Celebrity chef's Winchester restaurant taking shape

The new River Cottage will feature a bar area upstairs, with the kitchen downstairs

The £1 million revamp is starting to take shape

Paul Valla at work on a stairwell on site at the Abbey Mill

First published in News Hampshire Chronicle: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

THE £1 million revamp of one of Winchester’s most anticipated restaurants is taking shape.

Builders, architects and structural engineers have been working furiously preparing the historic Abbey Mill for its new proprietor River Cottage due to open in June.

The eatery will be partly open plan on the ground floor with an open kitchen, a separate bar area on the second floor with another dining area and toilets to the back, and an area for private dining and staff area on the top floor. It will also have an outdoor seating area facing the park near the sluice which has been turned into a bridge.

Kevin Warren, head of estates at Winchester City Council, said: “By the end of April we will have finished ready for River Cottage to come in. You’ll be able to see through the whole building.

“All the windows have been restored back to their historic state; it’s been quite a job but the builders are working right on programme. It was in a really bad state when we first came in, right at the end of its tether. Part of it was used for offices, partitioned into different sections, but you couldn’t see any of the building but now we’ve returned to the state it was when it was a mill.”

The rebuild is expected to have cost somewhere in the region of £1m.

The building of the restaurant has also featured the use of some high-tech gadgetry. Part of the building will be used to house a specialist plant which uses ultraviolet and infrared to combat excessive light emissions as well as smells from the kitchen.

Specialist contractors were also brought in to fight problems caused by the floods which caused a leak in part of the building when the river reached its peak. The firm, Oxford Hydro Technics, used a dye to locate the the leak and injected a product called epoxy into the cracks which turned into foam when it made contact with the water sealing it.

“We think there was a mill here going back to Roman times, or so it’s mentioned in various old documents,” Mr Warren added. “A lot of the mill is very old, part of it we believe dates back to around 1700 so we had quite a lot of work to do. It was very close to actually being unusable. If it had been left for another 18 months I think it would have had it.

“Working on something like this you really get the enjoyment of seeing something unfold before you. It’s great when you see the finished project and you can say to yourself, ‘I did that’.

“All the workman have taken so much pleasure in this job. From the council’s point of view they’re really keen to maintain the heritage of the city and, even from a layman’s eye, you can see that an awful lot of work has gone into making this place something

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