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The Art Of The Meal Restaurant Design Takes Centre Stage

The Art Of The Meal Restaurant Design Takes Centre Stage The Art Of The Meal Restaurant Design Takes Centre Stage

Not all designers are enthusiastic about this style, though. “There’s a knee-jerk reaction to the easy industrial-meets-hipster concept…It’s starting to look lazy,” says Kelly Dickinson, owner and Creative Director of The Stripe Collective, which has designed for Oxwell & Co, La Cantine and Sabio by the Sea.

But for now, connoisseurs of fine dining can feast their eyes on the centrepieces that hark back to 15th-century still-life paintings.

A mural by local artist Messymsxi adorns one of Whitegrass’ walls.

Taking pride of place on each table is a bowl of handcrafted ceramic apples that represents the restaurant’s emphasis on seasonal produce. “We wanted to do something to show that Masque is produce-centric,” says CEO Aditi Duggar, “[and have that] come across in the way we presented things. This was so that there is always newness when you come into Masque, because we keep evolving.”

“Our studio believes in a holistic approach to design, and we develop the architecture, interior and furniture specifically for each project,” says Takenouchi Webb co-founder Marc Webb, whose other projects include the Oriental-inspired Empress and colonial-style The White Rabbit.

For a restaurant to succeed, one would consider great food and an inviting ambience the primary ingredients for a winning recipe. But to sustain success in as fierce a dining scene as the one in Mumbai, adding a pinch of je ne sais quoi certainly helps to edge out the competition.

Outside Melbourne, finalists include the new fine diner Wickens at the Royal Mail in Dulkeld by Byrne Architects; the Mornington Peninsula’s slick and sultry Jackalope hotel by Carr; Goulburn Valley’s Mitchelton Winery Hotel by Hecker Guthrie; and Point Leo Estate in Merricks by Jolson Architecture & Interiors; and the glamorous, sculptural Domaine Chandon restaurant-spas in the Yarra Valley, designed by Foolscap Studio.

Victorian Design Takes Centre Stage at Australian Interior Design Awards

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“It has been a painstaking process, but a very satisfying one,” says Rohit. “We love the way Aditi pushes the envelope, in that the dining experience of Masque is not limited to just the amazing food.”

Be it a laid-back lunch or a fancy fine dining dinner, one can’t deny that a comfortable and stylish locale does make dining out a more pleasant affair. With this in mind, a number of restaurants in Singapore have turned to established design studios to create attractive yet functional spaces.

Rohit and Bhairavi mixed various clays to arrive at a composition that worked well for their artworks. They sculpted each apple by hand for a realistic look. The pieces were fired to bring out the warm tones. Finally, they were hand-painted using metallic acrylic colours. They even made some leaves to scatter around the apples for authenticity.

Industrial gets controversial Bread Street Kitchen is decked in industrial-chic elements such as a metallic brick wall and exposed pipes.

Mahalaxmi-based restaurant Masque—which was designed by Ashiesh Shah, and where renowned chef Prateek Sadhu advocates his farm-to-table philosophy—has earned its fair share of acclaim since it opened last year. But not one to rest on its laurels, the restaurant recently raised the bar for fine dining with a special artistic addition.

Step into any hipster-chic cafe and you’re bound to see any (or all) of the following: Rough brick walls, cement floors and exposed pipes. Even restaurants such as vegan joint Afterglow, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen and Indian eatery Zaffron Kitchen seem to have jumped on the bandwagon with stripped-down aesthetics.

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Finalists included the CBD’s new neon-lit Asian food hall HWKR, designed by Craig Tan Architects; the cathedral-like pizzeria Piccolino by Hachem; CBD bar Longsong by Jackson Clements Burrows Architects, which is in a repurposed former stable loft with soaring ceilings; Above Board by Chris James Studio; the Brunetti Flinders Lane flagship, which is replete with lots of metal, marble and terrazzo, by Technē Architecture + Design; Prahran Market’s Q Le Baker by Adele Bates; Fitzroy’s Bentwood cafe by Ritz & Ghougassian; Angus and Bon steakhouse by Bergman & Co.; and Ishizuka, the 16-seat Japanese fine diner by Russell & George.

