Design Focus: Amarone, Aberdeen


Aberdeen has a stunning new bar and restaurant in the shape of Amarone. Susan Young reports.

Amarone Aberdeen has just opened and it looks spectacular. The Union Street bar and restaurant is situated right beside the upmarket retailer Cruise, and is no doubt a welcome addition to this area of the city.
There are similarities to its Edinburgh sister, but who would have thought that owners Mario Gizzi and Tony Conetta would have been able to find a building with another outstanding glass ceiling – which in Aberdeen is very ‘cathedral-like’ (in Edinburgh it is more of a dome). Says Mark Brunjes of CM Design, who was responsible for the design of Amarone, “It was really a piece of luck. The ceiling was all covered up when we went to see the building, and I was really checking to see what the ceiling space was like in order to maximise the capacity. I opened a wee hatch and was able to put a camera up, when we saw what was there we were really surprised. When we took the ceiling down and showed Mario and Tony they were delighted. It meant that we could fit in a mezzanine.”
It’s not just the cathedral-like ceiling that takes your breath away, the fact that you can see all the way through to the back of the restaurant from the front door, also gives Amarone Aberdeen the WOW factor. I would imagine Aberdonians will definitely be impressed, because really there is nothing else in the city the same scale or with the same quality finish. Says Mark, “It is pretty dramatic. When you come through the door you don’t expect to see all the way to the back.”
The glass fronted vista, which is mainly original, takes you into the large, spacious and airy restaurant. On the left as you come in there is a seating area. Said General Manager, Chris Finnieston “At the moment we use it as a holding area at the weekend. But through the week we hope people may come and have a drink, even if they are not eating.”
Low-backed, black leather couches, some beautifully upholstered black armchairs and large black coffee tables, sit beneath an olive green wall with some large prints. It definitely draws you in. Explains Mark, “As this is the third Amarone we wanted to continue the formula and put in a bar area. We hope it will appeal to the after work crowd.”
The greeting area is situated directly in front of the door, and there is a large marble consul which no doubt is where diners will be checked in. Adjacent to the consul are a few stairs which take you up to a raised dining area.
Here there are booths located along the wall. Upholstered in black leather with a black boucle back, and framed with walnut, they are both attractive and functional. These booths are situated below a taupe wall which is filled with small black and white framed prints of Italy. However, there is a splash of colour further along with white walls adorned with large coloured prints again of Italy. In fact photographer Paul Zanre was sent to Italy at the bequest of Mario and Tony to take specific pictures of areas, as a result the business now has around a library of 5,000 photographs which they can use at will throughout their venues.
Although the wall colours are fairly muted, the stand out feature here are four large black and cerise silk lampshades which hang from the ceiling, while pink also features in the bar stool upholstery. From the front door to the edge of the large bar there is an expanse of cream marble flooring, which immediately gives the restaurant that classy Italian feel. The bar, which runs along the left hand side of the restaurant has an expanse of mirror, and showcases the variety of wines on offer. The drinks bar leads on to a further area where you could sit and eat. This has a glass fronted display, housing a tantalising array of anti pasti. A large flame-fired oven which sits in, what can best be described as a ‘chimney-like’ wall, is decorated with small, brick-like tiles.
Although this may look like a food area the actual kitchens are in the basement. Explains Mark, “The building didn’t have a kitchen at all. We put it in the basement which caused its own challenges not least getting the food up. So we have put in three hoists which not only brings the food up to the main area but to the mezzanine area too.”
The marble flooring ends just as you go into the restaurant. The main restaurant area features the original glass ceiling which has been restored with cream beams running across the room. Juxtapositioned with modern light fightings which have the appearance of a strand-like curtain. At night apparently it looks spectacular as they change colour. Says Mark, “I think the area was probably formerly a masonic hall. Originally the arches would have been open all the way, but we had to box them in to put in air conditioning and other services.”
The hoist area, which takes the food from the ground up to the mezzanine, has been disguised. Says Mark, “People don’t want to see their food being brought out of a hoist.” “Originally the idea was to disguise the hoist area with sandblasted glass, but instead they put in a wall,” but as Mark explains, “After it was built it didn’t look right. We were tasked with coming up with an idea to disguise it. We decorated it with frames and mirrors and I think it works well.”
The main area has dark rosewood tables and black upholstered chairs, with four large booths situated on the right hand side. Above these booths there is a feature wall with eight recessed display areas which are well lit, and filled with Murano glass objets d’art which adds some subtle colour (sourced I understand by Tony’s mum). Between these display cases there are large black and white prints. The glass is a signature feature of Amarone along with the beautiful photographic prints. Of course there is one print that stands out… and that’s one of the Italian football team celebrating winning the World Cup. You will see a similar print in Glasgow and in Edinburgh.
At the back of the main restaurant there is another slightly raised dining area which sits immediately beneath a large mezzanine. Both the mezzanine and the area underneath are carpeted, the only parts of the restaurant that are. Explains Chris, “The soft furnishings soften the sound.”
The area beneath the mezzanine feels amazingly spacious. In fact the ceiling height comes in at around 2.4m.
The stairs are situated on the left hand side and take you up to the mezzanine where the view is fantastic. The mezzanine can be used as a private area, as it has its own bar and large screen as well as access to the kitchen. Says Chris, “I think it is a great space, and I am sure it will be well used.”
Mario Gizzi concludes, “I am delighted with Amarone, Aberdeen. And I just love the view from the mezzanine.” Once again the dynamic duo and their designers and contractors have collaborated on what is an excellent outcome. Amarone Aberdeen brings a first class contemporary, glamorous Italian eatery to the city, and there is no granite in sight!

Category: Features