Historic secrets revealed as £3.5 million Gloucester Food Dock prepares for first opening

It's a hive of activity at Gloucester Food Dock as Hop Kettle Brewery Tap Room prepares to open its doors next week — and there are plenty of secrets in other foodie hotspots waiting to be discovered, from pieces of legendary film history to a hideaway speakeasy bar....

By Emma Luther  |  Published

After being in the pipeline since 2016, the £3.5 million Gloucester Food Dock is bursting to life with a host of final flourishing touches bringing the historic four-storey dockside building alive.

Eight independent food and drink spots have been confirmed to open this year including Hop Kettle Brewery Tap RoomSibling GinWholly GelatoStrip Steak Bar, Mexican and Tex Mex Elote, artisan pizza business Bella Mia, burger specialists Chuck and Hetty’s Place and six more will be revealed in coming months.

First to open is Hop Kettle Brewery Tap Room on Friday 13 October 2023. SoGlos took a look at the last pieces slotting in to place as well as discovering how the site is springing to life with seven new venues preparing for their openings in November 2023.

The first impression on the buzzing site is the wow factor of the incredible views across the docks. Light pours into the space and the intriguing rich history of the mid-19th century building — from beautiful old beams to raw exposed brickwork — creates a beguiling ambiance.

Much of the building's history is being restored and respected — from old wooden banisters to rediscovered arches and alcoves, yet there's a fresh modern feel with skinny wood-panelled walls, pale pink shimmering tiles and elegant hanging lamps, along with zingy fresh signage.

Excitement levels are high among the team putting in the finishing touches and there's a huge sense of energy and purpose.

Down on the quayside level, Bella Mia is preparing for an early November opening for its cocktail and pizza place.

Inside an arched vault at the back of its new base lies a sliding green door with a secret mirrored window — behind which sits a reclaimed oak floor from the original set of the 1964 Mary Poppins film — brought to Gloucester from Westminster.

It'll soon be home to a 1920s Gatsby-inspired cocktail lounge - packed full of vibrant yellow, pink and green vintage furniture.

Co-owner Jake O'Malley said: 'We're really excited to be getting closer to our opening date, it's been a long time coming. We're loving creating a place where we know people will feel at home and have a great time.'

Next door, Strip Steak and Elote are creating a Mexican feel in their interior design, with shades of terracotta and a host of plants that customers will be able to buy. They're also working with Gloucester Brewery to create a colourful beer wall.

Chuck Burger is the next addition to the quayside, bringing a sustainable meat offering to the area with burgers from older animals which are nearing the natural end of their lives.

The old yacht club space that completes the quayside units is yet to be filled but an announcement on the firm filling it is expected within weeks.

Up on the deck level, there's a sweet little corner unit for Wholly Gelato — with floor-to-ceiling windows, incredible views and space for a milk vending machine as well as tables overlooking the water. Soon to come are LED lights and cow logos for the windows.

Its neighbour is Hetty's Place — nicknamed the goldfish bowl for its fantastic views, including the gold tank on the steps of The Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum — gives a fresh perspective of Gloucester Docks, with views few will ever have seen before.

Terracotta awnings are being put in place at Sibling's Our House gin and cocktail bar and a covered outdoor area will be shared between Hetty's Place and Hop Kettle for alfresco food and drinks.

The deck level open kitchen dining area of Hop Kettle leads up to Commercial Road bringing with it views of Gloucester Cathedral as well as the docks.

And the refit leads even further up to its third floor which will soon be full of long tables and a space for comedy nights.

Sarah Mansfield, co-founder of Bath-based Ladybellegate Estates which owns the property, said: 'We see huge potential in Gloucester. Restoring and saving the building has been big work. Building the new deck and quayside area underneath has taken a while but we believe we've got exactly the right concept; and it's not just right for us — we think it's right for Gloucester too.

'It's been a long journey but we've stuck with it because we really believe in it. Gloucester deserves and needs something like the Food Dock.

'With the Forum development, the University of Gloucestershire's city centre campus in the old Debenhams and the revamp of Kings Square, the city is coming back to life.

'We believe in the ambition of Gloucester and the Food Dock is in exactly the right place.'

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