Design Focus: The Waterside Inn

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Every once in a while I walk into a brand new bar or restaurant that pretty much ticks all the boxes, and The Waterside Inn, West Kilbride, is a case in point. What had resembled a dilapidated building off the main Largs to Ardrossan road is now a New-England-meets-Cape-Cod restaurant at the water’s edge, with views to die for and an interior design verging on the spectacular. I’d say that it has to be one of the most impressive turnarounds the area has witnessed, so much so that I’d bet a certain other Ayrshire operator with Marina developments will be keeping a very close eye on The Waterside.
SimpsInns, the company responsible, also counts Ayrshire outlets The Gailes and The Old Loans Inn as part of its portfolio, and it also has a new Irvine eatery under construction. This glass-fronted two-storey Mediterranean/Italian restaurant called Si! Bar and Café is on the site of the former Golf Hotel. But I deviate.
Malcolm and Karen Simpson run the company, and Gerry Thomson of Thr3 Design in Glasgow breathed life into their ideas for The Waterside. Says Malcolm, “It’s been a long time coming, and I’ve been going around saying ‘stop drilling and get the tills ringing’ so it’s a relief to see it finally open. The design has a Cape Cod influence for sure, and we wanted to make a statement with it and, judging by all the feedback, we are 99.9% there.
“On a personal level, I have always wanted a venue with an open kitchen, although I have been rather nervous about this, so far so good. The veranda, which has a capacity for 65 covers in the summer, is a strong point too, plus there is space for 180 covers inside, making The Waterside a force to be reckoned with in the area.”
Although this is by no means the final result, and the diggers are set to begin rolling again to bring phase two to fruition – a hotel and function suite, within the next year or so. Explains Malcolm, “Next up in the adjacent site (currently covered in hoardings) will be a banqueting suite with 20 bedrooms above, all designed around a U-shaped roof garden.”
But back to The Waterside as it stands. I went along, on the night of its dry run ahead of opening proper the following day. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who left with a crick in my neck from looking around at all the facets of what is a busy, intelligent design.
The slatted wooden interior resembles the weatherboard of a ship which is used extensively in the USA. This look isn’t just confined to the walls, it has also been reproduced on the tabletops and the mirrors either side of the two-faced island bar, with large portholes in the middle allowing the customers to catch the eyes of the staff 360 degrees around the bar. And after the reception desk on the right as you enter, it’s this island bar that hits you right between the eyes.
It stands at the centre point of the main area (there is a second smaller area through a doorway to the left) with two back-to-back serving stations separated by a gantry of glass and, along with the nautical mirrors, there are also some rather nifty glass wine racks and cabinets displaying the bottles cleanly and stylishly. The bar top is a back and white veined marble, and there are large hanging lights over the bar which resemble buoys encased in fishermen’s net, running along the top of both sides of the bar, and they look tremendous. One entire wall opposite the near bar has been covered in a sepia mural depicting fishermen grappling with the elements during a storm at sea. And dotted about the ceiling as well as the walls are maps of the local coastline that have been treated to give them an aged look, but some have been made to look a bit more contemporary through the use of a wash of colour.
The dominant colour scheme on the walls and floorboards all around the bar is teal (bluish green) and white. There’s also stone flagging on the floor at certain points. Elsewhere, exposed house brick has been used to break up the teal and white and adds a balance to save the clientele from any bouts of seasickness brought on by a teal and white overload.
The seating is so varied that to discuss it in detail would warrant a stand-alone feature, so, in a nutshell, there are wooden chairs painted in teal, and bar stools and banquettes, with all kinds of upholstery, ranging from candy striped and hounds tooth check, to more subtle block colours with fine silver threads running through them.
The top right hand corner of the space as you enter is very interesting, as it comprised a lounge with pebbles in a caged wall, a real wood fire burner, silver stag’s head, huge antique clock face, benches/banquettes/sofas and the bustling open kitchen. There’s also a wall of white painted shutters festooned across the back wall above some banquettes with letters printed on them, a bit like Louis Vuitton had had a hand in the design. Above which hang some very attractive rainbow coloured beehive lampshades. The lighting, in fact, is another talking point with a multitude of designs ranging from simplistic to more ornate, like dark green shades with a black metal cage encasing them.
This is unsurprisingly the hub of the Waterside and will be throughout the seasons, as a little way along, right opposite the bar, are the main set of patio doors onto the veranda where only a low stone wall separates you from the sea. Despite being pitch black on my visit, I did see pictures of the sea view by day and at sunrise, and it’s gorgeous, so I’m sure that this will be a favourite spot for couples tying the knot.
Further round the bar are some nautical knick-knacks on shelves. One shelf is dividing two seating areas, with elaborate rigging, blue vases and yacht models. The other shelf sits above a set of double doors into area number two, and there are yachts, seabirds and other ornaments of the same ilk, all bathed in a blue up light.
This lighting effect is prevalent in area number two which comprises a ground floor area and mezzanine. Downstairs along the left hand side are u-shaped booths in teal, lit from above using lights with wooden shades, like a woven basket, and candles on a wall shelf in what look like lobster pots. In the central area are high tables and stools, with standard tables and chairs at the sea view side. Up stairs the mezzanine also benefits from sea views thanks to a dozen or so Velux windows in the ceiling. The mezzanine – and indeed this entire area – would lend itself perfectly to private dining or corporate functions as a breakout space perhaps.
The location has literally contributed to the design, but so has a wealth of imagination, and the scale of ambition around this project is impressive. I am looking forward to my return visit, both to check out the sea view, and see how phase two shapes up over the next twelve months.

Category: Features
Tags: DESIGN, dram, licensee. waterside inn, SCOTLAND