The Mill at Sonning
Set majestically on the banks of the River Thames, the Mill at Sonning Theatre is the only dinner theatre in the United Kingdom and has gained unrivalled praise both nationally and internationally.
The Mill is currently undergoing a renovation to provide it with a new look. The refurbishment includes renovating the restaurant, exposing some of the mill’s original features and upgrading the theatre’s technical equipment. Refurbishment work has recently completed on the Waterwheel bar with work undertaken by Meraki Design.
Premier Hospitality spoke to Eris Koutsoudakis and Maria Constantinou from Meraki Design about the refurbishment work.
What did the project involve for you?
“The building is an old flour mill from the 17th century which was the last flour mill working and delivering to London on the Thames. It was then left derelict until Eileen and Tim Richards turned it into a Dinner Theatre in the 1970s. Since the 70s no renovation has taken place so Sally Hughes, Eileen and Tim’s daughter, approached us and asked us to do a renovation. When we saw the building, it was covered in aertex, painted black and was generally really dark so we felt like we just wanted to bring the building back to life.”
Were you given a brief by the owner or were you left to decide what would work best?
“Essentially what Sally wanted was to widen the mills audience and felt that an upgrade was overdue as it hadn’t been renovated since the early 70’s. When we looked at it, we wanted to make it timeless and to emphasize the original mill. To achieve this, we have stripped back the building to what it originally was and with the furniture choice, it has become more contemporary.”
Can you walk us through the space – what kinds of things did you go for and what kind of look and feel did you achieve?
“In the bar there is a large island bar in the middle. To the left of that is the original waterwheel that still works so you have water rushing down with the wheel working. There is seating next to the original water wheel which is enclosed in glass. The cushions we have used are replicas of the original sacks from the original flour mill. We also added touches of velvet throughout to bring the glam of theatre into the space – there is a balance of luxury and industrial. It is all exposed wood, exposed beams and is a beautiful place.”
Have you had any feedback about the bar?
“People love it. It is doing what it is meant to be doing by being more attractive to a younger audience and old customers also love it.”
I understand the restaurant is also being refurbished. Where is that phase of the project up to?
“We are in phase two of that refurbishment. The structural side of things is done so everything has been exposed and opened up. It will follow the look and feel of the bar but will be a little more formal and that is due to be finished by the end of the year.”
How important has this project been for you to work on?
“It is very rare that you get the opportunity to work on a very unique building. It is actually in the doomsday book so it is a very old building and it really is an honour to work on. I also think that the owner is so lovely and passionate about it so overall it is just a really special project.”