Review of the year – Restaurant design

In spite of continued economic doom and gloom, designs for restaurant interiors have continued to be bold, innovative and adventurous this year.

The Velvet Fox by Fallon and Penny Fathers
The Velvet Fox, by Fallon and Penny Fathers

Restaurants have embraced the low-risk nature of the pop-up concept to create design led spaces where experimental designs and experiential elements are pushed to the fore, such as Fallon and Penny Fathers’ collaboration on Velvet Fox this month. (Read more on the 2011 pop-up phenomenon in our round-up here)

There was also June’s Restaurants in Residence concept in London’s Canary Wharf, inspired by the massive mobile phones and even bigger shoulder pads of the 1980s, which occupied a disused office block in Canary Wharf. Ben Rhymer conceived the concept and appointed Peter and Paul to design a brand and help art direct the space.

The Royal Academy of Arts restaurant by Tom Dixon
The Royal Academy of Arts restaurant, by Tom Dixon

More permanent fixtures showed no signs of paring things down this year. January saw Tom Dixon, leading Design Research Studio, creating the stunning interiors for the Peyton and Byrne-run restaurant at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, featuring materials such as brass, marble and velvet, with different ‘zones’ each inspires by the work of a different figure integral to the history of the Royal Academy, including the artist JMW Turner and the architect Sir John Soane.

The arts also provided inspiration for the inferiors of Simon Mullins-designed Opera Tavern, in London’s Covent Garden ‘theatre land’, which opened in January featuring wallpaper on the ceiling, along with a palette of red, grey, gold and dark wood, for a tongue-in-cheek take on its Opera-inspired name, according to Mullins, who is also director of the restaurant.

Satsuma by Man and Man
Satsuma, by Man and Man

Another outlet focussing on innovative fixtures and fittings was Satsuma, which reopened with interiors by Man & Man in London’s Soho this autumn, with cube pod seating with slatted walls and windows in the roof to allow in subtle lighting and 100 small elephants placed around the restaurant, thought to bring good luck.

Celebrity chefs continued to infiltrate the high-street with their own restaurant concepts, such as TV chef James Martin’s Leeds Kitchen, with interiors by Carolyn Parker Interior Design.

Jamies Italian in Westfield Stratford City, by Blacksheep
Jamie’s Italian in Westfield Stratford City, by Blacksheep

Meanwhile the omnipresent Jamie Oliver used Blacksheep for his ‘industrial’-themed Westfield Stratford City Jamie’s Italian; and The Plant and Stiff & Trevillion were tasked with created the naval-themed interiors for Oliver’s Portsmouth Jamie’s Italian branch in May. The same duo created the Cheltenham branch, based on the building’s former high court heritage.

Jamies Italian in Cheltenham, by Stiff and Trevillion
Jamie’s Italian in Cheltenham, by Stiff & Trevillion

Restaurant hotels have also seen some innovative interiors concepts, such as David Collins’ interiors for Marcus Wareing’s restaurant The Gilbert Scott, located within The St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and Rabih Hage’s Alice in Wonderland-themed interiors for the Radisson Guildford’s restaurant. Heston Blumenthal opened Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, with interiors by Tihany Design and branding by Seymour Powell.

The Gilbert Scott by David Collins
The Gilbert Scott, by David Collins

Also ramping up the opulence was chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s new restaurant, Nopi, which opened din London’s Soho with interiors by Israel-based architect Alex Meitlis; and Red Bird Design’s redesign of Boyd’s Brasserie Bar and Lounge replete with black granite champagne bar, Art Deco inspired furniture, Phillipe Starck Ghost chairs leather banquette seating.

Boyds Brasserie by Red Bird Design
Boyd’s Brasserie, by Red Bird Design

And while opulent may not be the word, it was hard to ignore the all-singing-all-dancing lunacy of what is reported to be ‘Britain’s biggest restaurant’, Bristol’s Za Za Bazaar, which opened with month with designs by consultancy Mystery.

Za Za Bazaar by Mystery
Za Za Bazaar, by Mystery

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