DESIGN FOCUS: The Albyn, Aberdeen


The Albyn is very much an Aberdeen institution and there is no doubt that there has been an air of anticipation with regard to its re-opening which took place at the end of November just as the storm hit Aberdeen. But I am sure that it won’t have dampened the appetite for the newest creation from Simon Cruickshanks and fiancée Christie.

The couple who returned from Spain just prior to the pandemic have a wealth of experience in the trade, with Simon having worked for many years with father, also Simon, in his licensed trade businesses which originally included The Bieldside, and now includes Peterculter pubs the Richmond Arms and The Ploughman.

Christie was more back of house concentrating on marketing and social media for the industry as well as writing for food and drink publications. Simon told DRAM, “I worked my whole life with my dad before I moved to Spain but I moved abroad to learn a different aspect of the trade. He continues, “I did my first year at the Ocean Club in Marbella and then I was involved in the opening of Breathe. I learned a lot particularly in the food and wine service area which was a big part of the offering there.”

The couple came back to Aberdeen, to be nearer family having a young family themselves, and looked around for a project to get their teeth into. Says Simon, “We wanted to bring something different to the Aberdeen market. We did do a lot of market research and we thought there was a real opportunity here. So when The Albyn came on the market it was ideal for what we were thinking about.”

Christie continues, “We wanted to create a venue that felt casual and comfortable but which had décor which felt fivestar and a service ethos to match. In our heads we wanted a combination of the luxury restaurants we had worked in and the Gleneagles vibe. It was about finding the middle ground.” “We bought the building in March and we had hoped to open by the summer. The building has three floors but we have focussed on the ground floor although the initial plan was to open a terraced garden for the summer, but with us now in December we will do that later too.”

The Albyn may not have its outside garden, but it now has a garden room, which is Christie’s favourite part of the build. The idea she tells me was to bring the “outside in”. And luckily a glass roof was discovered by designers 3 Design Scotland who were responsible for the interiors, which made that idea entirely possible. Explains Christie, “It’s the first time we have used designers, but when we met with them we instantly clicked.

We wanted to balance the feeling of traditional Scottish with contemporary and our designer Suzy Kingswood grasped that from the get go. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the team on this project and as we will also be continuing with 3 Design Scotland as we take this project further and develop the upstairs and downstairs.”

Says Suzy Kingswood, “We were very lucky that the property already had an amazing glazed atrium area in the middle of the restaurant, which the previous owners had overclad, when this was opened up it brought the place to life, our clients were very keen that the outside was brought inside so this area became the dedicated garden room.

“The scheme, developed in discussion with our clients, was to create a Scottish based, traditional but quirky bar restaurant, which would appeal to both families for a meal out but also drinkers to drop in and fill the front pub bar area like the original days of the Albyn.

“The branding team created, from our initial schemes and discussions with the client a story that reads throughout the interior. It focuses on the order of eleven which not only references the building’s beautiful front door way pillars but also its address (and also fuels our design OCD for symmetry!). We created artwork for the spaces directly inspired by architectural elements but also played on the Scottish link by creating a very special 11p stamp for the Albyn as part of the private dining room art work installation.”

But adds Christie, “It wasn’t just about creating a beautiful space. We also wanted the bar and restaurant to be functional, which sometimes is not the case. Suzy understood exactly what we wanted and has delivered it.”

There have been a few structural changes too. Prior to the re-design when you entered The Albyn the disabled toilets were immediately on the right hand side, but they have now been moved further back. Christie explains, “The front window was obscured because that’s where the disabled toilets were and we thought that was nuts. One of our main objectives was to bring in natural light and by opening up this window and creating a front snug room we have managed that.”

The Albyn has been designed so that customers can feel comfortable whether they have popped in for a pub lunch, or whether they are celebrating a special occasion, or want to watch the footie and the flow facilitates that. You move from a bar area through to the garden room, to the large circular booths which seat eight and then there is a further dining area at the rear, where the decor is slightly different again. The private dining room is situated adjacent.

There is also the opportunity to segregate the areas of The Albyn as two sets of sliding doors have been put in, which are so discrete you hardly notice them. They can be utilised to allow private parties or indeed to make the place cosier during quieter times. The whole flow presents the venue as an elegant and airy space.

The colour palette is predominantly shades of blue in traditional hues – for instance this includes pale blue wood panelling, dark blue upholstery and blue-tartan backed movable booths. However the decor includes many different fabrics and finishes from floral backed chairs to leather upholstered stools, and soft furnishings. There are also lots of mirrors and artwork too. The floor is tiled extensively around the bar area and the tiles from Pronto Ceramics are used as a feature throughout.

The bar, which extends the length of the bar area, has an impressive marble top. Says Christie, “We wanted a bar people could sit at and we wanted it to be the hub of everything. Suzy adds, “The bar itself is a beautifully crafted joinery item fully bespoke and made to our design detail drawings, especially lovely touches like the Albyn’s own whiskey cabinets numbered and locked for the finest offerings, the incredibly detailed bar counter tops from our preferred granite supplier Rocca in Hillington Glasgow, as always going the extra mile with hand detailed triple Ogee edge to the counter make it a very special bar.”

There is nothing too uniform about the décor which was a conscious design choice. Suzy continues, “By sourcing traditional materials but mixing with the newest ranges from suppliers our aim as always was to create a cohesive space that reads subtly Scottish with contemporary quirks. Gaskell McKay carpets supplied the beautiful Glen Etive carpet – very much key to the colour schemes, tying in with an almost exact colour version heritage-inspired twill from Kirkby Design, we like to mix fabrics and use some beautifully contemporary designs from suppliers like Osborne and Little with solidly traditional houndstooth from Sekers.”

Christie’s favourite area is the garden room but Simon is very pleased with the new wood panelled private dining room which seats 10. It is already proving very popular. The couple were aware when they bought The Albyn that many people had fond memories of the venue, but they wanted to establish something that would create many more memories and take the venue forward, I definitely think they have succeeded.

Category: Design, News
Tags: 3 Design Scotland, Pronto Ceramics, Rocca, Simon Cruickshanks, SIR Joinery, The Albyn Aberdeen