Design Focus: George Street Bar & Grill, Edinburgh

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George St is one of the places to be in Edinburgh, whether it’s a night out, shopping, or high quality dining. The street now has a new brasserie and Fraser Wilson went along to see what the venue has to offer.

It was previously the Consort and it was the place to be on George Street, 50-60 years ago, way before George St became as popular as it is now,” general manager of the new George St Bar and Grill, Marcello Ventisei, tells DRAM.
Marcello is bang on the money, with the venue previously having been reviewed in a Tatler magazine feature almost 50 years ago. But in recent years the bar and grill, part of the Roxburghe Hotel, had gone downhill, failing to move with the times and being left behind as the rest of George St modernised and strode forward.
Operated by Crowne Plaza hotels, £250,000 was spent on the refurbishment, which took six weeks to complete. The venue is now an independent bar and restaurant with 116 covers, 40 in the bar area and 76 in the grill room.
The main contractors were SJS Property Service and Craig Murie, Managing Director commented, “We are delighted to have been involved in this major transformation of one of Edinburgh’s most prominent hotels”.
In addition to being the main contractor on the refurbishment, SJS provided the bespoke manufactured joinery fitments including the bar, banquet seating and display furniture, all produced in their state of the art manufacturing facilities on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Murie told DRAM, “The main challenge in this project was ensuring the highest quality of project delivery in a live hotel environment in the centre of Edinburgh during the world renowned Fringe Festival. Continuity of the clients ongoing business operations and facilities 24/7 was critical throughout the works. The transformation is fantastic. The bar and restaurant now work together very effectively, both offering a nice relaxed atmosphere, with furniture and artwork that compliments the design. We are very happy with the finished product and pleased to have another happy and satisfied client”.
From the outside the venue merges seamlessly with its surroundings, looking like many of the dark sandstone buildings on the George St strip. However, once you step over the brand new front door and sneak a peak through the bright white panelled glass foyer, the internal surroundings are different from many of the neighbouring venues.
Inspiration for the venue comes from traditional grand European cafés and brasseries, with a stunning interior reflecting the stylish local architecture.
A dark, sultry bar area is given pockets of light through the use of clever and innovative lighting solutions, by Glasgow designers, Occa. As you walk in a white door leads you to the more formal grill area and to the right two posing tables, each sitting five, hug the window space, with mustard leather stools towering over much of the other furniture in the room.
This offers great views onto George St via the tall, white woodwork panelled windows. Charcoal painted walls are accompanied by black leather bar stools and a silver bar top, offering a contrast to the dark back bar, which uses mirrors and spot lights to create light. The glare from the centre situated TV also lights the bar area. A bright white ceiling and cornerstone offsets the largely dark tones in the room.
A feature wall at the back showcases an impressive wallpaper with stored suitcases and luggage, giving a travelling theme to the venue, in keeping with travellers in the hotel itself. Whisky based artwork depicts barrels, busy distilleries, luxury glassware, and drinks over ice with fruit slices.
“The interior of the bar and restaurant continues to mix old and new styles, reflecting the heritage of the Georgian building through the use of heritage wall paints, vintage style furniture and lighting, and providing a contemporary feel through the use of unusual wallpapers and accessories. Use of vintage style filament style bulbs, leather seating with button backs and brass studs, wallcoverings, which subtly depict a travel theme (reflecting the nature of the hotel as well as the era), all coupled with an eclectic mix of artwork and mirrors, add warmth and intimacy to the spaces.”
To the left as you enter there are mustard leather box chairs beside dark wood tables, with chocolate leather banquettes hugging the walls.
Massive hanging lights hover over some of the tables in the bar, like headlights from a 1930s car pulled out of the bodywork and hanging from wires. The Grill offers an elegant and contemporary space. It is divided by a large white arch, with two smaller single arches to the left. As you walk into the grill area there is seating for 22 to the left, with three tables of four and smaller tables for two.
The main section of the room is divided by a service island, with tables to the left seated with banquette, whilst a collage of impressive artwork creates a feature wall. To the right as you walk in, the windows looking onto George St, that run down to Charlotte Square, are divided by dark wood tables with beautifully upholstered couches and chairs.
Through the arch two more tables sit on the right and are accompanied with traditional seated tables, whilst a private alcove, seating six, is “popular with companies” according to Marcello.
From the outside, the back wall of the grill room is the front of the hotel, with impressive, full length windows providing light and a clear view onto the pretty Charlotte Square.
Marcello and his team can be proud of a refurbishment and aim to re-establish the venue as a must go place, with the varying high-end meal and drink deals enticing new customers over the threshold.