By Graeme Murray
The Paper Mill in Lasswade, Midlothian, won the Family Outlet of the Year Award, in association with Britvic, at the SLTN Awards last November.
And the business partners behind it have big plans to add a functions and events space to the outlet next year.
The venue is the brainchild of Karen Calvert and David Johnston, whose vision was for a bar and restaurant with the same style and standards of a city centre venue, where customers who had been working in the capital during the week could come and relax with their families at weekends.
The pair, who have a wealth of experience in the trade (Karen spent almost 14 years as operations director for Edinburgh’s Montpeliers group, where David is development director) stumbled upon a former paper mill overlooking the River Esk in a conservation village on the outskirts of Edinburgh and immediately spotted its potential.
The business partners spent a long time transforming the property, which was facing demolition before they stepped in.
If you’ve been working all week in Edinburgh, the last thing you want to do is go into the city centre at the weekend.
Karen said: “We didn’t know the village at all, but it was green and leafy and we literally saw the site and went with our gut feeling.
“The building was an enormous challenge, it was originally an old mill and had a demolition order on it.
“But we fell in love with the site and both became involved in the project.”
The Paper Mill opened in 2010 after an extensive refurbishment, for which Karen and David employed the services of designer Jim Hamilton of Graven Images.
The result is a relaxed riverside bar and restaurant, whose interior features reclaimed materials and screen-printed artwork in a bid to reflect the building’s history and heritage.
The focus of the business has always been on being open and accessible to families, with Karen and David keen to create a destination that both adults and children would enjoy spending time in.
“If you’ve been working all week in Edinburgh, the last thing you want is to go into the city centre at the weekend,” said Karen.
“We wanted somewhere which was in the suburbs and was accessible to [families with] children.
“There are places you can go which are good for children, but are not good for adults.
“It was really about creating a place with a good food and drink offering where adults would want to spend some time too.”
The food and drink offer is a key element of The Paper Mill’s philosophy and is reflected in the “eat seasonal, meet local” slogan on menus.
An extensive world wine list and cocktail menu aimed at the weekend after-work market also competes for customers’ attention alongside Scottish craft beers from firms like Innis & Gunn and Stewart Brewing.
“We try and source all our ingredients locally,” said Karen.
“We sell a lot of craft beers at the moment, which are very in vogue and we serve beers from Stewart [Brewing] which is just a couple of miles up the road.
“Our Sunday roast is particularly popular with families at the weekend.
“We’ve had two beer festivals since we opened and offered hog roasts, which have also been very popular.”
Karen said a key part of the venue’s appeal to families has been its generous space, both inside and out.
There are places you can go which are good for children, but are not good for adults.
Since opening, The Paper Mill has hosted several larger outside events in marquees next to the mill building.
Now Karen and David aim to create a permanent events space.
Karen said: “On part of the Paper Mill site there is another building, which we are looking to convert into an events space.
“Our 2015 plans would be for a quality events space which has the same aesthetics as The Paper Mill.
“We will be looking to design it so it can be used for weddings, dinners, private functions and ceilidhs.”