Design Focus: Ardnamurchan
A new Scottish restaurant Ardnamurchan has opened opposite the Theatre Royal at the northern end of Hope Street in Glasgow. Its predecessor Trader Joe’s failed to light up Glasgow’s nightlife, but the new owners are hoping that the restaurant will prove popular especially with theatre goers.
The new venture from Neil and Julie Douglas, who have as their partner Billy McEneney, is a Star Pubs and Bars lease, and more than £500K has been invested in the business, and you can see where the money has been spent.
When you enter, the raw wooden floors and tall windows are all that remain of the old Trader Joe’s. Instead, the bar has been encased in rich green porcelain tiles, and the floorboard bar floor has been changed to a chic, bleached parquet floor around the bar, but grey slated tiles for the rest of main restaurant. Two chocolate brown banquettes line parallel to the right of the entrance, the top of each have a topping of tweed. Tweed is a key design feature throughout. The bucket chairs, which are paired with dark wooden tables laid for two, are upholstered in baby blue tartan tweed, while bigger tables have bucket seats clad in warm chocolate leather.
The double banquette acts as a marker for the break between the bar/restaurant. In between the backs of the banquettes, the ledge allows for a couple of vases of richly coloured flowers, at the end of which there is two casks from the Ardnamurchan Distillery. High grey steel bowl lights hang over each of the four tables on each side. A few steps leads you to the raised area, which in Trader Joe’s days was home to the tribute bands. As you go up the steps, the half wall has been clad in reused wooden panels with led lighting in between the panels, giving a gentle glow. The raised area now showcases three huge, luxurious, circular booths clad in a gentle pistachio coloured leather. Towards the window there are two green stained wooden tables for four, with bespoke, matching coloured wooden chairs. Opposite the circular booths, there is two wooden tables for two, with tweed covered bucket chairs. This area looks onto the semi-open kitchen where the chefs are serving up a menu of i
sland sourced langoustines, halibut, mussels and famous Smoked Trout from The Tobermory Fish Co contrasted with a selection of meats from the Ardnamurchan Estate.
Although the restaurant is separated into a bar and a dining area, you’d be unaware at first glance. When you enter, the bar dominates the room, and to its left, there is what manager Johnny Love calls ‘the snug’. He says, “While we are predominantly a restaurant, we do have the bar which is proving popular. So if someone comes in and wants to have langoustines in the bar, of course we’ll serve them. We are happy to have the bar serve as a feeding area into the restaurant or for somewhere for diners to retire to after dinner or lunch.”
The layout of the restaurant is very spacious and gives a feeling of relaxation with its muted lighting, flowers and space. Its estimated 100 covers could easily be increased to around 150 as there is ample space between tables, but Johnny was adamant that the operators Julie and Neil wanted customers to have a sense of privacy. “So many restaurants cram customers in, and Julie and Neil didn’t want to do that,” he says. Julie hails from Ardnamurchan, so this project is very close to her heart. So much so that the last six months before opening this month, she has been in the late stages of pregnancy and, when I visited, had just had her real baby!
The snug consists of a chocolate leather banquette which lines the L-shaped wall of the area when you enter. Squat leather bar stools match the seating, and six antique wooden circular tables are arranged in the area. Box lighting on the walls mixes in with shelving holding whisky boxes and bottles. To the left, a recess contains four lighter brown leather booths paired with a diner style table between each. Pewter ship lights hang over these tables. A white ceramic bar lot runs around the wall from the booths allowing for four tall backed bar seats.
Facing out onto Hope Street, a wooden bar has been mounted to allow four drinkers to relax in luxurious brown leather bucket bar chairs and watch the world go by. The bar itself has three black and white tiled pillars that separate the wine selection on either side of its spirit selection. Green under shelf lighting continues the countryish hue, and more leather bucket bar seats surround the bar. A trio of hanging light pendants are gathered together at the far end of the bar, which bounces light off a large mirror at the back of the restaurant, which hides a lovely addition to the space – a private dining area. As you walk to the end of the bar, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just extra seating – which there is – but as you get to the end, steps take you up to a raised area, where a table for twelve resides in an almost ‘drawing room’ styled area. Scottish landscapes are mounted on the walls and there is a raised wooden divider, seperating the area from the rest of the seating below. The seats below consist of a banquette along a partially green tiled back wall, with four individual tables for two with leather backed chairs.
Johnny is confident that the menu and style of the restaurant will attract the theatre crowd, but they will also be looking at building the business to attract the office workers from the many companies that reside in the Cowcaddens area. He says, “We have worked on a menu that allows us to do as much fresh food as we can possibly can do, so that will mark us out. We’re also doing afternoon teas and breakfasts at the weekends so we’re very confident.”