We were appointed by Monty’s Deli Ltd in late September 2016 to design their first permanent restaurant, to be located in an old East end bakery on Hoxton Street. Monty’s had just exchanged on the lease and had 2 months until completion. A rent free period of 4 months was agreed, starting from completion of the contract. This gave us 6 months (with Christmas in between) to design, tender the works competitively and complete construction and fit out.
Our client wanted a place inspired by the classic old workers cafés of London - a restaurant typology that is now, sadly, close to extinction. For us, the challenge was to revive this look and feel without the end result becoming pastiche, a Disneyland copy. It had to be a contemporary interpretation of the workers cafe.
In our first site visits with the client it was apparent that the 220sq.m bakery had a story to tell. We glimpsed traces and hints of the building’s past and history under layers of more recent building work. We learnt that prior to the 40-year-old bakery, the space had been home to well known Victorian butchers, Robert Gunners. Their RG insignia tiles were covered over in layers of paint and, in many places, entirely concealed behind stud walls. From early on we found common ground with our client, part of the attraction I think. We both recognize the worth in exposing original building fabric and historic features that help to uncover the building’s narrative and, ultimately, add character to the finished scheme. We agreed that the design should strike a balance between conservation of historic fabric, juxtaposed with contemporary fit out elements.
Our role included that of Architect and Lead Consultant, coordinating the work of the design team; mechanical & electrical consultant and structural engineer to ensure that all elements of the design were fully coordinated and compatible. We also assumed the role of Project Manager, preparing the project programme and disseminating this to the design team with key targets.
Four weeks from start of work and following two work in progress meetings, we presented our Concept Design to the client. The front of house restaurant design acts as a foil to the existing, historic building fabric. Our contemporary design and intervention in the space is largely limited to a ribbon wrapping around the perimeter. The ribbon begins at roughly 35cm above finished floor level, coinciding with the underside of booth seating, and stops at 115cm above finished floor level, coinciding with the top of the booth/ datum cladding and bar. Everything above and below these levels is historic fabric.
Following client sign off on Concept Design we had just over 4 weeks to develop all elements of the design in sufficient detail to enable a competitive tender of the works. During that time we also worked to identify a longlist of suitable contractors for the job. We tendered the works competitively to 5 contractors and obtained 4 qualifying tender returns, all within 10% of one another on price. The top 2 bidders were within 5% of one another and we proceeded to negotiate, on behalf of the client, with both parties.
Savings in the order of 35% were made during the negotiation process, which also involved proposals for value engineering/ cost savings, put forward by the contractors and ourselves. In many instances compromises were made; elements of the design were either simplified or revised in order to meet the challenging budget.
Works on site generally went according to plan other than a single 1 week delay due to the unforeseen foundation depth that resulted in a revised structural design for groundworks and steel propping. The project was delivered on budget.