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The Swim Club

Enter the Swim Club and enter a different world. The year is no longer 2018 and you certainly aren’t in Fairhaven anymore. It’s 1962 and you find yourself on the French Riviera, sipping a beverage that looks more like a small meal than a cocktail.

The 1960s atmosphere is created through a hundred details, which, added together, creates an environment so authentic you almost expect Don Draper and one of his mistresses to walk through the doors. Co-owners Tom Grayling and Laura Swift want to put the fun back into cocktail bars with their “Havana meets French brasserie” cocktail lounge and restaurant, the Swim Club. At this cocktail bar, customers are Swim Club “members” and the wet bar is their meeting place.

The couple’s goal was to bring fun and light-heartedness back to cocktail bars. After traveling to some of the best bars in world for two years, they knew what they did and didn’t want in a place of their own. Both Swift and Grayling bring a wealth of knowledge to the Swim Club with backgrounds in the restaurant and bar businesses.

The Swim Club’s experience and atmosphere owes much of its credit to the interior decor and the mind behind it, Melissa Broersma, who also happens to be the lead bartender. Blackand-white marble floors greet each step, brass light fixtures hang from the ceiling, over-sized indoor plants occupy every corner, and, most importantly, a long arching bar anchors the restaurant. The staff dress the part with dark denim jeans, white button-up shirts, suspenders on the men and neck scarves on the women. It is a lot to take in, even before you’ve had a sip of your cocktail or a bite of your meal.

Head chef Alex Timothy Nusloch is originally from New Orleans, where he trained in traditional French cuisine. He and lead line cook, Malik Lane, have a focused, small menu that is packed full of flavor. The menus depend on the season, changing to take advantage of local ingredients as much as possible, Grayling says. For example, the spring menu, named De Le Mar, or “Of the Sea,” features numerous seafood dishes like ceviche, mussels, halibut, and oysters. The ceviche ($14.50) is colorful, crunchy, and tart. The rockfish is complemented with mango, lime, and blood orange for a zesty, fresh experience. To balance all that citrus, try the chicken liver mousse ($8) as a creamy and indulgent partner to the ceviche. The small bowl of mousse is enough for two but is delicious enough that you might not want to share. Large salted crackers and house-made pickles accompany the mousse. “We are a cocktail bar, but we have great food. People should know that they can eat dinner here,” Grayling says. While the menu is short, quality certainly takes the hat on quantity at the Swim Club.

As for the cocktail menu, the options are organized in order of light to dark, says Grayling. Bar manager Dennis Schafer starts the menu off with “poolside” beverages like the daiquiri, paloma, and Cosmopolitan, all classics with twists. As guests review the menu further, they’ll find the “high dive” creations, including the pina colada and dark Negroni, before finally turning to the “deep end” menu of choices like the old fashioned and rum and cola. Sitting right in the middle is the rum-forward pina colada with caramelized coconut and pineapple. Uncomplicated, yet delicious, the pina colada makes a perfect beverage for a hot day. All of the bar’s juice is made in-house, which usually consists of about two hours of juicing every day during prep. “We are really a juice bar,” Grayling says, and each cocktail features elevated house liquor.

The Swim Club is open Tuesday-Sunday and features outdoor seating and grill nights. Event information can be found on their Facebook page.

For more dining references and cocktail bars, see our Dine section here.

1147 11th St., Bellingham
360.393.3826 | swimclubbar.com
"It’s 1962 and you find yourself on the French Riviera, sipping a beverage that looks more like a small meal than a cocktail."