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When ONE17 was first approached to look at a run-down industrial building near the 'Summer Wine' town of Holmfirth, with a view to converting it into a foodie haven, restaurateur Olivia Robinson was already many months into its planning. Now that the project is officially open, we put a few questions to her.
DEVOUR AT THE DYEHOUSE
All photography © DEVOUR
Opening just before Christmas 2018, Devour at The Dyehouse has quickly earned a reputation as the “HOTTEST” must visit foodie destination in the area. It offers authentic Italian cuisine in a stylish, laid back, semi-industrial, “ultra-cool” Dyehouse converted with the help of ONE17 Architects & Interior Designers. Here all things Devour are inspired by “old school Italia” - good food, great music, family & friends!
Devour is the brain child of Anglo/Italian Olivia Robinson, former Creative Director, Designer, Art Director, Brand Consultant and now budding Restaurateur, who over a period of three years, has transformed the semi derelict building and brownfield site into a 70 cover destination eatery with open kitchen, Italian delicatessen, pasticheria, gelateria, coffee bar & cocktail lounge.
We caught up with Olivia to find out a little more about how life has been treating her since Devour’s launch last December.
Wow, bit of a rollercoaster ride to say the least! Perhaps opening a new venture just before Christmas, maybe wasn’t an ideal scenario. A very steep learning curve – but one that has given us some essential insights and understanding into the “beast” that is the hospitality business! But we’re getting there. Like any new business you need time to understand the day to day demands of such a large project. Systems need time to bed in and reach the standards we and our guests demand. Be flexible and collaborative to adapt to the day to day yet retain focus and drive to deliver the key areas of your vision. Striking that balance can be a challenge; but “the course of true love never did run smooth” as Mr Shakespeare so rightly said.
You had a very definite idea on the look and feel of Devour from the outset, what were your inspirations, and do you think you’ve successfully delivered the vision?
Coming from a creative art-based background, I’d had experience in retail store design and art direction, so this was an area I quietly felt confident I could deliver. I’d done vast amounts of travelling over the years and took inspirations literally from all over the world, from Neapolitan street food to “swanky spots” on Sunset Boulevard. I always loved the look and feel of the decadent Art Deco 1920s which became a massive inspiration for the cocktail lounge, and obviously I love all things culturally Italian: art, photography, design and cinema. I love the energy of classic Italian cities like Napoli & Palermo, but if you add a bit of English wit and eccentricity you get a very individual mix. Then of course, you have the original building itself, natural industrial elements of steel, wood and stone, the people who worked here – we are blessed in this part of the world, there’s so much inspiration in the area’s heritage, industry and landscape.
And the customers reaction?
I’d like to say overwhelmingly 100% of our guests love what we’ve done to the place, but of course you can’t please everyone, so (to be safe) 99.9% of our guests have said how much they love the atmosphere and design of the building, although, funnily enough – even the most begrudging TripAdvisor nay sayer has always said the place “looks great” – so we must have done something right!
When putting together the concept of the interior for Devour, we didn't realise what a mammoth task this would be. At times it felt like we'd bitten off more than we could chew, but now looking at the place up and running, especially on busy Friday or Saturday nights, when the music is loud and people are enjoying themselves – it’s a nice feeling. We’ve achieved a good start – but we’ve so much more we’d like to do. I think we’ve got a great “base coat”, we need to add a little more humour – special little touches that are just “Devour”.
Devour has an idyllic riverside location, with a large gravel car park, bicycle bays and a riverside “wild flower” walk, all set in a valley of mature woodland; are the grounds important?
As dull as it sounds, our car park is such an unsung hero of the project – can you imagine the cars we can accommodate on site having to park in the narrow lanes of Holmfirth? We spent a great deal of time and effort making sure the infrastructure of the entire site could grow as we grow – but again we’ve tried to be sympathetic to this beautiful location. We included the riverside “wild flower” nature walk for example, just a small thing, but we hope our customers can spend a few moments exploring and enjoying this lovely stretch of the river.
