Located within the quaint confines of Wells in Somerset, Ensemble is an all-day restaurant that opened in the summer of 2016. Offering locals and tourists in the cathedral city something a little bit different, Ensemble blends sumptuous food with a modern and sophisticated environment.
With stunning views overlooking the spectacular cathedral, Ensemble has proved to be a huge hit from day one. Designed by Bristol-based creative agency Phoenix-Wharf, the firm was also responsible for Ensemble’s branding. This work was recently recognised with a Restaurant & Bar Design Award nomination in the ‘Standalone Restaurant’ category.
Speaking to Premier Hospitality, Senior Designer at the Phoenix-Wharf Emma Gullick gave an insight into the project’s brief, the final design and the significance of the award nomination:
“The beauty of this project was that the client wanted us to look at both the branding for the restaurant and the actual design of the space. We had ownership over the whole thing, both what the brand would look like and the physical representation. This was something the client really liked because it was a one stop shop and the two teams could work together.
“I’d say we had a lot of creative freedom from the original brief. The client wanted something that was in keeping with the town itself. Wells is a very traditional town and we wanted to make sure the restaurant would be something locals would support. We didn’t want to march in with a new brand that was too modern and too slick.
“On the flip side, because of attractions like the cathedral, the town has a lot of tourists. Before Ensemble opened there was quite a limited choice for eating out. Effectively, Ensemble needed to blend in but also attract visitors for the day.”
The initial stages of the design involved the possibility of incorporating the cathedral into the design, including ideas involving gargoyles and references to the clock, which is one of the oldest in Europe. In the end, however, it was decided that a less location-specific design would be more appropriate should the possibility for expansion arise. Emma continued:
“The brass panels are definitely a standout in the design. They were completely bespoke made using laser cuts and the patterns are the same illustrations that can be seen in the branding. They were also scanned off hand drawings so each one is unique.
“The brass itself was originally supposed to be pure, but because we wanted it to travel up the wall and across the ceiling this wasn’t feasible as some poor soul would’ve constantly had to clean it! We ended up having the brass dunked in a chemical material but this still involved an element of trial and error because after a certain number of dunks it would turn into a pink/grey colour.”
Each panel is slightly different from the next and this attention to detail is similarly reflected in Ensemble’s cooking. The dishes at Ensemble are delivered using fresh ingredients from local suppliers, served at affordable prices. With a seasonal menu that ensures diners get the best Somerset has to offer all year round, the Ensemble menu has been carefully curated and caters to a variety of tastes.
As is always the case with a project such as this, various challenges arose along the way but for the design team it was the ceiling that proved particularly different. Sloping down to the middle from both the front and back of the space, there was a possibility this would detract from the views of the cathedral. Restricted by both the building’s listed status and the positioning of facilities such as air conditioning, the ceiling remained unaltered but does not detract from the view as was first feared.
Open 9am till 11pm Wednesday to Saturday and 9:30am till 3pm on Sundays, the response from diners since Ensemble opened has been overwhelming. Reflecting on this and the award nomination, Emma concluded:
“Feedback from the client and customers has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve had great comments about the atmosphere and how the space transitions from day to night. The flexibility of the space that allows people to come in and get a coffee and cake while others have a more formal meal works really well.
“It’s absolutely huge for us to be nominated for a Restaurant & Bar Design Award. Looking at who we’re up against, it’s an honour to be alongside companies that we look to for inspiration and use on our mood boards. As a small agency from Bristol we’re honoured to be shortlisted.”
For more information on Ensemble, please visit ensemblewells.co.uk.
Set up in 1991 Reynolds Collcutt is a family-run bespoke furniture and joinery fit out company, working in all commercial sectors from hospitality and eateries to offices, retail, healthcare and more. The company operates from a factory based in Bristol and has a team of specialist trades that look after all on-site works, from the removal of an existing space and the implementation of first fix building works, to fit-out and furniture installation.
Over the past 25 years, Reynolds Collcutt have worked across a broad range of projects within the hospitality sector, including full public areas within Holiday Inn and chain hotels; high end boutique hotels like the Scarlett Hotel in Cornwall, The Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath and Homewood Park and Woolley Grange; and restaurants including Aqua in Bristol and Bath, Graze by Bath Ales, Mokoko and Castle Hotel Taunton. In addition, Reynolds Collcutt has been responsible for the fit out of spas, bars, restaurants, reception areas, bedrooms and more.
Most recently, Reynolds Collcutt was the main contractor on the Ensemble restaurant, taking the designer’s brief from start through to completion. By having all trades covered by one contractor the process ran smoothly and the final result was superior.
Reynolds Collcutt Managing Director, Craig Bodman, said:
“It was great to be involved in a project where the designer had such a clear idea of what they wanted and were pushing the boundaries in relation to materials and design for a restaurant. Using laser cut brass panels for the ceiling and a bespoke brass retail display fitted to a solid surface bar counter were some of the highlights of the project.”
“At Reynolds Collcutt we pride ourselves in our service. We work with our clients from initial consultation, discussing materials and the best ways to manufacture products to make the most of the budget. A client’s space is crafted exactly as required and we hand it over complete and ready to become a productive asset.”