Mike Gooley, owner of Trailfinders travel agents, didn’t intend to become a restaurateur. It happened after he returned from a holiday to find his favourite bar had shut down and the premises for sale. Gooley drafted in his regular consultant Adam Rawls Associates to “smarten up” the site just off London’s High Street Kensington. “We said we would do it but it needs a bit more than that,” comments consultancy managing director Adam Rawls.
So they completely reconfigured the space into a front bar area, restaurant and kitchen at the back which is viewed by customers through a large oval window. To create an “organic feel”, reclaimed and burnt timber combined with metalwork were chosen as finishes. “It has a medieval feel which is actually quite crisp,” adds Rawls. Gooley’s brief was pretty open – he wanted a bar that would appeal to 19- to 90-year-olds and left Rawls to put the team together and come up with the concept in consultation with general manager Caroline Scott.
The hard part was interpreting Scott’s ideas for the site. “I was definite about what I wanted but trying to convey that was very difficult. The first presentation could not have been further away from what I wanted,” she recalls.
“It was quite frustrating at the beginning until I’d built up a good relationship with the team. It was very much as if I was the caterer and they were the designer.” She says her ideas for a conservatory feel were initially interpreted in a loud, modern way, but she is “very happy” with the end result which she describes as “rustic and modern”.
Scott feels any problems arising from the project were probably caused because she had never briefed designers before and it was Adam Rawls’ first restaurant. “We should have spent more time discussing it in the early stages and not left them on their own so much,” she states.
Rawls explains the project “stemmed out of a very good client relationship where the client trusted us. We’ve worked with him for seven years”. If the venture proves successful, there could well be more Goolies opening up.