Design Focus: The Coach House
The Coach House: 31 Main Street, Bridge of Weir
The Coach House, a sophisticated bar/restaurant in Bridge of Weir, is Buzzworks Holdings’ tenth and latest venture, and their first outside of Ayrshire.
A Renfrewshire village may not seem the obvious choice given how booming the Glasgow and Edinburgh scenes are, but it’s in line with the formula that’s worked so well for Buzzworks so far. Rick Houston, Brand Operations Manager for the group’s ‘House’ venues, explains, “There’s a number of destinations on our radar throughout Scotland, but we’re not a city centre business at this stage. We’ve been successful in Ayrshire and there’s no reason why we can’t replicate that success somewhere like here.Where we have tended to do well is when there’s nothing else of this level of quality around. We wanted a property that fitted the characteristics of the brand and at the same time had the right demographic, or critical mass if you like, in the surrounding area. It was a natural progression for us.”
The Coach House joins the Treehouse, The Corner House, The Long House and The Mill House as the fifth expression of the House brand, the twist being that the building at 31 Main Street actually was a coach house long ago. Since then it’s been a number of different things, most recently Archie’s Lounge Bar and Kitchen, before Buzzworks’ dramatic £1m revamp.
Rick added, “It’s been through a lot of incarnations, typically pub/restaurants, but it lacked a bit of love. We took inspiration from the local heritage and it fitted in well with our other House venues – good restaurant space, a pub adjoining and an area to develop a private dining offer.”
Taking up 4,500 square feet and offering 140 covers, The Coach House is stunning. Designer Jim Hamilton drew inspiration from the miles of fields and forestry he drove through on his visits to Bridge of Weir, and that influence is evident throughout, in the form of potted plants of all sizes, hanging trellises in the private dining area and terrace and, most eye-catching of all, a collection of tall bushes and vines perched on top of the entranceway.
Said Jim, “Buzzworks are always up for making it visually interesting and taking people on a journey. Every time I drove to Bridge of Weir I came through the countryside and everything was very green. That probably influenced the idea of adding the little terrace at the back. When you look from the outside it’s a little bit like the TARDIS, it doesn’t look very big until you go in.
“We wanted something that was unassuming and appealing, but equally somewhere that would bring a smile to the face to the people that have lived in Bridge of Weir all their days. That was always inherent from day one, to be aspirational, not to frighten people but to feel that the guys were putting something of real quality in the neighbourhood.”
Buzzworks like to focus on two key colours to give each of their outlets a distinct character, and at The Coach House those colours are pastel pink and vibrant turquoise, which can be found everywhere from the signage to the menus to the staff uniforms. The restaurant can roughly be divided into three areas, delineated by glass panels or open shelving rather than walls to maintain that sense of openness. The first, at the front, is dominated by an impressive black fireplace and chandeliers encased in glass orbs. There are tables surrounded by grey upholstered chairs in the centre and red leather booths against the far wall. Red brickwork meets silvery-grey timber on the walls and there are countless mirrors of different shapes and sizes.
The second area features marble effect tables, classy framed sketches and a bar stocked with everything from fine champagne to Tunnock’s Teacakes. The colour scheme is subtly continued here with a pink neon glow shining out from underneath the bar onto the white tiles below.
Best in show is the private dining area through the back, flooded with light and centred around a long table that seats 20 but can also be broken up into smaller tables for six or four. Flowers flowing down from the roof beams, floor tiles intricately patterned in black and white – the area has the air of a summery glade yet doesn’t feel too cut off from the rest of the restaurant.
Spilling out from the private dining area is the terrace, a bijou back garden-esque space with gold paving and black steel chairs facing onto a tall fence.
“Private dining nowadays is very much about being part of the space,” Jim explained. “You gain off the atmosphere of the main space but you’ve also got semi-privacy to do your own thing. The terrace can be used by everyone and is a nice thing to look out at if you’re sat inside. If you look at the sight lines from the back of the restaurant all you would see is the greenery, so it kind of feels like you’re in amongst the trees, it doesn’t feel like you’re trapped in a little box.”
Even the car park is a sight to behold, with its white stone chips and electric vehicle charger of all things.
The public bar is accessed down a passage on the right behind the reception desk. The high spec is maintained here with another fireplace, a green leather banquette, mesh cabinets behind the bar and high black leather chairs in front of it, but there are also two widescreen TVs showing BT Sport and Sky Sports.
Staff-wise, Buzzworks went out of their way to recruit local talent. Said Rick, “Our team is 90% locally sourced, including managers. That’s important for us. The Head Chef is Duncan McKay, a very experienced Buzzworks chef, and the General Manager is Francis Carr, a local guy, from Paisley. We think we’ve got the best that there is.”
Rick himself hails from Troon and started his hospitality industry career with Buzzworks – or Blair Leisure as it was then – in Ayr back in 1987, working in the USA, Australia, New Zealand and northern England before returning to Buzzworks in January. He’s also worked in conceptual development and as a multi-site manager for La Tasca Restaurants. Although Rick has responsibility for several outlets he’s spending most of his time at The Coach House as it gets up and running.
He remarked, “At the moment the focus is The Coach House and we’re a very hands-on operation. We fuss over the service, the food and drink, the customers. It’s important to do that but equally we’ve got a great team of managers and chefs.”
There are numerous different menus tailored to differing tastes and budgets, from the Kids Menu to the Sunday Roast Menu to the House Classic, House Select and House Signature selections. Scotch whisky, world whisky, beer, gin, rum, brandy, vodka, liqueurs, cocktails and mocktails all appear on the drinks menu, and there’s even a section dedicated to ‘shim’, a light but not non-alcoholic alternative said top be perfect for those that want to indulge but could do without the hangover.
Elegant, comfortable and versatile, The Coach House is sure to attract visitors from miles around.