CARLISLE’S newest bar - Amante - opens its doors today bringing a botanical feel to the city’s drinking scene.

More than £500,000 has been spent creating the bar and garden, off Lowther Street, into what is hoped will become one of the city’s top drinking spots.

Directors Sarah Dempster, 40, Matt Guthrie, 31 and Joe Wilkinson, 54, are the team behind the bar that is housed in the city’s former Royal Hotel.

Sarah, who is originally from Whitehaven, said: “I fancied owning my own bar so I had a look around the city at a few possibilities but this one had the most potential.

“I’d never noticed it before but when we came in it didn’t have a roof, it was overgrown with trees and there were rodents everywhere. Safe to say it wasn’t the best. It had no plumbing or wiring. I liked the fact that it had separate areas rather than one big space.

But the directors saw that the building had potential and with Joe, a builder by trade, he knew what needed to be done to make it what it is today.

Last night 230 invited guests walked through a leafy tunnel into the bar which has silver grey and soft pink furnishings.

Sarah said: “The bar has a botanical theme to it and I think the name Amante, which my daughter found, gives it a feminine touch. It means in love.”

Matt, who also owns the Bocata bar nearby, said: “I think the name really fits the bar.”

Sarah added: “What we wanted to do was to create the kind of bar that you might find in a bigger city.”

The bar has a private booth which people can reserve for hen parties. Waiter service is available if you are sitting at this table.

Matt said: “We’ve already had bookings for Christmas party nights and that’s before people have seen the bar.”

Inside there are three fake cherry blossom trees crawling up the ceiling and feature walls with flowers.

Outside, there is a garden area with tables, heaters and blankets to keep people warm in the colder weather.

Sarah is proud of what they have achieved. She said: “I can’t wait for everyone to see it. I wanted to keep the chairs wrapped in bubble wrap as I’m scared someone spills something on them but I keep getting reminded that it’s a bar and not my home.”

A cocktail list that reflects some of the building’s history as a hotel is on offer including Lady of the Manor and Passionate Affair. There are also cocktails featuring the birthdays of the directors.

The bar also has an extensive range of beers and spirits as well as Brooklyn lager on tap.

Food may be offered on Sundays using an outside caterer.

Amante is just the first phase and the directors have future plans.

Matt said: “We’re looking at a restaurant in the second year and a boutique hotel in the third year of trading. One step at a time.”

Sarah added: “We’d like to have some individually themed suites with a penthouse suite with three or four beds in it where hen parties could stay.”

Matt said: “Some of the rooms might have hot tubs.”

Amante will be open Thursday to Sunday from 12pm until 3am.