The two Michelin star chef John Campbell is almost ready to serve up his heart and soul in his new restaurant: The Woodspeen.
Nestled near Newbury it will take the ‘warmth of a traditional pub’ of the original 1827 Five Bells and add a beautiful extension to create a ‘well balanced’ atmosphere for high quality food.
In tandem a cookery school will be located in a converted late Georgian barn on the site across the road. A vegetable garden adjacent has already been established by John who has regularly tended it whilst the buildings have been under construction.
I met John on-site early on a blustery October morning. John’s energy and enthusiasm for life is immediately evident. He is undoubtedly the lynchpin to the project and leads the design and construction team with pragmatism, a positive attitude and a keen eye for the bigger picture.
John explained he always connects with his space for cooking – whether by painting, moulding or rearranging. The Woodspeen will be his home for his craft and it is not surprising John’s three rules of cooking philosophy can be seen expressed in the building design:
- A seasonal menu:
A building true to its geography and location
Engaging with an existing building immediately roots the new scheme to its location. The restaurant extension orientates itself to the surrounding landscape, and initiates a dialogue with the changing weather and seasons.
The stunning thatched roof echoes of heritage craft skills from local vernacular. This distinctive feature almost never was due to other unforeseen costs that arose during the build. Thankfully John fought for its resonant character and worked hard with the construction team to prioritise its inclusion.
- Optimal dining experience:
Architecture integral to the ambience
Connection to the surrounding countryside is important and large windows and overhead skylights offer changing views and quality of natural light to flood in. John sees his ‘work’ as a way of life, with a menu part of a broader friendly and embracing experience with others.
The warm pub welcome will touch the guests in a tactile rich mix of textures of the interior. Untreated larch in the dining area happily joins the existing joinery in the bar. Crisp, clean walls contrast with retained brickwork mediating old and new. Earthy tones of the soft furnishing will resonant with the landscape.
- Playful and fun food:
For John the flow of space is key to the scheme – get this right and people relax and have fun.
John has held full control over the spatial layout and made the ‘open pass’ central to the scheme. The diners have full view of the chef as cooking ‘theatre’ is performed. This honest and lively transparency of the cooking process is important to the way John wants his guests to enjoy their visit; the open pass also serves to anchor the spatial flow of the co-joined buildings.
The new central skylight spine holds further drama: mirrors create an optical illusion of a boundless horizon, skilfully combining all three of the above.
The design has redirected the trajectory of a traditional pub and challenges deep-rooted cultural ideas of what to expect upon entering. It effortlessly offers a sophisticated world with the depth of a long-standing friendship.
What is truly great about this scheme is that the client has taken his ethos of high standards and creativity with an acute awareness of the customer experience and used these to inform and drive the design and construction process. Throughout the project John has stayed true to himself and his focus on the experience of dining; these ingredients are perfectly balanced to create architecture with integrity.
The thatched roof is by Absolute Thatch.