THE recent refurbishment of the historic Angels Hotel in Uddingston was much more than a facelift: the seven-month project transformed a venue that has become an institution in the town.
Angels was first purchased by Lisini Pub Co in 1979 and was sold, and then re-acquired by the company in the 1980s. Its two main areas – a lounge/restaurant and public bar – have become mainstays of the local community, and Angels enjoys a loyal customer base in the town as a result.
By last year, however, the building itself (the main section of which dates from 1906 and has been a licensed premises since the ’40s) was beginning to show signs of wear and tear. There were electrical and plumbing issues in the bar and the roof needed some attention.
Added to that, the popularity of the restaurant had created a need for additional covers, as well as a bigger kitchen.
People asked why we were closing our doors when we already had the customers.
And so Lisini, headed by Harry Hood, his daughters Lisa Wishart and Siobhan Edwards, son Nick and nephew Grant, decided it was time to give the venue a new lease of life.
The project would allow the team to breathe new life into the venue, while also, hopefully, providing an opportunity to broaden its appeal.
“Angels has always been really popular for food, and we knew we wanted to increase our covers,” Lisa told SLTN.
“And we thought that, if we were going to do a refurbishment, we might as well do an expansion. And then it grew arms and legs.”
The first part of the project focused on the refurbishment and expansion of the restaurant.
Created in conjunction with architect firm Bonar Associates, interior designer Dominic Paul of IBDP and contractor Hugh Stirling, the overhaul included the creation of a new glass-fronted conservatory section.
In addition to expanding the overall covers in the restaurant from 97 to 140, the creation of this new area has allowed more space for each table in the main restaurant, providing diners with better comfort and privacy. This is further enhanced by the introduction of new booths.
The addition of the conservatory section, and a brighter colour scheme in the restaurant overall, has resulted in a much warmer space than before.
As the restaurant is essentially a dual-purpose space, operating as a restaurant in the daytime and then a lounge bar in the evening, it was vital to get the design just right.
“The biggest challenge was to not alienate the existing customers, and to make sure they were absolutely catered for as well as opening up our offer to other customers,” said Lisa.
“We take our customers to heart so much.”
Back-of-house, the kitchen received a much-needed extension, and Lisini worked with Heineken to establish two separate beer cellars.
As extensive as the restaurant refurbishment was, however, it would prove to be relatively straightforward when compared to the bar.
Housed in the original, 1906 section of the building, the bar project was initially intended to be fairly minor remedial work.
Ultimately that would not prove to be the case.
“During the remedial works to the roof we found out the wrong render had been put on the side of the gable-end which, over time, meant the sandstone couldn’t breathe,” explained Siobhan.
“They’d covered up an old chimney. The builders could actually put their hands through the sandstone.
“It just sort of crumbled away.
“We had structural engineers in and it became massive remedial works. That knocked the budget for the roof out of the water.
“It had to be stripped back to nothing.”
And the roof wasn’t the only problem.
Removing the original bar-top the team found rot, firstly in the body of the bar and then in the floorboards.
“It (the floor) could have lasted ten, fifteen years,” said Siobhan.
“We could have patched it and hoped for the best, but we really believe in the integrity of what we’re doing as a business and ensuring future generations have this as an institution for the next hundred years.
“It was a massive and very costly overhaul.”
Refurbishing the original building has been a huge project, incorporating work on the roof and a new floor, new toilets and an extension which has added space to the bar as well as allowing for the creation of two new upstairs bedrooms and an office.
In total, the refurbishment has taken the better part of seven months, with the restaurant re-opening in early April and the newly-named Harry’s Bar opening to the public earlier this month.
That’s a long time for any business to be closed to its customers, but Siobhan insisted that the regulars have remained loyal to the venue.
She said: “My dad’s fear was always that they (the customers) would find another pub and be happy there.
“But, honestly, all the regulars are dying to come back.”
Lisa agreed, saying there has been “a great deal of local interest” in the refurb. The physical changes, extensive as they are, aren’t the only aspect of the business to have been given an overhaul.
Lisini also took the opportunity to revamp the restaurant menu and review the drinks ranges in both bars.
There was also a renewed focus on staff training.
“It was about the whole ethos of Angels,” said Siobhan.
“We wanted to retain what we had, but attract this demographic we weren’t currently getting, the 30 to 40 year olds, who have been going into town.
“So we invested an awful lot in training.
“Every single member of staff got over 70 hours of training before we opened.
“We had the Drinks Cabinet involved, we’ve had Diageo involved and Bibendum, who are our wine suppliers.
“It’s been about changing the look and feel of how we do things. And it’s paying dividends.”
The new and improved food menu has a greater focus on fresh, locally-sourced produce and a new ‘grill’ section facilitated by the installation of a charboiler, as well as a ‘classics’ list which includes all the favourites from before the refurb.
On the drinks side, meanwhile, there is a bigger focus on premium spirits, with a particular emphasis on Scottish gins sourced from a variety of wholesalers, while Heineken provides the draught selection (including Caledonian Brewery beers such as Coast to Coast) and wines are supplied by Bibendum.
The transformation of Angels has been a significant project for the company, but one the directors are understandably proud of.
“A lot of people asked why we were closing our doors and going through the hassle when we already had the customer base here,” said Lisa.
“But it needed it. It needed a fresh lease of life.”