Design Focus: Charwood, Edinburgh
Charwood in Fairmilehead, Edinburgh is the latest venture from Omni Taverns, operators of Whiski and The Whiski Rooms. The venue marks a slight departure for company directors Anne and Gary Still, with the focus being on chargrilled meat rather than the water of life.
The restaurant had previously been called Tusitala, with the previous owners having operated the site for 24 years. Says Anne, “We’d been coming here with our kids since they were young, which is why we bought it. It was an off-market sale, totally confidential. It never occurred to me that it would be for sale, and we would never have approached the owners had they not gotten in contact with us first.”
Once the deal was proposed however both Anne and Gary knew exactly what they wanted to do with the site. Anne told me, “We already had the concept in mind, we always knew that we wanted to focus on cooking with charcoal and a grill. The kitchen here is huge, and we knew we had the space and capability to use a Josper grill. Gary’s from South Africa and is very into his BBQs; he’d always wanted a Josper grill in Whiski or Whiski Rooms but there just wasn’t the space. We closed the restaurant for three days to replace the kitchen vents and install the grill. We then re-opened as Charwood.”
The main refurbishment took place in the bar however, which is located in a separate room from the restaurant. Anne told me that they inherited a run-down, traditional sports bar that was in desperate need of refurbishment and modernisation, and as such they decided to rip everything out and start again. The refit took 11 days, during which time the room was stripped to its shell. Anne told me, “We re-clad the bar and put a new top on it; that is literally the only thing left over from the old room.”
The bar dominates the room, with the beech bar top stretching out over six metres. Five leather stools line the bar, varying in colour from forest green to burgundy to beige. Walnut floor panelling outlines the bar area; the rest of the room’s floor is beech in colour. The gantry features LED lighting across the shelves and distressed mirrors along the back. Although the Stills are looking to differentiate Charwood from their other venues the backbar still features a healthy selection of whiskies, and the wall at the bar’s service entrance displays two black and white photographs of the Balblair distillery. Hanging above the bar top are a series of bold, metal lamp shades. Anne told me, “We changed our mind constantly over the lights, we wanted to be brighter than our other two venues and we also wanted to make a statement.” They have certainly achieved that.
Due to the immediate necessity of the refurbishment the Stills chose not to employ an interior designer, preferring instead to realise their own vision. When it came to fitting the furniture in the room Anne tells me that they remained undecided about the layout even after the bar was open for trade. Says Anne, “We like wood panelling and wanted fixed seating that we could also move around. We had tables and chesterfields in mind, and we just fitted them around the space. It looks different even now from when we first started, but the look should be settled now!”
There are three banks of fixed banquettes along the main bar wall, divided by two raised wooden tables. The leather banquettes are olive green, and face onto beech, square tables and a mix of brown leather armchairs and green and purple tweed seating. The white walls above the banquettes are lined with dog-themed artwork; Anne told me that the bar is very dog-friendly and that her dog is a regular visitor. The raised tables are decorated with small, metal plant pots and tea-light candles, and are positioned by the windows, which look out onto Charwood’s outdoor seating area and the homes of Fairmilehead. Smart looking black, leather bar stools sit underneath the tables.
An olive green chesterfield sofa sits in the centre of the floor space. Behind it is a small, square beech table flanked on either side by large, tweed armchairs, and on the bar-side wall are two more banquettes, this time beige in colour. The accompanying seats differ on this side of the bar, featuring cushioned seating in purple, wooden frames.
A small, secluded outdoor seating area sits on a raised level outside the bar’s entrance, and wooden benches have been introduced to the grass areas on the opposite side of Charwood’s car park.
The end result of the refurbishment is a relaxed and comfortable bar that should prove extremely popular with the affluent families that populate Fairmilehead. Despite the success of the refit Anne told me that there are currently no plans in place for a major refurbishment of Charwood’s restaurant, saying, “Over time we’ll make superficial changes but we’re quite happy with its layout, it’s a great space.” After a few weeks of hard work, she is now able to say that about the bar too.