The Chung family have owned the Amber Regent since 1988 when they spent close on to half a million creating the restaurant. Roll on nearly 30 years and it has just re-opened after a significant refurbishment. The new look Amber Regent now reflects the aspirations of Christina and Angie Chung, founder Andy’s two daughters, who now run the restaurant with some help from their dad.
Christina told DRAM, “I’ve been working here for more than 30 years, and it has been lovely, finally, to have some input into how the restaurant looks and feels.”
It certainly looks and feels more contemporary. Says Christina, “We spoke to Will Gunn, who as well as our designer is also a friend. We sat down with him and discussed what we wanted.”
She continues, “Before the refurbishment quite a lot of our customers kept saying ‘we like it the way it is’, but we felt we had to roll with the times.”
The new look Amber Regent still has an oriental feel, but now it has been brought right up to date with lots of contemporary touches. There are nods to the cherry blossom pink which is so much a part of Chinese culture and also to Amber… funnily enough. There is now a ‘fretwork’ theme, which is an interlaced decorative design that looks like it has been carved in low relief on a solid background, and it runs throughout the restaurant, bar and entrance. It is used decoratively on the windows and to divide some of the dining booths. The fret design is also used on the upholstery.
However the biggest change has been the moving of the bar area into the centre of the building. Now when you come through the foyer the first room you come to is the bar, while the former bar area is now a secondary dining room. Christina comments, “We didn’t realise how much room the bar in the back room took up. We have created a much better space by removing it. The room can now be shut off, if required, or used as private dining room. And of course we have also created extra covers.”
The new dining space has a calm feeling – painting in pale grey with a feature wall which is graced with lots of artwork by Glaswegian artist Stuart Vernon. These were commissioned by Andy Chung some years ago. Says Christina, “They were used in the restaurant, but now they are all on one wall they have bigger impact.”
The room is also lit by various Chinese-style lanterns of various sizes and styles, which are a bit different. They compliment the recessed lighting. Fixed seating has been added around the walls and the upholstery reflects the use of the fret design. While the arched windows have become a real feature. Christina comments, “This is my favourite room – when it is all hustle and bustle next door, this is a calmer environment.”
The adjacent bar area is quite striking with a naturally back lit back bar which stretches across the arch of the large window. The bar area also features the bespoke wallpaper that is very much a talking point in the restaurant. Explains Christina, “The designer drew the design and then the paper (which actually feels like fabric) was digitally printed.”
She continues, “It is mainly a dispense bar but we have the glamour of high ceilings and arched windows. However it is a change for our customers who are used to waiting in the bar for their tables. Now we say ‘Your table is ready’ and take them straight to it.”
Another design feature which has been used to great effect are the addition new opaque glass windows with an oriental round fret design which are a real feature in the main restaurant area and in the foyer.
They allow a soft light through but keep the contemporary minimalist look prevalent. They are very distinctive and are the first design feature that you notice when you walk through the front door, because the clock room is now hidden behind a similar window. It’s back lit and creates a great welcome.
Another very distinctive a new feature is the feature wall, on the left, in the main restaurant. It has 32 boxes all of which house a piece of Chinese memorabilia. Says Christina, “My dad sent the dimensions of the boxes to his friends in Hong Kong, alongwith a budget, and said ‘get me 32 pieces of artwork to fill the display.’ They have managed the task very well. This area of the main restaurant also now has fixed seating.
Christina concludes, “Our customers are getting used to all the changes. And since we re-opened we have been very busy and the majority of feedback has been great. We are delighted with it.”