So much has been made of Glasgow’s Finnieston area recently that people could be forgiven for forgetting about everything else going on in the city, particularly the West End. The DRAM reports.
The Hill on Glasgow’s Byres Road sits in a very prominent position. Previously Otto Bar and prior to that The Rubyiat, the venue closed in October last year and has sat untouched for a year. But thanks to a £330,000 Star Pubs and Bars refurbishment and a new lessee in the shape of Audrey McCraken and the Inc Group, the new venture sees a cutting edge contemporary-styled bar take pride of place in the vacant space. Renamed The Hill as a nod to its Hillhead location, the venue aims to provide outstanding food and drink for young professionals in the West End.
The outside of The Hill has is now grey and teal blue, with large windows and large, black canvas awnings and it also boasts an outside area which has prominently display windbreaks which publicise the name of the bar.
Mark Brunjes from CM Design who carried out the re-design told DRAM, “There were several challenges involved with the build. It was all about maximising the space. That included repositioning the toilets, flattening a raised floor, adding new windows, and unblocking two windows that were filled in.”
The result is a light and airy bar which is both relaxing and comfortable. It’s all on one level, and as Mark explains, “I went to London with the vendors to see the other bars they have, which are different. They have a more domestic, front room like feel and that’s what you get with the Hill, it’s going away from the norm.”
He’s right it does have a front room feel. When you come in there are a couple of sofa’s to the right – a chesterfield and a gold uphostered sofa, with small coffee tables, a brass standard lamp and a couple of leather pouffees. The walls here have been left exposed.
To the left the first thing that takes your eye is the feature wall – respendent in dark red and gold designer wallpaper adorned framed black and white pictures of Glasgow taken by Martin Gray. Beneath the pictures there is some fixed leather seating and dark rosewood tables and there are also booths on the window wall and some scattered tables too.
The L-shaped bar stretches almost the length of the room and has a stainless steel top and instead of being supported by wood panelling it sits on reclaimed wooden doors, painted white, and complete with door knobs, for hanging your coat on. It’s certainly quirky. High-end, distressed leather stools, look so comfortable you could imagine sitting at the bar all day.
The back bar looks like a large shelving unit you might find in a large house – featuring regular sized boxes framed in rosewood, but backing on to a painted white wall. The first two shelves contain the all important bottles, while the top shelves are awash with knick nacks, from a small globe to an interesting bottle or two clocks and books. There is even a framed picture of a dog which I am told has sentimental value to the licensee. Above the bar the teal colour is continued, and this is used in accents throughout.
The middle of the room has three high posing tables, each sitting two people on comfortable high, brighly uphostered stools, while dining tables are arranged underneath the windows. The kitchen now sits at the back of the main room, almost peeking into the bar, with a bright yellow front and service openings allowing a glimpse into the hard work taking place behind the scenes.
There are no curtains instead there are wooden, made to measure blinds which will prevent diners getting blinded by the sun in the summer, but which also bring warmth to the room in the winter.
Says Mark, “I’m happy with the end product. I think it’s a different look and feel to a lot of things going on in the area just now. I’ve been disappointed recently that things on Argyle Street are using the same stuff and replicating what’s been there before or what’s nearby. Here it all about reclaimed, recycled material, exposed brickwork and ceiling work. I do think the Hill is different from what else is around at the moment.”
Certainly what is new at The Hill is its revolutionary cocktail dispense. The only other one is in place at Soho Home in London, and this is the first Scottish installation. Says General Manager Mags McLaughlin, “The Hill is the only bar in Scotland to offer cocktails dispensed on tap using this technology. Staff make up the basis of cocktails where possible and seal them in an airtight bag.
These are then stored in the cellar and attached to a pump just like a keg of lager would be. At the other end, the bartender pulls this through then tops up cocktails with ice, prosecco, champagne or whatever is necessary to make the best drink, quickly.”
It’s also the first bar in Scotland to boast Heineken Super Chilled fonts, which are quite striking on the bar.
Part of the ethos for the venue is to offer something back to the area that includes supporting local producers and suppliers. Formerly chef at the Two Fat Ladies for seven years, head chef, James McSheffrey comments, “It’s a combination of supporting local businesses and getting quality as well. Everything will be as fresh as possible and of great quality.”
Mags concluded, “I love New York and I think this place has a really nice Greenwich Village feel to it. We haven’t sacrificed space, food, quality, or design and I think the finish and service is ideal. If you get the design and layout, products, and staff right, then you’re onto a winner.” Certainly The Hill is a comfortable, trendy, sultry and very appealing. It is definitely a place to check out.