everything was chosen by The Duchess. Although she is involved in every aspect of the estate, which include fourteen related businesses, the Duchess adores the creative side of the business and particularly The Engine yard as she feels that it reflects the personalities of the family.
I asked the Duchess what she thought that Belvoir's ancestors would think of the changes that have been made to the estate in recent years. She always feels as if they are sitting on her shoulder! She hopes that they would approve as she sees it as an extension.
Food and Drink
The Balloon Bar has its own cocktail menu with new cocktails inspired by the decor and the Belvoir estate. I had a Japanese Blossom which was a combination of peach, rose, elderflower, Ketel, One Vodka and Mt Fuji Bitters. Mocktails are also available. The initial cocktail list and tapas menu that I sampled can be found here.
The Duchess shared with everyone some exciting news that they would soon be stocking Belvoir gin and beer along with the beers, wines and spirits already available.
Ian and I were able to sample some of the items on the tapas menu. I particularly enjoyed the lightly battered squid with garlic mayonnaise and Ian was hovering over the buttermilk chicken with chipotle dip. It took me back a few years to when we had tapas in San Sebastian. I asked the Duchess why she chose tapas as the food theme. She told me that her heritage is 15% Spanish and she loves tapas as it is light and not too filling.
Evening meals will also be served and will feature local produce from the estate such as lamb and beef, all prepared by the onsite butcher. There are plans for a wood fired pizza oven and smoker too. Of course, Belvoir Castle is well known for its game and the Duchess has plans to include it on the menu too as she is passionate about it. In fact, I asked her what her favourite meal is and she replied that it would have to be pigeon with a compote of red berries or perhaps smoked duck. Pigeon is my favourite too so I'm definitely going back in game season!
So, if you are looking for somewhere different to go pop into The Balloon Bar. At the weekends the Duchess can often be found clearing tables and washing up too - well someone has to do it!
Disclaimer: I was invited to The Balloon Bar and sampled the food and drink offering. All views are my own.