The demise of Maggie’s Bar a couple of weeks ago seemed to be a sure sign that the credit crunch had come to Church Street, but within days workmen were busy transforming the black exterior with a lick of fresh white paint and Bacio Mare was up and running.

The newest addition to the Il Bacio family has strayed from its pizzeria parents and launched itself as a seafood and wine bar. Upstairs the 80’s inspired interior has been softened with white chandeliers, comfortable chairs and a huge pin-up picture. 

Keen to try the seafood menu, we were led downstairs to the eating area which apart from the paint job, doesn’t seem to have changed much from before. The specials were sea bream or tuna – not too inspiring, but like Il Bacio Express, the food policy seems to be, ‘keep it simple and fresh’. The small-ish menu didn’t include starters the night I was there, so I opted for a smoked salmon with dill dish which was lovely and my friend had a seafood salad with calamari rings, mussels, scallops and baby octopus (which freaked her out a little bit so we swapped!). The seafood salad was also accompanied by a large langoustine on either side of the plate. Mains were priced between £8 and £9.50 and were washed down with several glasses of delicious house white.

From Bar 93 to Stage B and then Maggie’s this particular venue has never really taken off – perhaps the black and chrome didn’t quite fit with Stokey or maybe its because it is a slightly awkward space, which doesn’t quite seem to fit anything.

The staff were welcoming and the food was nice but overall, Bacio Mare doesn’t give you the cosy, well-loved feeling of the other restaurants. Perhaps its because the eating area is in the window-less basement, however food will only be served until 9:00pm, so perhaps it will really come into its own as a winebar.

It is early days though and hopefully if anyone can give this old venue the kiss of life then Luigi and the lovely Il Bacio folk can.

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