London’s first avocado bar opened in Covent Garden in the Summer – just one example of how dining out has evolved. From roast dinner wraps to bubble waffles, new creations are hitting our high streets every month, and that means a host of exciting dining experiences. Queues were round the block for the launch of Mamasons Dirty Ice Cream at Central Cross in Chinatown London, Europe’s first Filipino icecream parlour, which also created a social media frenzy.
Designed by DesignLSM, the 68 sq m Avobar restaurant focuses on all things avocado and combines an open and social dining environment with an in-house retail space offering avocado-based skincare and lifestyle products to customers. The overall concept evokes a relaxed bohemian ambience with a beautifully crafted design that creates a visual feast for avocado lovers.
‘We are working with our clients to design not just beautiful spaces, but environments that have meaning or connections, be that an emotional connection with the consumer, or to the food, the brand’s personality etc. It is about the curation of the whole experience space to reflect true craftsmanship and balance within their visual aesthetic,’ says Holly Hallam, strategy and marketing director at DesignLSM. ‘The experience factor will remain a key component when designing a space, however the need to create these “instagrammable moments” will slowly defuse with consumers seeking environments that are more authentic and individual.’
Hallam says environmental concerns and consideration to sustainability also are becoming more prevalent in the firm’s designs – considered from an aesthetic and operational perspective.
Also in Covent Garden, modern kebab house Maison Bab opened its doors in September, launched by the founders of Le Bab in Soho’s Kingly Court. Designed by Angus Buchanan, the interior includes opulent finishes and geometric patterns with a dusty pink colour theme. The ground floor includes racing green coloured booth seating and additional bar seats for counter dining, whilst downstairs a feature wall is decorated with 50,000 playing cards and an exposed mise en place kitchen.
‘I want people to primarily feel a connection to the kitchen; I want the food to be visible, the fire pit to feel exciting and for customers to have great anticipation of the amazing food they are about to order. This is equally important downstairs so the view through the kebab facade into the kitchen is uninterrupted and I want customers to look in. Hopefully once they are sitting in their seats it will feel like a comfortable place to hang out with friends and eat some delicious food,’ says Buchanan.
A new Indian ‘grab-and-go’ concept called Pali Kitchen has opened in London’s Bow Lane, with branding by customer experience agency I-AM. The key objective was to change the perception of the Indian dining experience by moving away from being a traditional, seated and multi-course dining experience to a fast- casual food proposition. The entire offer is based on delivering a promise of great customisable dishes to everyone who wants a genuine taste of India.
‘Pali Kitchen was an important passion project for I-AM, linking back to our studio in Mumbai and our work there over the years. We wanted to reflect the vibrancy of the culture, which we believe is rooted in the everyday people you meet in this wonderful country – each with their own stories to tell. The concept of real India is inherent in the fabric of the people and the warmth of a billion smiles, pitched against a kaleidoscopic backdrop of colour, noise and texture – that is what we wanted to bring to life, in a fun and engaging way, delivering a true people inspired experience,’ says Paul Tynan, 3D creative director at I-AM.
Iconic characters are illustrated on the interior walls and printed across the packaging – from the ‘Dabbawalla’ representing the lunch delivery boy cycling through the bustling streets, ‘Chaiwalla’ the street tea maker and seller, to the ‘Flower Girl’ symbolic of all the playful children. All these characters are accompanied by a note describing their day and sayings in Hindu that form short storylines – bringing the spirit of these characters to life within the brand experience. Another iconic graphic feature in the space is the purple neon Mudra hand sign, gesturing back and forth symbolising food and eating.
‘London is widely hailed as the world’s most diverse and exciting capital for restaurants, and the demand for variety when dining is essential. Modern consumers seek laid-back dining with high quality food and in a stylish setting. Whether you are a millennial on a budget, or a discerning diner, there is something for everyone and The Mercers’ Company ensures this diversity can be found within Covent Garden,’ says Simon Taylor, property director of The Mercers’ Company.
