Bergman Design House, the luxury design studio co-founded by dynamic duo Albin Berglund and Marie Soliman, has unveiled its latest Vancouver speakeasy project, Bagheera. We drew back the curtain to step inside…
The opulent sipping spot sits in the heart of the Vancouver’s buzzing Chinatown and has started serving its experimental cocktails, light bites and sharing plates in a train cabin that transports its patrons back in time to the flâneur era. Drawing on the cultural crossroads of co-owners Lewis Hart and Brij Rathi, both of whom have extensive roots in India, Bagheera pays homage to the adventurous spirit of the Indian subcontinent at the turn of the 20th Century.
Bergman Design House has an enviable portfolio of international projects and has been the trusted design partner of Bagheera’s parent group, Three Kingdoms Hospitality, since the launch of Vancouver sister venue Laowai in 2021. It was only fitting, therefore, that the duo should bring their magic touch to the group’s latest opening.
“Bagheera has undoubtedly been one of our most exciting projects to date,” said Marie Soliman, Co-Founder, Bergman Design House. “Working on a brief centred around the namesake of the majestic black panther in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, the scheme has a decidedly sexy, feline, feel that oozes luxe and excess.”
“Think less neighbourhood bar, more total theatrical experience,” added Albin Berglund, Co-Founder Bergman Design House. “It’s no secret that Bergman like to bring maximalism and opulence (or what we call ‘organised chaos’!) to our work, and this jewel in the heart of Vancouver might be the truest expression of our signature style that we’ve done.”
The experience begins the moment guests enter the Happy Valley Turf Club betting shop at 518 Main Street. As soon as they utter the magic password and place a wager on ‘King Louie’, they enter a vestibule papered with original postcards from late 1800s and early 1900s India, before voyaging into the speakeasy itself – a true ‘passage to India’.
Once inside guests will be greeted with a sumptuous 60-seat main cocktail lounge in hues of gold, deep red, teal and imperial purple. “We used a decadent mixture of textiles and fittings throughout to really dial up the glamour in the space”, explained Soliman. “Think rich velvets combined with dark hardwoods and opulent gold detailing. The main space was inspired by the majestic train cars of the era and glitters with over 1,000 antique coins and bangles we sourced from the bazaars of Delhi and Jaipur, with the help of Delhi-based décor brand, Rosie Dahlia. The effect is quite spectacular.”
The star of the show is undoubtedly the 12-metre long bar clad in a hand-carved, reclaimed teak frontage with an illuminated bar top and a backsplash of polished tiger blue onyx. A bespoke 14 metre hand-painted jungle mural spans the entire north wall across from the bar, leading to the semi-private Drawing Room. Here, one can find real bohemian curios in bronze and brass, which reside in a softly lit ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ that also houses some of the bar’s harder-to-find whiskeys. Cheeky overpaints by internationally renowned ‘hacker’ artist Blase, playfully superimpose modern commercialism onto period Gothic canvases.
Behind the bar, Operating Partner Alex Black who includes Laowai and Wildebeest in his portfolio, oversees a drinks programme of period-inspired cocktails named after Kipling works, featuring unexpected ingredients such as saffron-infused gin (Man’s Red Flower), smoked paprika (All One Vine), and cinnamon tincture (The Anvil). A separate Gin & Tonic section offers Classic, Savoury, Tropical, and Bon Vivant options. The bar menu is complimented by the subcontinental cuisine by Phong Vo and boasts a pakora menu with a variety of meat, seafood, vegetarian, and vegan fillings as well as a selection of sharing plates.
Main image credit: Bergman Design House