A look at the work of a pub and restaurant designer

PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 October 2020

The gin school and still area at Manchester Gin

The gin school and still area at Manchester Gin

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What is in the plates – and on the walls, and seats and buildings – of restaurants is just as interesting as what on the menu for Manchester architect Patrick Thomas.

Ben HayesBen Hayes

It’s not just the food that creates an impression at a restaurant. Everything from the welcome, to the wallpaper and even down to the slates or carpet on the floor, shapes an idea of the dining experience to come. As diners, we have become accustomed to expecting more than just a stellar plate of food placed in front of us. As much as the provenance of the ingredients has become a crucial part of eating out, the traceability of the furnishings and fittings have also become a part of the restaurant experience.

That’s where Patrick Thomas comes in. He founded Manchester’s Up North Architects with Darren Keung four years ago, and takes that attention to detail one step further. The 50-year-old, who until launching his own practice worked on some of Manchester’s largest city developments, spends much of his time creating striking, individual and creative interiors for restaurants, cafes, pubs and delis across the region and further afield. He has worked on projects in Knightsbridge, including the buzzy Brompton Food Market and traditional London pub, The Hour Glass, a gorgeous 1930s building that he transformed from a tired boozer into a thriving neighbourhood pub.

It was as a student he first got the yearning for working on pubs and restaurants but it was when he ran North Star Deli in Chorlton with wife, Deanna, his passion for creating interiors for the hospitality industry was cemented.

‘It was having our own place that made me really get into the interiors side of architecture,’ says James. ‘I loved creating a space that people liked to be in and it spurred me on to leave my job and do more of that kind of work.’

He started working alone but as the jobs continued to roll in, he created Up North Architects with Darren. Together, they have worked on some of the region’s most exciting new restaurant and bar launches – think the Spirit of Manchester Distillery and its cocktail bar and restaurant, Three Little Words as well as the Northern Quarter’s Beatnikz from the talent behind the Manchester brewery, Beatnikz Republic.

Another was with James Ratcliffe and Nina Matsunaga, the creative culinary couple who transformed the then dilapidated but now multi award-winning 17th century Black Bull Inn at Sedbergh, also the recipient of a Lancashire Life Food and Drink Award, into the thriving, restaurant with rooms it is today. They worked with James and Nina to create traceability in every element of the project, from the connection to the local area – even the carpets were made using wool from local sheep – to the use of subtle Japanese influences to reflect chef Nina’s heritage.

‘We’d known James and Nina from Manchester, where they used to sell their fantastic street food at markets,’ says Patrick. ‘It was a brilliant project to work on. They have such an interesting heritage and back story and are great characters, it was exciting to bring that all together in one place. It was a fantastic project to work on with Bolton builders, Silverglide.

Three Little Words, ManchesterThree Little Words, Manchester

Patrick, who grew up in Liverpool and spent much of childhood travelling up the M6 to spend time on a dairy farm owned and run by several members of his family, now has other projects in his sights, including Lattsam, a new coffee shop and bar, the next venture from Beatnikz Republic, set to open later this year with more architectural work also in the planning.

‘I love being able to help businesses bring together their vision,’ says Patrick. ‘Creating something exciting, a space that people are going to share good times in and creating a new brand, is something I love. I feel lucky to do it.’

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