All the stars were aligned when Star Pubs & Bars and licensees Tommy and Jacqueline Fox collaborated to changed the name of Dundee’s Mercantile to The Barrelman as part of a £630,000 refurbishment of the Commercial Street pub.
Despite being delayed for a few months because of lockdown, it opened its brand new doors to an equally brand new interior at the end of September after a four-year closure. Remaining sympathetic to the building’s Grade-A listed status while being transformed into a stylish contemporary bar over three floors was chief among the design considerations.
And they sure have delivered. The Barrelman now comfortably holds 120 even with social distancing and boasts a bar, dining area, zones with booth and soft seating, and mezzanine-level function space as well as outside café-style seating. There’s a new kitchen and toilets too.
Licensee Tommy Fox told DRAM, “The design process was a real collaboration between us, the architects and Star Pubs & Bars. Jacqueline and I came up with The Barrelman name and concept. A barrelman was the person stationed in a barrel on the foremasts of early oceangoing vessels to help with navigation and there would have been a barrelman on the RRS Discovery, so the name references Dundee’s seafaring past.
“The interior is huge and the design was broken it down into different areas, each with its own character that lends itself to various occasions. Everything flowed from that and set the theme for the design.
“It’s a premium venue so the theming is done in a subtly stylish way with lots of bespoke fixtures and fittings. Everywhere you look there are nautical nods in the bric-a-brac and the artwork. We even have a beautiful skyscape mural of stormy clouds and birds around the top of two massive central pillars so it’s like the view from a ship’s deck when you look up.”
The exterior of the pub was also extensively worked on and as well as aesthetics like the signage, paintwork, and flowers, it now boasts newly installed floor-to-ceiling windows – all of which have been attracting the attention of passersby.
Said Tommy, “The frontage has been beautifully restored. We’ve installed four huge floor-to-ceiling windows to create an immediate impact and bring in lots of natural light. Each is dressed with luscious wisteria and greenery. It looks stunning and really stands out in the city centre. The impressive new entrance meant people couldn’t resist popping their heads in to tell us ‘wow, it looks fantastic’.”
The exposed brickwork, wooden floors, and neon touches plus all those nautical nods like the ship’s wheel, compass, and wall-painted octopi are my favourite bits. Standing out just as much are the blue painted walls on the top floor, reclaimed furniture, and the beautiful ground-floor bar that’s been created using a combination of wood, metal, and stone plus a string of exposed filament bulbs to show it all off.
The couple put a host of safety measures in place to keep customers and staff safe. Customers are greeted at the door and shown to their tables, which are sanitised between every use. While booking is encouraged, there’s an allocation of tables for walk-in customers too.
Said Brian Davidson, Star Pubs & Bars operations director for Scotland, “Tommy and Jacqueline are highly professional operators with great vision and we wish them well. The Barrelman was certainly worth the wait – it looks amazing and it’s totally unique. This is a major development that will really add to Commercial Street and the centre of Dundee.”
By Jason Caddy