Gorgeous interiors aside, a restaurant’s design must also take into account practical aspects such as kitchen service and comfortable seating. “Where the service stations are, the flow in and out of the kitchen, and the spacing of the dining tables —  all these things are critical to a guest’s dining experience. We have to get this right and integrated with the overall design for the whole experience to be successful,” says Webb. Holley shares the same sentiment, adding that “materiality, detail, lighting and acoustics are equally important” to the overall dining experience.

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Indeed, there’s more off-menu orders to come: in early 2018, Masque will retail its own line of tableware handcrafted by Curators of Clay. The tableware will be based on Japanese minimalism—the result of Rohit’s upcoming apprenticeship under a Japanese master craftsman in the ceramic city of Seto.

The latter is modelled after an English modernist brasserie, and juxtaposes luxurious materials such pink marble, natural saddle leather and polished brass with casual linoleum table tops and rustic timber panelling. “The design focuses on craftsmanship, while embedding the space within the historic context of Shoreditch in London, where it’s located,” says the firm’s director Holley.

Universal Design Studio is also dedicated to using handcrafted and specially curated elements in its works. Its concept for Odette showcases a whimsical art installation by local artist Dawn Ng, while its design for UK restaurant Hoi Polloi contains materials inspired by East London’s “longstanding role as a historic home to skilled trades and manufacturing”.

At Zaffron Kitchen, industrial decor is contrasted with quirky orange chairs and retro tiles.

One of the strongest categories this year for Victoria was residential design, which clocked 28 finalists from the state. Other categories in the awards include installation design, public design, residential decoration and workplace design.

According to Dickinson, who runs The Stripe Collective, a restaurant should be designed to create an immersive dining experience. “How a patron feels when he enters, the immediate sensory experience, what he sits on, sees around him, eats off – all are important staging for the food they are going to eat.  And for bringing them back again.”

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Takenouchii Webb’s design for Whitegrass was inspired by Caldwell House’s heritage as a magistrate’s clerk’s office.

“Based on Aditi’s brief, we decided to narrate Masque’s story through a tableau of apples in different stages of its existence—fresh, oxidized, decaying. We chose apples because of the apple being the mythical forbidden fruit,” says Rohit, adding, “Prateek is from Kashmir, so apples are close to his heart.”

An old favourite in new clothes caught the jury’s attention, too. Cutler & Co.’s reference-mixing, synaesthesia-inspired reinvention in a century-old metalworks factory by IF Architecture also made the list.

Customised details are also present in Takenouchi Webb’s design for Whitegrass, which includes a wall mural by local artist Messymsxi. Her mural “incorporates the chef’s ideas of food and nature” by featuring animals, plants and herbs, and injects a dash of quirkiness into the restaurant’s sophisticated interiors. “If we could pin-point one of the many restaurant design trends, there has been a move more towards the hand-made, the natural and a greater awareness of quality in both interiors and the cuisine,” says Webb.

Pastels, terrazzo and brass fixtures form a picture of refined elegance at Odette.

Local firm Takenouchi Webb was guided by similar principles when it designed the interiors of Modern Australian restaurant Whitegrass. As the establishment is situated in Chjimes’ Caldwell House — a historical building constructed in 1840 for a magistrate’s clerk — the designers decided to create a concept befitting of its rich heritage.

There are several factors that contribute to a memorable dining experience. After all, everyone wants to feel pampered and get their buck’s worth when they eat out. But one integral aspect is the design of the restaurant itself.

Judges selected a number of projects from Melbourne as well as interiors in United Kingdom and China designed by Melbourne-based firms.

“The restaurant was conceived as a romantic tribute to chef Royer’s grandmother, Odette, who was the inspiration behind his career. So it was foreseen as a feminine and timeless space which feels elegant but human at the same time,” says company director Jason Holley.

“Every detail — down to the historical family photos — take the diner into the New York deli world, which enhances their enjoyment,” explains Dickinson.

