The bar, which is located in Lichfield, Staffordshire, is operated by Shaun Craven and his partner Sophie Starkey, is a popular hangout for celebrities including England and Manchester United footballer Harry Maguire and one of the Weasley twins from the Harry Potter film series.
Craven said: “We specialise in serving unique cocktails and really put the emphasis on the experience. We go to town on the garnishes and the glassware and the way we present them using like bubble guns, dry ice, flames, origami swans – anything that we can think of, really, which tries to give the customers a good experience.”
He opened the bar in 2013 when he was 24 years old and needed a bank loan to get it up and running.
Now the bar has just been refurbished thanks to a £30,000 investment. When Craven began, everything had to be done on a “shoe-string budget”.
“Over the years, I’ve put the profits back into it and the most recent one is the fifth refurb we’ve done but it’s got to the stage now where it looks fantastic.”
He explained a colour palette change has seen a purple cocktail bar become grey with Venetian plaster and there is now a Mediterranean-style ambiance.
“It translates through the music as well,” Craven added. “With our DJs, we play Mediterranean-inspired house music and there’s influences of Spanish guitar in there, salsa and Flamenco.”
He continued: “In fact, the house music can be quite Arabic then we have entertainment, which goes alongside that. So that’s bongo players, a saxophonist and we had dancers for a short time.
“We had a violinist play here last week and it conspires into this kind of Ibiza vibe that we bring right into Lichfield.”
Aside from some very obvious changes in the design, not too much can be altered because the building is a Grade II-listed site, which is about 250 years old and is a “beautiful building”.
Examples of signature cocktails include the Zombie, which is a blend of five rums with a tiki fire garnish that is lit up and cinnamon powder is sprinkled on it so the flame “zests up into the air”.
However, its alcoholic strength means there is a two serves only per customer rule because it’s “pretty pokey”.
Another is the Posh Bird, which comes with an origami swan as a garnish. It has Koko Kanu rum, hints of coconut rum, egg white light liqueur and “it’s very smooth with a nice head on it that goes down very well with customers as well”.
Le Rêve, like all other hospitality sites, suffered through the pandemic but came up with something original in the home delivery sphere that helped it drive business.
Craven said: “That week before lockdown was a massive transition where the bar literally just went empty overnight, which was scary that it had that it had that kind of impact.”
He continued: “Initially, what we did was we knew we would have to do take-out cocktails or delivery cocktails. We didn’t have the licence for that initially so had to quickly do a licence change that took four weeks to complete.
“We obviously started to think about doing cocktail deliveries but everybody was doing that. We had to offer that ‘Rêve’ experience with the panache customers get from the bar.
“We served our cocktails in Martini glasses and delivered them in martini glasses to their door. But then, just before they opened the door, we’d set up a little table and we put their Martini glasses out on it. And then we put a sparkler on it so when they opened the door, it was kind of like all-singing, all-dancing delivery.
“It was like doing table service at a bar.”
People would even send them to friends and family as a gift, which boosted coffers for the cocktail bar.
He added partner Sophie took a hands-on role during Covid to help keep the business afloat and since has become fully integrated into the business “When you bring a woman’s touch into a business, especially a bar, it’s gone from strength to strength and it’s kind of really found its feet now with me and my partner running it as a couple – it’s taken on a new dynamic, it’s fantastic.”
The official 10-year anniversary was on Saturday 23 September and the bar has been putting on more entertainment than usual this month.
Craven said: “We’ve been putting on more DJs. We’ve got a magician coming in, there’s a bongo player on Saturday and a speed dating event on Sunday. And if it’s any customer’s birthday, we’re giving them a free glass of Prosecco.”