Over the course of the last few years I have seen all manner of new bars and re-designs. But it is not often that I would say out aloud ‘Wow!’ That was certainly the case when I went to see SimpsInns new venue Si! This £2m new bar and restaurant is located on Kilwinning Road in Irvine, on the site of the former Golf Hotel. On our first visit we went at night. I was worried that we wouldn’t see it. No fear. The two-storey glass building was floodlit and stood out a mile. Our first impression was of glass and more glass. It was like a ocean going liner, with lots of clean lines and windows. From the outside the building stretches out in front of you and as your eye wanders along the building it comes to the curved part of the building which creates even more interest. Architectural designers, Norrie Toch, have certainly done an amazing job.
Appetite fully whetted we ventured inside through the glass doors – into a large open plan area – with lots of mediterranean style tiling. The tiles cover the floor and clad the bar and are grey, black and white in that typical mediterranean style. There is a bit of a nautical feel with the fixed seating in the middle of the restaurant resembling a ships funnel, the brass trimmed tables and the wine bottle storage feature beside the bar when empty looks like lots of tiny portholes.
The main theme of the bar however is mediterranean. There is a bright array of framed pictures which fully cover one wall, while another features rustic wood panelling. There is also a permanent screen which shows a film of a lovely beach. It certainly gives an over riding impression of sunnier climes. The furniture is a mix of different colours and styles of chairs and dark, rosewood tables with different bases. To the far right there is an area which you step up to, which boasts cream leather fixed seating, and teal, stripped and mustard coloured chairs, which sit on a vibrant carpet of chocolate, teal, orange and yellow. The tables are all dark wood.
As you step off the carpet you find yourself crossing the floor which is a mix of light and dark wood, while at the opposite end of the room you find rectangular posing tables and fixed seating which is at stool height. This area has been designed so that in the evening it easily converts from dining to a late-night venue, and it has a lighting rig to support that. In fact this is the first time that SimpsInns have created a multi-functional venue – the downstairs restaurant après 10pm takes on more of a bar and late night venue vibe. The bar which is the focal point and which sits slap bang in the middle of the room, is clad in the same black and white tiles as the floor, and the back bar looks clean but busy. It’s a striking bar with with low-backed leather bar stools, lots of hanging glassware, and bespoke lighting. Malcolm Simpson comments, “This area allows us to offer entertainment, and although we will be serving food until 9pm, afterwards there will be a live DJ and the lighting will change to reflect this. We wanted to offer something different and we didn’t want to cannibalise from our other venues.” He continues, “When I briefed my interior designers Thr3 Design I said I wanted something with nods to All Bar One and Jamie Oliver’s.”
The tiles theme is continued on the floor and wall which leads you through to upstairs – on the far left, and the restaurant has its own entrance if you would prefer not to enter through the bar. The tiles are a mix of black and white but also have coloured tiles in various tones of terracotta Even the attention to detail in the stairwell – an Italian mural on one side, and a wall of oblong mirrored shapes on the other, scream ‘no expense spared.’
Upstairs, the fine dining Italian restaurant is stunning. The renaissance style mural on the back wall is a work of art, while the lighting is worth a whole article itself – from angle poised lamps with black lampshades that light up the tables, to the crystal-style balls that hang above the bar, and the wooden lampshades that feature above the waltzer dining booths, as well as various modern glass chandeliers, many sourced from Italy, which add the finishing touches.
The furniture itself is similar to downstairs – rosewood tables trimmed with brass with a bolt detail, while the booths feature soft leather upholstery, and the fixed seating is draped in striking striped material. The walls beside the open kitchen and small serving bar, have a ripple effect wall paper adorning them – gold and chocolate in colour. You have to put your hand on it to see that it is not painted corrugated iron.
Upstairs leads out to a massive terrace with the doors opening out – in the summer this will be fabulous especially since by then it will overlook a sunken garden. Norrie Toch were the Edinburgh based architects who were responsible for the design while Thr3 Design did the interior. Mark Reilly, Co-director Thr3 Design, said, “The challenge was to produce two designs that tied in with each other. The brief for the ground floor was a Mediterranean all-day dining space that was able to turn into a late night venue at night. This was quite tricky, although I think that we achieved this with the rustic and highly- patterned interior. It looks eclectic and there is a bit of everything, but each item was drawn up and pondered over. Upstairs, the look is more refined, and more obvious with the Italian influences from the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s God giving life to Adam mural, reflecting the high end, finer dining Italian experience.”