In the hospitality category, which includes hotels, bars, cafes and restaurants, Victorian projects dominated, accounting for more than half of the shortlist.

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Popular design concepts include heritage-inspired spaces and the industrial-chic style with exposed structures. We spoke to four prominent design firms to find out more about these trends, and how important is design to the dining experience.

“Over the past four to five years, we have seen an increase in industrial and raw design…We expect that this will be trendy for a while more,” says Jerlyn Poh, founder and Chief Designer of JP Concept, which designed Zaffron Kitchen’s interiors. “One important reason for this is that it’s more economical to construct,” adds the designer.

To do this, they segmented the restaurant into various dining rooms that were similar in style but with “subtle differences in the colour palette, furniture and materials to differentiate each space” and added brass, marble and timber — elements that were present in the historical building.

To achieve this, Holley used dainty pastel hues, pink terrazzo marble and bold brass accents to create a space that was classically beautiful without being overly formal and straight-laced. “[Odette] is based around a direct dialogue with its location and culture,” he adds.

The winners of the 2018 Australian Interior Design Awards will be announced over a three-course dinner at the Hyatt Regency in Sydney on Friday May 25. The full shortlist is here.

To achieve this, some firms have turned to incorporating handcrafted or customised details into their projects. Take for instance, The Stripe Collective’s work on Sacha & Sons, a New York-inspired deli at Mandarin Gallery. The eatery is adorned with handmade elements such as aqua blue tiles on a counter top, while old black and white photos line a wall.

Design, Dining, Hoi Polloi, JP Concept, Odette, Restaurant design, Restaurants, Sacha & Sons, Takenouchi Webb, The Stripe Collective, Universal Design Studio, Whitegrass, Zaffron Kitchen

Even further afield, Cremorne’s Biasol was shortlisted for its Budapest Café in China’s Sichuan province, which looked to Melbourne’s cafe culture for inspiration, and Prahran’s The Stella Collective was nominated for its interiors at Redroaster café in Brighton in the UK.

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Furnished with exposed brick walls and suspended lamps, Zaffron Kitchen is unabashedly industrial, but gets a dash of glam thanks to the addition of quirky orange chairs and retro floor tiles. “The restaurant has a cosmopolitan and laid-back industrial ambience, with an eclectic mix of furniture and different segments of dining space,” explains Poh, whose firm has also worked on the interiors of Forlino, Garibaldi and La Braceria.

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To design and make the centrepieces, Duggar turned to Curators of Clay, the Pune-based pottery studio with whom the restaurant had previously collaborated. Headed by Rohit Kulkarni and Bhairavi Naik, the studio designed and manufactured all the tableware for the restaurant, and was the obvious choice when it came to creating custom table decor.

Hoi Polloi’s design is inspired by an English modernist brasserie and features brass, timber and leather accents.Ensuring that form meets function

From its handmade tiles to antique photos lining the wall, Sacha & Sons’ beauty lies in its decorative details.

Ultimately, designers are committed to creating spaces where patrons can savour not just the cuisine, but the complete experience of dining out. “When you go to a restaurant, there is a sense of theatre and occasion that is emphasised by the interior design,” says Webb. “It’s not just about the food, but also the interiors, service and music.”

In retail, Melbourne finalists represented projects of all scales, from The Daily Edited’s pink and curvaceous Melbourne flagship by Pattern Studio, to NH Architecture’s design for the luxury offering at the T2 departures terminal at Melbourne Airport. Also shortlisted were Chris Connell Design for shoe store L’eclisse; Cox Architecture for Masons in Flinders Lane; Karen Abernethy for Craft; Russell & George for Space & Time; and Studio Edwards for Left.

Designers are also looking to the restaurant’s venue, history and cuisine as major influences on the concept. Take for instance, London-based firm Universal Design Studio’s work on Odette, which was inspired by Chef Julien Royer’s personal experiences and refined food.

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The 2018 finalists of the globe-spanning Australian Interior Design Awards are in, and Victorian practices and projects represent a hefty slice of the shortlist.

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