AFTER 17 days closed - The Niche Restaurant at Irvine's harbourside is finally about to re-open.

The venue closed at the beginning of this month as they prepared to undergo a refurbishment.

And as the popular eatery prepares to re-open, at 9am tomorrow (Thursday, February 23), the question has been - what changes can we expect to see?

And the Times have now learned what customers can expect when they return to the Montgomery Street restuarant.

Ahead of the big day, we spoke to business proprietor Colin Malcher as the finishing touches were added to The Niche.

He said they "will be ready to rock and roll" tomorrow and is delighted to be welcoming customers back.

So what can they expect to see? One of the key differences will be just how many customers can enjoy the restaurant.

Colin explained: “The main challenge before was being such a small busy restaurant with only nine tables.

“When it was busy, there was a lot of folk that couldn’t get tables or had to go somewhere else.

“The main opportunity we’ve now got is we can welcome more customers in, we can take more bookings or take more walk-ins.”

Overall, the restaurant has nearly doubled in capacity. While only nine tables were available inside previously, the new space will allow for a total of 16.

So how have exactly have they done this? Well the old outdoor seating area has now been transformed into open plan extension area, with part of the wall which used to separate this from the main restaurant floor now removed.

The additional space has also allowed The Niche to increase the space their talented chefs work in.

Colin commented: “As you walk into the main shop floor, initially it’s just been repainted, there’s been a few wee amendments and a couple wee upgrades.

“We’ve ripped the full kitchen apart, and we’ve re-wired the full thing, re-turned it all, got new floors, new walls and new ceilings.

“The main thing is where the external day blend wall used to be, that’s been taken away and we’ve had to put massive beams in to support the chimney.

“That’s going to open up into a big open plan extension area.

“It’s just so it’s usable all year round, as you know, Scottish weather is nice when it’s nice but that’s a rarity unfortunately.”

And despite the loss of the former outdoor seating area, plans are in place to ensure this is replaced.

Cloin explained: “We’ve got permission for seating at the front of the restaurant, dogs are still welcome to go there.

“We’ve got a licence for that so people are welcome to have a nice glass of wine or a cocktail out there as well.

“It’s beautiful, we get the sun right through, it’s a good wee bit to catch the sun.”

While internally, the restaurant will be completely "ready to rock and roll" tomorrow, external alterations will take a further week to complete.

It has been a long couple of weeks closed for the Niche, and now staff can't wait to be back.

Colin added: "The turnaround has been incredible, we’ve only been shut for 16 days so far.

“Since the day we closed it’s just been constant day and night with tradesmen in and they’ve all done a fantastic job.

"It’s looking good, I’m really excited about it, I’m really proud of what we’ve done.

“All the staff are so excited to come back to work, they’ve enjoyed the time off but they’re more than ready now to come back and put a shift in again.”

Keep an eye out in the Times for a look inside The Niche, following its refurb, in the coming days.