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Transforming the Dunmuir

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Between them Philip and Lesley Mellor have 50 years experience in the hotel and hospitality industry – and it shows! Since acquiring the Dunmuir Hotel in the historic seaside town of Dunbar, a quarter of a million pounds renovation project spanning six months has created an elegant, comfortable and versatile venue for business and pleasure.

The Dunmuir Hotel in Dunbar, Scotland, has gone through a huge transformation in the past 15 months since husband and wife team Philip and Lesley Mellor walked through the door in March 2014. “There were holes in the ceiling, the downstairs bedrooms were waterlogged with sodden carpets and the whole building had been stripped bare. We were told to expect a burst pipe – this was a whole lot more than we bargained for!” Philip told Heather McLean and I as we enjoyed coffee and homemade shortbread in the cosy boutique lounge bar. “It’s been a lot of work but we’re proud of the results”.

Philip and Lesley were looking for a challenge, and they certainly got one. Philip had worked within the Menzies Hotel Group in Glasgow for 16 years, starting as GM in the smallest hotel in the group and working his way up to hold the position of Regional Operations Manager for Scotland. Lesley has a history in hospitality, training at Glasgow Caledonian University, going on to work in housekeeping in the Edinburgh hotels. Their combined expertise and passion inspired them to start looking for a project of their own.

Finding the right location was very important. Philip and Lesley looked from England to the Highlands of Scotland, narrowly missing out on two sites before visiting the Dunmuir in 2014. They saw beyond the empty shell, unused for the previous two years, and their vision was created.

 

There’s certainly a lot to be proud of. Originally known as The Goldenstones, the hotel and function room on this site is fondly remembered by the local community. Commemorating the history of the hotel and the town has been important to the Mellors, and they have renamed their refurbished function suite The Goldenstones in tribute to the original hotel. The name of the hotel itself, The Dunmuir, is a combination of the name of the town and a famous naturalist born in the town in 1838, John Muir, who championed the creation of National Parks in the USA, most notably Yosemite National Park.

The aim was to open an upmarket venue at four-star standard, to fill a much needed gap in the local area. The Goldenstones suite was essential as no other venue in the area has function space of this size. The fact that the Mellors could rebuild from scratch allowed them to make their own mark on the outlet, which caters to both the corporate and leisure market with accommodation, and boasts a premium food offering in the destination restaurant. Food and wine is a priority and is of the highest quality. The local community has always been a key market for the hotel; local suppliers are advertised in the hotel’s wedding brochure, regular events are hosted for locals in the function suite and they were invited round for mulled wine and mince pies at Christmas time.

A sense of history and place is reflected in the menu at Dunmuir, with local producers championed by head chef Gavin, who has extensive experience in the local area ranging from a hotel in Peebles to the prestigious Prestonfield House Hotel.

To help create the food menu, the team at Dunmuir gathered all the menus from local competition to compare. A seasonal offering is important; the menu changes in summer and winter and the wine list changes to match this. The large offering of wine both by the glass and by the bottle helps consumers vary their choice.

 

In putting together the wine list, Chef Gavin and Philip worked closely with Matthew Clarks own Heather McLean. “We discussed with her the brief of wanting to be different and to match the wines to our food and to have them printed on the menu. Heather rose to the challenge and personally took this on and ensured that every course was perfectly matched, we have been delighted with the results.”

The rotating ‘Wine of The Season’ offer has kept the wine range fresh for regulars; “Heather’s first choice was outstanding – the Flagstone range which went perfectly with our new 1902 Grill restaurant theme. Heather even enlisted the help of the producer to organise a tasting, it was a great success, so much so two of those wines have now ended up on the main hotel list.”

The current seasonal wine range, Starve Dog Lane, is again proving extremely popular. The Wine of the Season offering is also paired with dishes on the food menu to tempt Philip’s customers to buy through the range, not just on price. “Heather brings huge passion and great level of expertise to her work and it has been a pleasure to work with her, we have already started to look at our next seasons wine! We cannot thank Heather enough – being a small family business we did not think we could outperform the big boys, but with her help we have achieved that!”

The menu changes in summer and winter and the wine list changes to match this. The large offering of wine both by the glass and by the bottle helps consumers vary their choice

By Sophie Birkbeck

Having climbed to number one on Trip Advisor for the area in just six months, what’s next for the Mellors and the Dunmuir Hotel? “We are going for some awards this year; we’ve entered the Taste of East Lothian Awards and will continue to develop our food and wine offering”, Philip told us.

They have recently created a separate brand for the restaurant, 1902 Bar & Grill, to showcase the food available, reviews so far are five-star on Trip Advisor.

The ultimate aim? “To be first choice to the customer.” Given one of the recent comments from the local community, I think the Dunmuir is well on the way to achieving this accolade; “This used to be the venue of choice, it’s nice to see it back and better than before”.

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