The Woodspeen

Softroom • Architecture and Design as Architects

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.

The Woodspeen Restaurant and Cookery School

Cosentino as Manufacturers

The revolutionary ultra-compact surface, Dekton® by Cosentino has once again proven to be the surface of choice for professional chefs, with its recent specification by internationally acclaimed Michelin star chef, John Campbell for his restaurant and cookery school, The Woodspeen.

Situated in the beautiful West Berkshire countryside near Newbury, The Woodspeen Restaurant was built on the plot of a once thriving local pub that had been left in a state of disrepair. Over a 12 month build period, the new building came to life, keeping the shell of the original pub but adding a large extension to the rear to create a bright, airy restaurant with fantastic views of the rolling countryside.

During the original renovation, Dekton® in the colour Danae had previously been chosen for the restaurant’s open pass, designed to add a touch of theatre to guests who are able to see the inner workings of the kitchen from the restaurant. Campbell wanted to steer away from the austere nature of standard stainless steel tops often found in professional kitchens to create a link between the kitchen and onlooking diners, and so Dekton® offered both a beautiful and practical design solution for the pass. As Campbell explains, “Pans, plates and extremely hot utensils are used on the pass each and every day so it’s important that the surface is able to cope with the heat, which Dekton® does brilliantly.”

This initial introduction to the ultra-compact surface led Campbell to specify it once again when embarking on the recent refurbishment of The Woodspeen Cookery School, citing how impressed he was with the surface’s durability as one of the core reasons. “The top in the restaurant is over three and half years old, but still looks just as good as when it was put in – hence why Dekton® was the obvious choice in the Cookery School. It looks good, it feels good, but importantly it gives us all the benefits required.”

Located just yards away from the main restaurant, the Cookery School is open to both professional chefs for intense training days and enthusiastic home cooks enjoying the various different courses on offer. Campbell wanted the space’s new design to bridge the gap between a commercial and domestic kitchen, ensuring that all students felt at home in the space, however it was also key that the material specified for the tops would be robust enough to cope with intense daily use. Having already seen Dekton®’s high resistance to heat, scratches and stains in action on the restaurant’s pass, Campbell was assured it would be more than up to the job, whilst offering additional benefits for the particular skills taught in the school. “Perfect for the Cookery School, Dekton®remains the same temperature as the room, unlike marble and granite surfaces which can be at a much lower temperature to their environment. When we are teaching students to make bread for example, we can turn out the dough straight onto the surface as it’s very tactile, smooth and a pleasure to work on.”

Previously used in the restaurant pass, Dekton® Danae was selected again for two worktops in the cookery school, creating contrast and giving the centre of the space a feeling of spaciousness due to its lighter hue. Selected for the remaining worktops and splashbacks in the Cookery School, the award-winning Dekton® Trilium, part of the Industrial Collection, immediately stood out as the obvious choice for Campbell. “Trilium, wow, amazing. What the whole restaurant and the cookery school is all about is natural woods, materials, coppers, bronzes and brick so this design really complements the dark colours and metallic elements and was the obvious choice here. For me, the Dekton® tops really create the visual wow factor in this kitchen.”

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ElementBrandProduct link
ManufacturersCosentinoDekton Industrial
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