Opening The Cookie Jar
A historic former convent building has been superbly transformed into a high-end boutique hotel and restaurant of unique character, known as The Cookie Jar on Bailiffgate in Alnwick, Northumberland.
The Cookie Jar states that it aims to: “bring a level of hospitality to Northumberland, with an approach to sleeping, eating and service that is full of individual character, attention to detail and bags of style, offering simple food, locally sourced, created and prepared by renowned local chef Mick Holland.”
The project was carried out by Debbie Cook, who is married to Robert, the former chief executive of Malmaison and Hotel du Vin.
The interior design for the entire project was led by Matt Hulme, director of Dynargh Design, who is a renowned interior designer. Matt was the designer behind many Hotel du Vins notably Newcastle, Cambridge and Edinburgh, and describes The Cookie Jar scheme as “the project I am most proud of”.
Situated on the doorstep of Alnwick Castle, The Cookie Jar (formerly The Convent of Mercy) oozes character with 11 individually designed bedrooms, including a stunning suite located in the former chapel retaining the original stained-glass windows.
Matt Hulme said: “I knew the client as I was one of the lead designers for the Hotel Du Vin and Malmaison projects for then CEO Robert Cook until 2010, so when Debbie was looking to purchase The Cookie Jar property, she asked me whether I could assist with the project.
“The project was carried out over a tight 20 week programme, with the initial consideration for the design being to create the number of bedrooms needed for the hotel. As the building was formerly a convent, the nuns’ accommodation was in a number of very small rooms, each containing a single bed, chair and an ensuite bathroom. These spaces were not feasible for a hotel, and so we had to walk the space to work out how to increase their size, whilst seeking to work sympathetically with the existing services of the building.”
The Chapel is the Cookie Jar’s ‘must stay’ super-suite. Located on the first floor, the room incorporates all the beautiful features of the former chapel, such as stained glass windows and carved wooden beams, together with drench showers and a bath tub in the under floor heated bathroom.
Inspired by Northumberland’s rich history, the other characterful rooms include the Harehope, Alnmouth, Holy Island, St Cuthbert’s Cave, Bamburgh, Goswick, Bailiffgate, Sweethope Lough, Linhope Spout and Dunstanburgh.
Facilities on the ground floor include a stylish reception area, and a cosy snug, open to the public serving morning coffee, small plate snacks, luxurious afternoon teas and evening drinks.
Also on the ground floor, and located at the rear of the Cookie Jar, the new Bailiffgate Bistro overlooks the hotel’s new garden and terrace, and is due to fully open in spring 2018, with ‘small-plate’ snacks and afternoon tea being served daily in the meantime.
The beautiful garden and terrace was formed as part of the refurbishment and includes a heated, 40 seater, two-tier terrace area with a fire pit, together with a relaxing garden area and lawn.
Further ground floor facilities include a drying room providing heater cabinets and boot racks, and there are even five comfortable kennels for dogs belonging to guests.
Matt Hulme continued: “The main challenge of the project was the timeframe, as the lead-in to the scheme was extremely lengthy. This was because the purchase of the property had to be approved by the church and The Vatican even had to rubber-stamp the sale. We really had to hit the ground running, so I had all the required finishes and specifications ordered and ready to go for the contractor at the start of the project.
“The feedback on the project has been incredible. Locally, the Convent is a very respected and loved building and had links with the local church and the school – initially people weren’t sure about the building’s conversion into a hotel.
“However now everyone is delighted. In fact we recently had a visitor from the church who was simply blown away by the transformation. People are over the moon about how the building was respectfully restored.
“For example, every bedroom features a different design and character, and I took great care in sourcing individual antique furniture for each, in keeping with the age of the building. This also allows a different room experience for people who stay regularly.
“It was an honour to be asked to design this project. This was Debbie’s first solo scheme – and as such there was a great deal of interest from the hospitality sector. For me this is the single project I am most proud of.”
Pickard Electricals Ltd
Pickard Electricals Ltd specialise in all aspects of electrical installation, from new build installations, rewires, repairs and maintenance to the inspection & testing of domestic, commercial, industrial and agricultural installations. The company has been in existence since 1983 and has carried out work for local authorities, The Duke of Northumberland, various local builders and the general public.
Most recently, Pickard Electricals Ltd was appointed as the electrical contractor on The Cookie Jar. Pickard Electricals Ltd Managing Director, Neil Pickard was the project manager on the scheme.
“We valued our involvement in this project. Being a local company we like to be involved in prestigious, bespoke projects like this, which are within our area.”
“At Pickard Electricals Ltd, we provide a one-stop shop to our customers for all their electrical needs, along with a first class customer service, both during and after projects.”