Over the last few years the licensed trade in Scotland has definitely concentrated on re-investing in their bars, restaurants and hotels with substantial spends. As a result the quality of Scotland’s eating and drinking establishments has never been better. Susan Young investigates.
Design in 2014 was split into two definitive categories – craft focussed or New York-esque. What I mean by the latter is stylish bar with a classic feel – think Hutchesons and Anchor Line in Glasgow.
There is no doubt the move to craft beer has playing a significant part in changing the look of the bar scene in Scotland. There have been more craft beer bars opening across the country than any other bar category. It is not just that there have been brand new craft bars opening, many existing outlets have been re-invigorated by a change of pace and in many cases that included taking on board all things craft.
Notably Indigo Yard and Montpeliers in Edinburgh who both underwent a transformation last year and both outlets saw sales soar as consumers bought into their new looks and the fresh offering. An added benefit was that this was a quick turnover with the venues closed for less than a week.
The trend here has been to use reclaimed wood, and furniture and re-upholster. In fact there is a whole new breed of suppliers out there who do just that, give furniture formerly destined for the skip, a make-over.
This is not a new idea. In fact it is the modern equivalent of shabby chic, which was prevalent a handful of years ago. But with shabby chic they did not actually re-upholster! As a result everything had a worn out feel, the new-look up-cycling is anything but.
In fact Allan Duncan, the new owner of The Kirkhouse, re-upholstered all his chairs and sofa’s rather than buy new. He explains, “We didn’t buy new furniture we just re-did every chair.”
As a result fabrics have come into their own – while leather-like fabrics are still popular because they are easy to clean, warmer fabrics such as hard wearing chenille have also been used, as has tweed. Muted greys, deep purples, warm beige… herringbone… you name it I have seen it this year. I have also seen loads of lovely tartan carpets. Most, in fact probably all of the bespoke tartan I have seen in lovely shades of pink, grey, blue have been created by Stevens and Graham (and I am not saying that because they are advertising). In fact I think I’m beginning to recognise a Stevens and Graham carpet right away these days.
While craft bars may be utilising a more natural cosy look, some other venues have been investing the look of luxurious. And marble has been the order of the day. I’ve seen more marble used in bars in the last 12 months than in the last 12 years! It looks tremendous.
It appears that architects and designers are more aware of the need to use natural materials that make an ecological as well as aesthetic statement. The marble bars and bar tops are also benefitting from the effects of LED lighting which can change the ambience of a room at the touch of a button and which can also appear to change the colour of the marble. The other benefit of LED lights is that they last forever! Unlike the fashionable filament light bulbs that adorn vintage light pendants – that appear in most craft bars – which unfortunately they do need to be replaced frequently.
But what of the future design trends. A feature in the Daily Mail recently focussed on technological advancements that could make the bar we know today unrecognisable. For instance robots could take-over from bartenders, drinks could be inhaled or delivered to your table by drones, and there will be no need for breathalysers because there will be alcohol antidote pills to help you sober up… sound far fetched… actually there is already technology out there which does all that and more.
In San Francisco there patrons are utilising an app called SceneTap which analyse peoples faces as they walk into a bar (25 bars have signed up), as a result you can find out the type of people in the bar before you get there. For instance the app user can check out the male-to-female ratio or average age group.
Cocktail bar owners may be interested to know that British scientists have just invented the world’s first levitating cocktail machine, the Levitron. It uses sound waves to suspend tiny droplets of alcohol that can be licked out of the air. They’ve already tried out levitating gin and tonics and a Bloody Mary. And if you don’t fancy licking droplets of alcohol you could always inhale them! A vapourised drinks concept is already on the way.
If you are more into serving beer than cocktails there’s a new gadget which engineers have developed the “Hoppier”. This is a gadget that attaches to a beer tap to adjust the ‘hoppiness’ level of beer on demand.
Decor too will be influential when it comes to determining what customers drink. Last year a research study at the ‘Singleton Sensorium’ looked at how surroundings impacted the flavour of whisky. The science experiment let people enjoy whisky in a pine room, a grassy smelling room and a dark red room. The results showed that your décor can influence the flavours you get from the whisky. For instance – pine walls will make the whisky have a more woody taste… as does standing by the fire. While if you enjoy your whisky in a dark red environment then you will taste more berry flavours.
Also trying to guess what the bar/club of the future will look like is Heineken. It has created a ‘Pop Up City Lounge’ which is full of cutting-edge design features. This is currently travelling throughout the world and it certainly explores social design concepts. For instance Mexican interior designer Victor Hugo Jimenez created ‘conversation cocoons’ in The Lounge. This was in response to research which showed that two thirds of bar-goers felt a lounge bar is the best place to go for a good conversation with their closest friends. The cocoons are built in various sizes to accommodate small or larger groups, always providing a feeling of exclusivity to their occupants. Key to their design is the perfect balance of intimacy and openness. Smaller cocoons feature reclined seats to encourage close conversation, whilst the larger areas have more upright chairs so that bigger groups can talk all together, but all the while, visitors can sense what is happening around them at The Lounge. The cocoons are also equipped with light switches so if the inhabitants run out of drink they just hit the switch and their cocoon glows.
The last word goes to David Rockwell, a New York-based architect who designed Nobu. He believes that because we are now living in smaller homes we will soon be looking for new spaces to socialise and eat – that Neighbourhood bars will become adjunct living rooms. I’m not sure this is a new idea… after all that’s what made bars popular in the first place. People used to go to them because they were warmer and nicer than their homes.