This summer our Living Bar and Gin Safari is open in the tranquil gardens of The Goring Hotel in Belgravia. But how on earth did the idea of building a Northumberland hill complete with juniper and heather in central London come about, and how did we do it. Flynn Warren who designed and built the bar picks up the story.
As far as we recall, this is the way the conversation went. Val had been invited to meet Jeremy Goring at his five star hotel right next to Buckingham Palace. As we sat across from the delightful and dapper owner we found ourselves bewitched by the sheen on the ancient mahogany table and so started to dream wild dreams of opulence and grandeur.
“This is the Hill at Hepple. It is where we find our juniper, our water and our inspiration and we would like to bring it into the Goring’s garden.”
Jeremy Goring: “Yes fine but can you build a beautiful bar suitable for a five star hotel?”
Walter Ridell: “Well of course, we have our set-designer, barman, photographer, carpenter and builder colleague Flynn who quite serendipitously has the right sort of skills for that. Absolutely no problem.”
JG: “And serve the finest cocktails from it…”
VW: “We’ll start with our rather exquisite martini and design others that suit the season.”
JS: “And it would be rather fun to go on a botanical safari of all your gin botanicals around the bar…”
WR: “Clearly it would be a piece of cake to bring many of the live plants we harvest from at Hepple and fill your garden with their wild and heady aromas. Our rather innovative distillery methods mean we cold distil many of these locally harvested botanicals before combining them in our gin – so we have these and can show your guests just how accurately our distillery captures them as we romp through the Hepple plants in your garden.”
JG: “Did you say romp? Have I mentioned the sheep…?”
At this point we draw a veil over proceedings and open the curtain on Show-night, our press launch. The Sheep made it. But how about the rest of it?
We started two months before with a plan, made, like much else in this project, by Mr Flynn Warren:
After a quick phone call from Walter to myself, Flynn Warren, the brief was, well brief. Take Hepple, the wildness and moorland spirit of Northumberland, and seamlessly place it in the meticulously kept, and wonderful garden of the Goring Hotel, in London.
Having visited Hepple a number of times, inspiration came from the marvellous hill that stretches up into the sky from the distillery. Thick with heather and dotted with Juniper, the drystone wall dividing fields.
In the morning the sun rises over it and and in the evening it is washed with golden light. It evokes strong memories of Hepple, and it’s this that brought me to the design.
The structure though relatively simple, had to provide the support for, earth, stone, meadow grass and around 500 heather plants. So building a solid structure was of the utmost importance.
For the exterior, we used strips of wood, this created a modern and precise look, which worked well with the soft contours of the plants.
The Bar top is from a fallen oak near the distillery, it was cut on a tractor saw mill, sanded down, and oiled.
As well as building something to hold all that weight, I had to be aware of how mixing the modern lines of the bars structural geometry, juxtaposed the rough natural lines of nature.
The use of plants normally found in Northumberland, carefully mixed with other botanicals from the gin, softened those hard lines and created a wonderful contrast.
The dry stone wall was built by local builder Stephen Kidd, drystone extraordinaire, created a wall that was visually the same but safer and moveable…to some extent, the result was exquisite. We planted black currant against the wall, to replicate the way the blackcurrants grows, near the distillery in Hepple.
The curation and placing of the plants was of utmost importance. Walking in the hills at Hepple along with Walter’s experience, we planted in keeping with the nature of the moor. The use of rocks to break up the planting was very important. It simultaneously broke up the vegetation, and created features, that drew the eye up the structure to the heather at the peak.
The Bar integrates many aspects of Hepple, while simultaneously blending into a Classical English Garden. The botanicals in the gin surround the bar, and give the visitor a rare opportunity to enjoy some of the ingredients. This highlights the great journey that Hepple has undertaken to capture these flavours so perfectly, to create a well rounded, deliciously fresh and natural gin.
The Goring Gin Garden is open all summer – visit their web site for full details and the all important cocktail menu!