Want to know what dodging a bullet feels like? Ask Trent Verges, who was involved in the Bombay Club's renovation this past few months. The iconic New Orleans establishment seriously considered reopening as a smoking-friendly bar with dedicated shelf space for cigars. Verges says that he and the rest of the creative team, "lucked out", as the idea was scrapped – even before the City Council's January 22 vote to ban smoking in bars and restaurants.
Though some regulars might still hearken for the days of enjoying a well-rolled cigar with their martini, Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts — which operates the Bombay Club — have worked to restore the other elements that elicit its clientele's fond memories. The Union Jack flags, an obvious point of pride for the bar, hang prominently from one side of the door. Even the nude figure of an impressively endowed woman, a past fixture drawn by the wife of Bombay Club creator Marc Turk, hangs in a prominent position within the men's restroom, at once exuding clubby sophistication and a wink and nod to patrons of the club who remember the old days.
Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts tapped the Chrestia Staub Pierce firm to handle the renovation's interior design, who together worked to perfect each detail of the space, from the prominent green hue – deepened to enhance the "pub-like" feel, according to Verges – to the locally acquired antiques selected to fit the club's essence. A seating area near the piano – there's at least one set of live music here nightly – features a coffee table charmingly carved to resemble a short stack of leather-bound books. On the other side of the bar, booths are framed by draperies in the aforementioned green and divided by tapestry-covered walls; it's easy to imagine a scene from 'Mad Men' occurring across the white tablecloths.
Next to a separate dining room with a Winston Churchill portrait as its focal point, the bar opens out into a small but stately courtyard. What's astonishing is that the entire renovation occurred in roughly 30 days – just a few months following a legal settlement between former Bombay Club manager Andrew Gross and Mike Valentino, in which a judge ruled Valentino's Prince Conti Hotel owned full rights to the Bombay Club name. The recent fluctuations couldn't have been desirable for a bar that trades on tradition, but Verges sees a successful future; according to him, the club's guests since the reopening have been impressed, and he's confident they'll return. It's likely that the Bombay Club's debonair décor, to say nothing of its revamped food and cocktails, will inspire an entirely new generation of regulars.