The Printing Press Bar & Kitchen in Edinburgh opened last month to a fanfare marked by a great opening party. The new venue is an elegant and large addition to George Street and as you would imagine, there was substantial investment by the owners Starwood Capital, who own the adjacent George Hotel, which ran into millions.
The new bar is situated in a listed Georgian townhouse and boasts a large restaurant area at the front, a bar on the right and a rear restaurant and bar area. The design itself was developed by Sara Cosgrove, Design Director on the project and restaurateur Des McDonald, who also helped create the coffee house next door. He, Sara and architects Goddard Littlefair worked together on just about every detail of the scheme, from architectural restoration to paint finishes, lighting design to final touches.
The company were aiming for a clean and contemporary venue which was respectful of the original architecture. Many of the original Georgian features have been retained and they have been combined with complementary fixtures, fitting and furniture. You can see the quality of the workmanship in the detail in the Printing Press Bar & Kitchen.
The design team worked with a number of local companies to complete the project. For example, the joinery work was carried out by Thomas Johnstone Ltd., whose location was key to allow frequent visits, ensuring the fixtures exactly fitted the listed building’s mouldings.
You enter the restaurant and bar through a classic revolving door, and immediately the black and white tiled floor, the height of the ceilings and grand chandeliers, give you an impression of classic elegance. It is spacious, airy and light. It is lovely to see the restored central ceiling rose which creates a dramatic focal point above the main restaurant; whilst the imposing, grand turned oak bar and bronze gantry add to the warm and convivial ambience.
The main restaurant features three large booths with a mix of velvet and leather-like upholstery in black, while the walls are creamy, with lots of oval and round framed antique mirrors. Faux-antique mirrors are also used on the left-hand side wall and stretch almost the length of it. Self-standing dark wood tables, seating four, inhabit the centre of the lower restaurant area, and the upper restaurant area too.
As you enter the main restaurant you can see through to the far end of the upper restaurant, which is situated up a couple of steps from the main area, and while this area boasts a large bar, there is also a bar area to the right, as you enter. This too is situated up a couple of stairs.
Explains Sara, “One of the biggest challenges has been to differentiate between the upper bar – which is more casual and focused on drinks – and the two main restaurant spaces, each of which has its own, distinctive look and feel. We wanted everything to have a sense of arrival and a warm welcome. As we all know, the Scottish weather is unpredictable and the wind can whip up George Street, so the soft seating and suffused lighting – together with the great food and hand-crafted cocktails – create a haven where people can relax and enjoy themselves.”
The bars have heavy marble tops, and wood panelling beneath. While the main restaurant also features dark wood panelling. Muted lighting comes from wall lights, and the modern chandeliers in both restaurant areas certainly add a dash of panash. With 190 covers this is no small scale addition to George Street, and the bar will be open now to the earlier hours, with food on offer til’ late.
In a nod to its literary heritage, and the name of the venue, there are vintage typewriters, classic Scottish novels, and old print boxes, some of which have come from Edinburgh antique shops and booksellers.
The George Street townhouse boasts a rich literary heritage: Susan Ferrier – who was the equal of Jane Austen, in the opinion of Sir Walter Scott – lived at no. 25, where Robbie Burns was a regular visitor. Perhaps in the days and months to come, someone else will pen a literary novel while enjoying a coffee or even a cocktail or two at the bar.