‘With a third of the nation eating out every week, creative restaurant formats are a crucial element in giving consumers a full dining-out experience and keeps them engaged with every aspect of the brand. Having an open kitchen as a centre piece of the restaurant is an increasingly popular format, and one which has been incredibly successful at both Temper and Maison Bab, new entrants to Mercer Walk,’ says Taylor.
Neal’s Yard in London will soon welcome Redemption, London’s only vegan and alcohol-free restaurant, also incorporating a sugar-free and wheat-free menu. The 60 sq m Redemption will include exclusive features unique to Seven Dials, such as the option of take away food and a retail space where visitors can purchase the brand’s cookbooks, candles and other complementary merchandise. Working alongside architect Atelier Khan and fit-out company, df20, Redemption will also feature the world’s first alcohol-free bar with large bi-folding doors to allow access to alfresco dining in Neal’s Yard.
Designed by David Collins Studio, Kerridge’s Bar and Grill at Corinthia London is a 400 sq m restaurant and bar created in collaboration with chef Tom Kerridge for his first London restaurant, which opened in September. The studio’s design has transformed this grand high-ceilinged dining room into a bustling lively hall with a design that brings the focus to the food and drink, with the creation of defined areas of activity that celebrate the provenance of ingredients, promote intimacy and exude comfort.
‘Our combined vision with Tom is to bring the food and drink to the forefront of this restaurant. We have ensured that within this beautiful grand room, everyone will be enveloped in a spectacle of theatre, preparation, drama and intimacy. The richness of personality we are layering into the room really captures the feeling of Tom and his food, whilst creating a wonderful bar and restaurant experience in the Corinthia Hotel,’ says Simon Rawlings, creative director at David Collins Studio.
‘Restaurants are becoming less formal, and they’re bringing the very best ingredients, talent and design to their spaces. Why? The guest expects a better dining experience, but doesn’t want to pay a huge price. Creative restaurant owners and chefs all over the world are realising this and delivering cuisine in formats that are more casual and affordable. Thus the layouts are less formal and more open, allowing the communal table and gathering areas to thrive. The layouts as well as the FF&E are more relaxed, making the ambience and experience richer and more personal,’ says Clay Markham, senior vice president at CallisonRTKL Dallas.
Markham notes some of the latest trends are merging the lounge bar area with the dining room. ‘Guests have always wanted to eat in the hottest spots, not only for the elevated food offerings, but also to see and be seen. Chefs are crafting great food experiences for these venues, which offer the casual atmosphere of a lounge space featuring music and crafted drinks on display. Within the lounge area there can be semi-private spaces that provide a degree of privacy while staying in the social mix.’
Kevin Horn, CallisonRTKL vice president in LA, says the growth of craft cocktails means bars are once again becoming the main focal point in a lot of restaurants. ‘With the rise of Instagram, there has been a shift away from simple clean designs to more colours, textures, patterns and unique materials that create Instagram-worthy moments. Non-traditional seating arrangements including communal tables and hospitality-like lounge settings are creating varied experiences. Open kitchens are being incorporated more and more, and in a lot of cases seating is integrated in a way that lets customers watch the food being prepared and feel like they are part of the kitchen experience.’ He says eating out now more than ever has become a very communal and social experience.
At Boulud Sud Miami, chef Daniel Boulud requested that CallisonRTKL create a layout and atmosphere that reflected the flow, light and textures of the coastal Cote d’Azur. ‘His food would play off of that, so our task was easy: provide relaxed casual seating, an open-space lounge and dining area, soft light and a South-of-France colour palette. The backdrop of these relaxing elements would allow the food to shine. We employed aged wood and encaustic tile flooring, draped, soft lighting pendants, light woods and blue color accents. The wonderful life of the Cote d’Azur comes alive! And the design of the space is as Instagrammable as the food,’ says Markham.
Instagrammable dining, from food presentation to interior design details, is key to many of today’s diners.