De­signs on fine din­ing:

This week Ge­orgina Safe speaks to Aus­tralia’s most in-de­mand res­tau­rant de­sign­ers.

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - CONTENTS -

When chef An­drew McCon­nell re­fur­bished his fine din­ing res­tau­rant Cut­ler & Co in Mel­bourne last year, he drew on the un­usual con­cept of synaes­the­sia, whereby one sense en­gages an­other, such as when see­ing an ob­ject or a colour trig­gers a sound or smell.

“Some chefs be­lieve it’s all about the food, but it’s not,” says McCon­nell. “What’s re­ally im­por­tant is the built en­vi­ron­ment and how it makes you feel be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter,” he says.

In McCon­nell’s Fitzroy din­ing room, synaes­the­sia meant us­ing mar­ble and crys­talline-glazed doors in the bar to evoke salti­ness as oys­ters were served with cham­pagne, and rich mossy suede ban­quettes and earthy leather in the din­ing room to trig­ger herba­ceous and spicy flavours over roast suck­ling pig with Ja­panese turnips, shi­itake and mus­tard leaf. Cre­ated by Iva Foschia of IF Ar­chi­tec­ture, the re­design was about shap­ing an al­most vis­ceral ex­pe­ri­ence far be­yond the food.

“We wanted to cre­ate a multi-sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence that is about what you look at,what you hear,what you touch and what you smell – as well as what you taste,” says McCon­nell. “We want you to be stim­u­lated be­fore you start eat­ing.”

McCon­nell and Foschia are not alone in el­e­vat­ing res­tau­rant in­te­ri­ors to an art form. Cov­eted by res­tau­rant groups, chefs and bou­tique op­er­a­tors, the na­tion’s hottest res­tau­rant ar­chi­tects, stylists and in­te­rior de­sign­ers are set­ting food trends, in­creas­ing turnover, and – above all – mak­ing eat­ing out more ex­cit­ing.

“Res­tau­rant de­sign has be­come crit­i­cal to the din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and the stan­dard is now so high that even the most ca­sual place has to have a strong per­son­al­ity,” says de­li­cious. edi­tor-inchief Ker­rie McCal­lum.“This is thanks to a raft of for­ward-think­ing res­tau­rant de­sign­ers who have taken eat­ing out into a new strato­sphere of fash­ion meets func­tion­al­ity meets food and de­sign.”

Hav­ing worked with co-own­ers Brent Sav­age and Nick Hilde­brandt on their Syd­ney restau­rants Yel­low and Monopole, de­signer Pas­cale GomesMcNabb most re­cently worked on their ac­claimed Cir­rus Din­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tion with ar­chi­tec­ture firm Ter­roir. Its soar­ing glass faÇade and sus­pended tim­ber screens are breath­tak­ing, but Gomes-McNabb stops short of declar­ing it her favourite project: “A bit like choos­ing a favourite child, it’s ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to choose one over an­other.” It’s the process she en­joys: “the un­furl­ing of ideas and cre­at­ing de­sign so­lu­tions – it’s ex­tremely re­ward­ing.”

Gomes-McNabb, Iva Foschia,Amanda Tal­bot, and Ge­orge Livis­sia­nis are among the high-pro­file in­te­ri­ors spe­cial­ists prov­ing de­sign can do as much for a venue as good food and drinks, but cre­at­ing a re­mark­able res­tau­rant fit-out is any­thing but easy .Work­flow, kitchen re­quire­ments, noise, safety, even so­cial me­dia are all con­sid­er­a­tions.

“It’s all about putting the cus­tomer first,” says Tal­bot,who has mag­icked Merivale prop­er­ties all over Syd­ney, in­clud­ing Bert’s, Fred’s, Queens Ho­tel and Coogee Pav­il­ion. “You want them to have fun, com­fort, a sense of dis­cov­ery.”

For Bert’s Bar & Brasserie at The New­port,which Tal­bot worked on with Kelvin Ho of Akin Cre­ative, it was about telling a story: “I came up with the idea that the gar­dens be­longed to an Ital­ian from the Amalfi Coast in the 1930s who had moved to New­port,” she says.

“He set up this place that was about the good life – and that’s the brief we worked to. Cre­ate that story [and] peo­ple are trans­ported. It be­comes time­less.”

It’s clear Tal­bot and Ho – who also worked on Syd­ney eater­ies Ms.G’s and El Loco – are a dream team.

“The work [they’ve] been do­ing with Merivale is ground-break­ing and has taken us in a new and, I have to say, very New York-meets-north­ern Europe, di­rec­tion,” says in­te­ri­ors ex­pert and The

Block judge Neale Whi­taker,who also rates Livis­sia­nis, the in­te­rior architect be­hind a num­ber of Syd­ney venues. Livis­sia­nis re­quested a one-sen­tence brief for The Apollo, Cho Cho San and Bondi Beach Pub­lic Bar: “Of­ten there’s a sin­gle re­ally suc­cinct vi­sion­ary state­ment the chef will have.” For Greek res­tau­rant The Apollo that was “pol­ished vil­lage food,” while for BBPB, Mau­rice Terzini wanted “surf punk” with a dash of “Rick Owens comes to Bondi Beach.”

Top de­sign­ers don’t come cheap, but they boost both the bot­tom line and the pro­file of a res­tau­rant.Take Moby 3143, the Mel­bourne cafe that in Fe­bru­ary won Best Cafe at the World In­te­ri­ors News de­sign awards in Lon­don.

Mel­bourne stu­dio Golden gut­ted the for­mer espresso bar in Ar­madale, and re­fin­ished the space in teal and dusty pink.A white stair­case leads din­ers up and out onto the cafe’s rooftop gar­den.

“Golden’s re­fur­bish­ment has had a huge im­pact on the busi­ness,” says Moby co-owner Christina Hig­gins, who worked with Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi in Lon­don. “We now turn our ta­bles over six times on the week­end where the pre­vi­ous own­ers strug­gled to fill the space, in­clud­ing a rooftop that is packed from Thurs­day to Sun­day.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ho, the only way is up – and up: “We are see­ing more de­tail and so­phis­ti­ca­tion come into res­tau­rant de­sign, and that ties in with con­sumer sen­ti­ment,” he says. “Peo­ple to­day are happy to spend $30 on a cock­tail and $60 on a main if the de­sign is con­sid­ered and no ex­pense has been spared to cre­ate a deca­dent ex­pe­ri­ence.” Ex­plore restau­rants across the coun­try and read full re­views at de­li­cious.com.au/eatout

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