Design Focus: The Esslemont


By Jason Caddy.


Sometimes the numbers speak for themselves. The Esslemont Bar & Restaurant and Mac’s Pizzeria, in the former Esslemont & Macintosh building on Aberdeen’s Union Street, is still glowing after a £500K investment, and biggest to date, from owner The McGinty’s Group. Its portfolio includes McGinty’s Meal An’ Ale, The Stag, No.10 Bar & Restaurant, The Ferryhill House Hotel, The Fourmile, The Silver Darling and The Grill.


The listed building, which previously housed Jamie Oliver’s ‘Jamie’s Italian’ restaurant after the closure of E&Ms in 2007, had been vacant since the celebrity chef closed the Italian in 2017. It now boasts two concepts: The Esslemont Bar & Restaurant based on the ground floor and Mac’s Pizzeria on the first floor.


Allan Henderson, Director of The McGinty’s Group, said,  “This project has been our biggest to date and it has been amazing to see the building transform into our vision and bring this landmark building back to life. With two concepts in the one building, we are aiming to appeal to a wide audience whilst creating something new and exciting for the city, alongside helping to reinvigorate our main thoroughfare, Union Street, and increase footfall.


“E&Ms is an Aberdeen institution and a landmark building that was calling out for some local love. As a group, we have a passion for regenerating iconic venues and transforming them into thriving outlets so this project fits perfectly with our company objectives and enhances our growing portfolio.”


Now for the DRAM design once-over. The Esslemont Bar & Restaurant is stylish and then some.  It seats up to 100 people plus  luxury glass-fronted private dining for 12. The bar design is clean, colourful, and inviting, and it’s bound to appeal to all tastes and ages. It’s smart-stylish without being stuffy and starchy.


Meanwhile, the 120-seater Mac’s Pizzeria, has more of a relaxed vibe to it. Mac’s also features sharing tables and a semi-private area for group bookings.


Led by Nicoll Russel Studios, the unit has been completely transformed from its former glory but takes inspiration from its past as one of the finest department stores in Aberdeen, with nods to its historic character interspersed with all the contemporary twists.Design highlights include the use of bright colours in both Mac’s and The Esslemont Bar & Restaurant. I’ve also never seen chopping boards hanging from the ceiling as part of an interior design. They’ve created a real talking point with this.


The furniture caught my eye because it’s fairly simple – seats and benches upholstered in brown leather, plus there are some yellow and blue upholstered seats too.


The lighting truly enhances the space, bringing out all the detail in the design as well as setting off the building’s character. They’ve achieved this via a mixture of spots, pendants and fairy-lights – plus cleverly lit fixtures such as wine racks.


The high spend is immediately apparent as soon as you walk through the door because of the quality and style oozed by The Esslemont Bar & Restaurant and Mac’s Pizzeria. The design has been wholly sympathetic to this historic building’s listed status while freshening it up at the same time and giving it a new lease of life. It’s also given Aberdeen’s bar-scape a right good shot in the arm.

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Tags: The Esslemont