Country Fantasy, City Style
For Stan Topol, designing a new restaurant at Serenbe—the preservation-centered residential community in the Chattahoochee Hill Country south of Atlanta—was like going home again.
Serenbe founder Steve Nygren recruited the Atlanta interior designer based on a friendship dating to the 1970s, when Topol designed several of Nygren’s Peasant Group restaurants. At the same time, the designer, who cut his professional teeth assisting the legendary Billy Baldwin, believed Atlanta’s culinary scene was in much need of a makeover—a few sleek high-rise restaurants go a long way, he thought. Sure, Atlanta may have grown up from its railroad-town roots to become a cosmopolitan adult, but dang it, this is, after all, still the South.
“I believe people in Atlanta are ready for a change,” Topol says, “so I began to fantasize.” The result is The Hil on the Hill—a throwback to Southern, small-town life that complements the farm-to-table menu concept of executive chef/owner Hilary White, formerly of 103 West acclaim. “I wanted to create something worthy of Hilary but also a place where people would feel comfortable,” Topol says.
The restaurant’s owner and executive chef, Hilary White, relishes harvesting fresh ingredients daily from Serenbe’s organic farm. The farm-to-table produce drives her menus.
The Hil’s quaint lobby, dressed in a Rose Tarlow wallpaper, lends a cottagey feel, while glossy scored-concrete floors give the space an edge. Rose Tarlow through Ainsworth-Noah, ADAC, (404) 231-8787. Painting, Dana Johns through Anne Irwin Fine Art, (404) 352-1855.
In his dream world, The Hil is an eatery that started out small—maybe in someone’s house, as the restaurant’s charming lobby appears—and as business grew, was expanded to create a 100-seat dining room in an old ladies’ apparel store next door. And with even more success the owners attached an old storage barn, which now serves as a rustic cocktail lounge. “I wanted everything to look unplanned,” Topol says, “like these people were forced to add on and on and on over the years.”
The concept begins with the exterior, which fronts a village-like street of shops in the Selborne hamlet of Serenbe, which includes two other restaurants: the Blue-Eyed Daisy Bakeshop and The Farmhouse. Two colors of brick form a façade resembling two buildings joined as one.
Indoors, Topol emphasized reclaimed materials, such as tin ceilings from an old store and heart pine planks from a factory floor. He even incorporated salvaged windows from Agnes Scott College in the brick wall separating the bar from the dining room.
Then the designer juxtaposed that Old South patina with a little jazz—high-gloss, scored-concrete floors in the bar, railroad-striped upholstery on the banquettes. Those sophisticated touches lend a European flair fitting of White’s French-American cuisine, driven by fresh ingredients harvested daily from Serenbe’s organic farms.
“For a chef, this is so refreshing,” says White, who opened her door in August. “It’s inspiring to have such an incredible farm in the restaurant’s back yard. You’re kind of at the whim of the farm, which is amazing.”
It’s an element of surprise that forms a perfect match for Topol’s “unplanned” interior—even if one borne from sheer fantasy. “It’s nice to be able conjure up something like this in your brain and then build it,” the designer says. Maybe one can go home again after all.
The Hil at Serenbe is open for dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and for brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, , (770) 463-6040,
French-style chairs form comfortable seating in the dining room, where Dutch doors open to a patio area. Mirror, Ainsworth-Noah. Pendant light, Circa Lighting, (404) 233-4131
Old baskets, photographs and reclaimed oak floors give the dining room and lobby an aged patina, while the front facade was designed as if two buildings were joined into one.