Softroom were approached by the Michelin-starred chef, John Campbell, to create a restaurant, bar and cookery school on the site of the former Five Bells pub in Belmont, Woodspeen, Berkshire.
With an adjoining half-acre kitchen garden to supply the restaurant, the design and remodelling of the 19th-century property celebrates the local and seasonal food philosophy, whilst reinterpreting the traditional English pub vernacular.
Local and seasonal are honest, ‘slow’ values and Softroom were inspired by these to salvage much of the remaining fabric. The first response was to use contemporary detailing and paintwork to sensitively rework the time-honoured pub interior.
The existing bar front and tongue and groove panelling were reconditioned and a muted colour and natural materials palette, which included rich brown leathers, grey wools, wood and brass, were selected for their beautiful aging patina. A reclaimed antique oak floor runs through the pub to meet the polished concrete floor and timber cladding of the main 74-seat restaurant, which is opened up to the seasonal landscape of the surrounding Berkshire countryside through a glazed rear wall and vaulted ceiling with glazed spine.
Diners are invited to enjoy the glorious outdoors throughout the year from the restaurant and terrace. Alternatively, retreat to the warm and cosy belly of the space, coddled by rich tones and the familiar but contemporary home-from-home ‘pub feel’ where the plant scheme continues the light and green approach. A combination of freestanding plants and a lavish central trough bring the outdoors inside, whilst adding a living, soft screening.
Natural fibres predominate in the textiles and upholstery, give a tactile and easy feel. Loose geometrically pattern cushions and blankets, by textile designer Eleanor Pritchard, adorn the banquettes and window seats, while a collection of sheepskin throws are draped over dining chairs, and layered natural hand woven rugs accent the space.
In contrast, the adjoining cookery school employs British craft and materials in a sleek and homogenous manner. Housed in a barn building that dates from 1811, the mix of tradition and modern technology echo the contemporary culinary approach to timehonoured recipes and cooking techniques. A white colour palette with Dekton work-tops make it light, refined, and clean and practical for purpose. The look is utilitarian, but striking. An intimate ‘kitchen table’ accommodates 10 people and offers a unique dining experience. Diners are given the opportunity to get involved with the performance, cooking with the chef or for their fellow diners.
This space will be quite special, “It gives me an opportunity to cook alongside and engage with customers, chat to them about the food. It’s interaction at another level, somewhere for me to teach, and to give people something quite exclusive. I’m creating a beautiful environment for people to work in, learn their craft, and for guests to enjoy their food.”
- John Campbell
Glass spheres lightly float above the dining space, along with concealed incandescent strip wall lights that glow softly from behind the timber cladding and within the open shelving. Simple wool curtains hang along the windows, creating intimacy, whilst a voile layer can be drawn during the day.
An eclectic mix of secondhand bentwood chairs, upholstered mid-century chairs and low bar stools furnish the Pub, creating an informal and inviting feel whilst providing a visual link between the restaurant and the pub. With the use of old pub tables, the design remains rooted within a traditional and rustic feel. At the entrance to the pub an old solid block table, reminiscent of a butchers block and the former life of the building.