The newly refurbished Dispensary Pub and Dining Room at Aldgate East – run by co-owners Annie Smith and David Cambridge – has been named East London Pub of the Year in the CAMRA awards.
The Dispensary stays true to its roots, with period features dating back to the late 19th century when the building was the Eastern Dispensary Hospital and cared for poor Eastenders.
The recent refurbishment project started in October 2013, when Annie and David commissioned the award winning interior designer Jackie McWeeney to update the two-storey property. By April of this year – and without The Dispensary needing to close for business – Jackie and her team had introduced subtle interiors schemes of both Farrow & Ball heritage paints and new contemporary paint colours at the heart, mixed with stylish soft furnishings.
Jackie McWeeney explains:
“The Dispensary is very individual – not part of a chain – and so Annie and David put all of their efforts into this one venue to make it personal. They wanted a ‘country house in the city’ feel to attract customers – predominantly business people who work, and stay, in London Monday to Friday and then travel home at the weekend. Their brief to me was to create somewhere comfortable but immensely stylish for business men and women together with like-minded creatives to enjoy.”
Each of the three ground floor areas differs slightly in its purpose and design. The first – a big space with high ceilings and incorporating the bar – is the main area for drinking and dining. Jackie specified two distinct paint colours as a backdrop for the prime dining times: lunch and dinner. ‘Purbeck Stone’ creates a calming ambience at lunch, with sophisticated ‘Stiffkey Blue’ providing the perfect dinner setting.
A smaller sofa area leads from the reception; here guests can relax for casual drinks. The walls have been painted in ‘Mole’s Breath’ a shade that pays homage to the age of the building. Because the co-owners wanted a country house feel, Jackie McWeeney has introduced the quintessentially English fabrics created by Fermoie throughout this project – for upholstery, menu covers and curtains – to help create that look.
Since launching in 2012, Fermoie has worked closely with Jackie McWeeney on a number of interior design projects. Jamie Shawcross, General Manager at Fermoie, says: “It’s fantastic to have our work showcased at The Dispensary. It’s a beautiful place, Jackie has done a brilliant job, and the client has a great business and work ethic. At Fermoie we’re as much driven by building strong relationships with our interior design clients as we are by great customer service and great design; it’s something we work very hard on.”
The third area at The Dispensary, the smallest of the three, seats up to eight covers for a fine dining experience. Co-owner David Cambridge is Chef du Patron at The Dispensary and he will create a bespoke menu – with a distinctly British and innovative style – to fit individual diners’ preferences and requirements. It’s important for guests to give book in advance for this area. And in the summer, work will start on the first Floor Wellington Room, which is being refurbished to create a second fine dining restaurant.
Jackie McWeeney explains:
“I feel very at home working with period properties and especially enjoy combining classic with a contemporary twist. At The Dispensary I was happy to work within the existing framework, too. Annie and David had a series of elements – both fittings and furniture – that they wanted me to retain and incorporate in the refreshed interiors. In many cases, I used those as inspiration for the rest of the design or as a focal point in the room.”
The Dispensary building has historic links with the Duke of Wellington and Jack the Ripper, but that doesn’t appear to deter today’s female ale drinkers who love the ambience as much as the brews.
Co-owner Annie Smith, comments: “As much as we love our existing real ale drinkers we want to make more female customers aware that, when consumed in moderation, ale has numerous health benefits over drinking wines, spirits and even many soft drinks. At the same time, we have a lovely selection of cocktails.”
Following the recent refurbishment, The Dispensary has announced the launch of Oktoberfest when real ale drinkers will be able to sample an extensive array of Paulanier beers when the pub hosts a celebration. For that one month only, the venue will be transformed into a Bavarian beer house complete with the ‘Bavarian Strollers’ band and traditional German food.
With a new interior comes a new menu. The Dispensary serves up cocktails, three-course meals and other delicious drinks. The main menu created by Chef du Patron, David Cambridge, offers a variety of dishes including a duck confit brioche, wild mushroom and spinach gnocchi and numerous fish dishes, all sandwiched between delicious starters and decadent desserts. David is not short on passion and enthusiasm. He says he loves every part of The Dispensary and his kitchen and front of house team are a proud family unit. “When it comes to the produce and menu, it’s about treating every ingredient with love – no matter how simple it might be,” he says.
Speaking to Premier Hospitality about the refurbishment process, interior designer Jackie McWeeney concluded:
“Annie and David contacted me after seeing my interior schemes for an award winning property close by and asked me to work with them on The Dispensary. For me, this has been an especially exciting project because it has given me the opportunity to help them grow their business by creating a stylish and welcoming ambience for customers. Aldgate is stepping out of the Shoreditch shadows and The Dispensary is very much a prominent flagship in the area. It is great to be part of this resurgence and it makes this project another great showcase for my work in the City of London.”
For more information on The Dispensary, please visit www.thedispensarylondon.co.uk