Design focus: Jamie’s Italian Aberdeen

February 27th, 2013 | Posted in: Features,News

Jamie Oliver’s scored a hat trick in Scotland with Jamie’s Italian Aberdeen, on the back of his Glasgow and Edinburgh concerns. It opened last month on Union Street in the former Esselmont & Macintosh department store, and is also the most northerly of the celebrity chef’s UK estate.
The design of the two storey space is undoubtedly enriched by the scale and grandeur of the Esslemont & Macintosh building ,which you can still imagine in its glory days after a major scrub up. Inside, its prominent features are a patterned terracotta screen surrounding the central staircase and open kitchen. The colour scheme on both floors is warm and cosy with neutral wood, and splashes of red and green.
The 280-cover restaurant was supposed to open in June of last year, but the project hit a bit of turbulence, so its opening was postponed.?Stiff & Trevillion were the designers tasked with delivering the concept. Mike Stiff is a director of the company. He said, “This is probably the tenth or eleventh Jamie’s project that we’ve been involved in, but it was unusual in that it’s a listed building. The upper floors are currently being converted into residential properties and our project was held up a bit by that last year.
“In terms of the design, where we came from is that this is the furthest north Jamie’s has gone, and so we travelled to Aberdeen, and it’s cold! So we wanted the interior to be warming, which is where the terracotta came in. It acts as a kind of screen between the floors, and it’s visible from all parts of the restaurant and that itself, with its earthy, mediterranean look, brings a natural warmth to the space. We envisaged customers seeking a cosy refuge on, say, a cold January evening. Then, of course, there were the staples, like the open kitchen, as the process on show is always a major consideration for Jamie, as is the inclusion of the shop.” The design of the landmark building has been sympathetic to the architecture of the listed building, which is also a bit of a retail landmark to the folks of Aberdeen. In fact, it was part restoration, with the windows, cast iron structure and wooden floors all given a brand new lease of life. The dilapidated exterior too has undergone similar treatment so that it now boasts a fully restored, repaired and cleaned frontage, and the original mosaic signage has been retained.
So does the building lend itself well to the interior design? Without a doubt! The exterior and the full wall of windows that wrap right around this corner premises on both floors, showcasing the interior and making the restaurant, is very inviting – particularly at night.
Some of the highlights inside for me were the splashes of industrial, with the exposed ventilation equipment on the ceiling, and the oversized pendant lighting. I was also struck by the terracotta screen which looks a bit like a giant wine rack and, like its Edinburgh counterpart, there’s also a bit of a rustic feel to the interior, on account of the lines of uncomplicated, no frills wooden chairs and tables and wooden flooring.
The restaurant is also on the lookout for any budding Banksy’s, that is to say a local artist to add something extra to the interior in the shape of a piece or street art or graffiti for one of the walls, in line with his other UK restaurants.

Jason Caddy


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