Once inside, it’s clear to see Devour is something a little bit different. Describe what you see as the key elements of the design?
Devour pays homage to the building’s industrial past. Spanning the eatery are the original high heavy oak industrial beams, spliced with blackened steel structural supports which feature throughout the whole building. Bespoke Crittall-style windows add to the industrial feel, whilst textured lime plaster work and exposed Yorkshire stone walls, tip a nod to the area’s heritage and tradition. Flooring is split between dark walnut robust wooden flooring and reclaimed imported Italian floor tiles, adding a stylish colourful patchwork edge. Both lighting and hanging plants are suspended with heavy lighting chains, through the high-pitched ceiling, nicely breaking the beam lines.
The eatery runs the length of one side of the old Dyehouse, with white granite marble tables with wrought iron supports opposite a long olive leather bench facing other window tables with a view of the river Holme. To the right, high table seating against a huge wine lightbox and deli bar seating with the “La De Da Coffee Bar” and deli retail running down to the gelatoria, open kitchen and pizza counter seating, utilises the space between retail and eatery.
We made the decision early on, to have an open kitchen environment in the eatery. We’re very proud of our fresh food ethos, we hand make all our pasta and gelato, and want to be as transparent as possible with our guests. Plus, we didn’t want Devour just to be about eating the food, it’s as much about the hustle & bustle, the actual theatre of making the dishes, a noisy working kitchen, against the backdrop of music and customers eating and enjoying themselves! That creates atmosphere and that’s what lies at the heart of Devour.
How does the atmosphere change from day to evening?
By day the decor is warm, inviting and relaxing. Large floral prints feature in the cocktail bar, with soft relaxed lounge seating covered with an eclectic mix of House of Hackney fabric and bold coloured velvets. The bar itself has an Art Deco influence yet industrialised with blackened steel and lit with a contoured cinema light box.
I think it's at night, that Devour really comes to life: the lighting design uses many original retro fittings ranging from huge original ‘70s Paris street lights and a crystal chandelier suspended high above the eatery, to 1920’s & 30’s retro industrial lighting across the deli wall area, pineapple lights, classic Italian crystal wall lights, fairy lights, railway station pendants and a huge original 1970’s Russian railway station clock combine to create a relaxing warmth.
What about the infamous mirror ball above the pizza oven?
Ah yes, the mirror ball, the real show stealer. Everyone was a bit sceptical at first, especially the electrician lads, (“you want what?”) but hats off to them they bought into want we wanted to do (eventually) and found practical solutions for what we wanted to achieve, and at the end, when all the lighting was up and running to hear those same lads say, “That’s a thing of beauty!” was pretty cool.
I had a great deal of support and advice on the lighting through my husband Paul, being a cinematographer and photographer of interiors back in the day. He dealt with the transition between what looks “good” and what lights “good” – Paul has a very cinematic eye when it comes to lighting, and drives me mad tweaking the dimmers and insisting all the fairy lights must be maintained. We spent time sourcing some beautiful original fittings, some we HAD to have, others we found as bargains and adapted and changed to fit our look.
So, anything you think hasn’t worked as expected in the scheme, anything you’d change?
Unfortunately, I don’t think Holmfirth was quite ready for a mixed bathroom scenario, so we soon had to rectify that with individual bathrooms for men and women; but hey we like to do things a little differently here at Devour, give things a go, see if it sticks!
Operationally you can never have enough space. Servicing a project of this size needs care and attention at the design stage to put systems in place to support the operation. But we’re at the start of something that hopefully will grow over the coming months and years, not just in the eatery - our deli is starting to grow and now spring is in the air we are looking forward to phase two development of the outside walled garden and herb garden as we’re keen to offer more social events such as cookery classes and special dining nights – we really want to engage with our guests and create a wider social hub that the area as a whole can have something to be proud of.
Devour at the Dyehouse is open: 12pm to 10:30pm Wednesday to Saturday, 12pm to 8pm Sundays
For information & bookings visit: www.devour.co.uk
Social: follow @devourdaily