Equus, the new restaurant and bar at Sandown Park Racecourse, is located on the Grandstand’s second floor and offers diners impressive views of the finishing straight, as well as a delightful menu.
Previously a large hospitality suite, the space has been completely transformed and rebranded; the new restaurant opened in March 2013 before winning the Best Hospitality Experience Award at the National Racecourse Catering Awards.
Premier Hospitality caught up with Brendan Heath, Associate Director at SHH, who acted as the lead designer during the renovation project. Brendan said:
“We’ve worked previously with our client, Compass Group UK and Ireland, so this project was the continuation of a great longstanding working relationship. The space was previously the main hospitality suite within the main stand at Sandown Racecourse and used to be a big generic conference area which was running as a restaurant and bar. Our task was to carry out an interior upgrade without altering the operation of the space. There was no precise conceptual brief; the clients just wanted to make the venue feel like a considered restaurant space. We added a lot of richness and detail to the venue but still managed to retain the flexibility that was needed.”
The three month project began on site in January 2013 which coincided with the winter quiet season at the racecourse, allowing the team to undertake their works uninterrupted. Main contractors Benchmark worked alongside SHH to redress the entrance of the venue in order to create a sense of presence. The access staircase was altered and new wall and floor finishes were installed; the team also adjusted the lighting levels and introduced new Equus branding to the venue’s entrance. The doors were replaced and glazed, allowing diners to see into the restaurant and bar as they approach.
The venue has been reconfigured with the bar area now being situated on the left hand side of the entrance and the lounge area lying on the right hand side. Brendan added:
“The idea of the layout was to create demarcations so that the space did not seem to be just a vast expanse. We have created an area of activity as soon as you walk through the door and have also made a feature out of the bar; completely gutting the bar area and renovating it.”
The coat check area, which used to be situated inside the restaurant space, has been relocated to the staircase. Brendan told us that the venue has been transformed into a more formal dining experience because of the reconfiguration of the space.
With facilities for 280 diners, the design of the environment has allowed it to be defined and as a result no longer feels like a large expanse of space. Ceramic tiling has been fitted on the floor areas of the lounge and bar and contrasts with the boldly patterned and textured flooring in the actual restaurant area.
Stitch detailing on the leather covered bar evokes thoughts of saddles and horse equipment and so ties in with the restaurants location in a subtle way. The venue’s name, Equus, was generated by the client with SHH delivering all of the venue’s branding; signage, logo and menus in line with the equine inspired title.
Brendan said that SHH were very pleased to be involved with such a great project:
“It was amazing for us to see how significant a change you can make to at venue with fairly simple means. The hospitality space had not been looked at for many years and so it was challenging for us to renovate without compromising the functionality. We added a broad range of finishes to the space and gave it more of a human scale.
“We introduced voile curtains to the venue and also pendant lights in order to bring the ceiling heights down a little bit. We added a high level features rather than allowing the ceiling to remain a vast expanse.”
Although Equus didn’t reach the shortlist of The Restaurant and Bar Design Awards, the project was part of the early nominations stage of the awards.