Table talk

by agwelch

From New Design 106

Winning entries from the Restaurant and Bar Design Awards display excellence and creativity in interior design

Read a restaurant review in a Sunday supplement or a report on the latest London bar in Time Out and often you’ll find the critic spilling just as much ink on the standard of the establishment’s decor as the quality of its grub and booze. The modern day bon viveur expects a venue’s architecture or interior design to contribute to their experience; indeed certain eateries have become popular destinations on account of their innovative take on bricks and mortar as well as bangers and mash.

Tramshed, London, including art by Damien Hirst

Tramshed, London, including art by Damien Hirst

With some of the world’s foremost architectural and design practices working on catering spaces it is a real pleasure each year to peruse the winning work from the Restaurant and Bar Design Awards. The standard of design and execution is consistently high – of course this year has been no exception.

Atrium Champagne Bar, London

Atrium Champagne Bar, London

Pleasingly, the Awards do not only consider higher-end, exclusive establishments – the sort of place that may very well be breathtaking but good luck seeing it without waiting months for a reservation if you lack the right connections. It’s great that the general diner (or drinker) can see first hand the winning venues (geography permitting, naturally). Luxury is in evidence with the likes of the Atrium Champagne Bar (best restaurant or bar in a hotel and overall best bar winner) offering the highest in terms of refinement and sophistication. Nevertheless, the more popular, more casual end of the spectrum is well represented with Blacksheep’s interior for the Gatwick Airport branch of Jamie’s Italian claiming victory in the best restaurant or bar in a transport space category and Softroom’s design for the Mexican streetfood chain Wahaca – housing the Southbank branch in upcycled shipping containers – chosen as best pop up.

Jamie's Italian, Gatwick

Jamie’s Italian, Gatwick

The Awards, now having completed its fifth cycle attracted 670 entries from around the globe with winners selected by a judging panel that included David Kester, the former chief executive of the Design Council, Wolff Olins creative director Sandy Suffield, and the Times restaurant critic Giles Coren.

The jury selects winners across a range of categories for both UK and international entries. Furthermore, two overall champions, one restaurant and one bar, are selected as the best of the best in their respective categories. 2013 saw Höst (Copenhagen, Denmark) by Norm Architects take the best restaurant with the Atrium Champagne Bar (ME Hotel, London) by Foster and Partners the best bar.

Wahaca, Southbank, best pop up

Wahaca, Southbank, best pop up

The Höst interior looks to combine those traditional Scandinavian qualities of cosiness and minimalism by incorporating weathered materials such as recycled wooden planks and pallets. A private dining area at the back of the restaurant is screened by wooden shelving units whilst salvaged window frames line the edge of the conservatory. The designers Norm Architects additionally created a bespoke tableware collection for the restaurant in addition to designing seating and lighting materials.

“Höst is rustic gone simplistic. Rural gone urban. Past gone contemporary,” explain the designers. “In the kitchen traditional ingredients are combined with the visions characterizing New Nordic cuisine. And in the restaurant green plants, woollen blankets and the warmth of used wooden planks soften and complement the no-nonsense architectural aesthetic.”

Höst, Copenhagen, best overall restaurant

Höst, Copenhagen, best overall restaurant

Located within the five star ME Hotel (London), the Atrium Champagne Bar exudes refinement and style in its clean lines and bold architectural form. Guests pass through the ground floor lounge before ascending to the champagne bar on the first floor. The bar itself is housed within a nine-story pyramid, clad entirely in white marble, with a highly reflective black granite polished floor.

Forster and Partners were responsible for the design of not only the champagne bar but the entire hotel – as such they were free to create the dramatic interior space with its striking geometry. Furnishings are minimalist so as not to detract from the 80 foot high top-lit space and projections – giant jellyfish rising from the depths of the sea – animate the marble cladding, celebrating the scale of the space.

Atrium Champagne Bar, best overall bar

Atrium Champagne Bar, best overall bar

“The pyramidal atrium is a dramatic space, central to the hotel’s design – it is the triangular core of a triangular site,” adds Giles Robinson of Foster and Partners. “But it is more than a focal point for guests when they arrive and depart, it is another part of the hotel to be enjoyed, with the champagne bar and luxurious seating, where guests can recline and watch immersive projections transform the marble walls.”

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