Hong Kong seems to have more than enough restaurants, yet new ones keep opening up and the best candidates always do well. The latest in the Chinese restaurant genre is Mott 32, in the Standard Chartered Bank Building in Central.
We love the echoes of the past that are visible everywhere at Mott 32 without turning the establishment into a traditional Chinese restaurant. It is all cool vibes and modern touches perfectly suitable for urban Hong Kong
of today, but in a skilfully prepared wrapping of patina and allure.
The name Mott 32 has its roots in 32 Mott Street in New York City where it was the address of the city’s first Chinese convenience store, opened in 1851 by pioneering Hong Kong families whose entrepreneurship and hard work helped establish Chinatown and spread the global love of Chinese food.
Metal, wood, rattan, leather, eccentric lighting, and countless details make Mott 32 a place where there are cool stories everywhere. A massive abacus in the ceiling, a spectacular display of brushes, newly “decaying” ceilings in the bathroom, cool art on the walls, all of these aspects of the interior are carrying stories that echo the bygone industrial vibe of New York and the agrarian traditions, craftsmanship and hard work in China and Hong Kong. - Tuija Seipell.
Opening this week in Antwerp, Belgium, The Jane restaurant designed by Piet Boon has all the building blocks of a success. An intriguing building: A chapel of a former military hospital that gives the restaurant the aura of a sacred place mixed with a certain darkness. An interesting location: Antwerp’s ’t Groen Kwartier that with its lofts in restored buildings and green areas designed by famous architects is developing into a trendy area.
A famous chef-owner: Sergio Herman with his young right-hand man Nick Bril running the establishment. A renowned designer: Dutch Piet Boon restaurant who used fantastic collaborators to add customized spunk. The massive lighting fixture (weighing 800 kg) in the middle of the main dining room was created by Beirut, Lebanon-based PSlab and the stained-glass windows by the Antwerp-based Studio Job led by Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel.
Our favourite aspects of The Jane are the scale of the space - its height, massive arches and large windows, the lovely decaying celling, and the almost complete lack of colour. We like how the interior touches respect the building and echo its history.
In a media release, Nick Bril explains why they named the restaurant The Jane “…Jane is the name of a fictional woman with the same qualities as our restaurant. The Jane will be sensual, exciting and chic. It will have an attractive international air, but also a hint of darkness. It will be tasteful and sophisticated, but also rock-’n’-roll. Like our perfect woman.” - Tuija Seipell
This stylish restoration of a nearly 200 year-old wine cellar combines many of our favorite attributes in a renovation: generous use of aged and new wood, lavish open spaces and a minimalist color palette.
This stylish restoration of a nearly 200 year-old wine cellar captivates us with its overall minimalist approach. It transforms the historic space to meet modern needs yet does so without losing the elegant patina and without destroying the authenticity and uniqueness of this particular location. It is not easy know where to stop, which is why so many renovations damage what was already good. Not this time.
The renovation was completed earlier this year by Lisbon, Portugal-based P06-Nuno Gusmão. The creative director of the project was Nuno Gusmão and the design leads Giuseppe Greco and Joana Proserpio.
The building, Graham’s Lodge, is located in Portugal in Vila Nova de Gaia on the Douro river estuary near the Atlantic Ocean.
The granite-walled Lodge is now not just a real, functional working building where thousands of casks of Port are aged, but also an immersive visitor centre where Graham’s Vintage Ports can be tasted and experienced as part of guided tours.
W & J Graham’s was founded in Oporto, Portugal, in 1820 by two Scottish brothers, William and John Graham.
The Lodge opened to the public for the first time in 1993, but the current renovation, commissioned by the Symington family that owns the company today, takes the visit of the constantly increasing numbers of visitors from a typical “winery tour” to an exciting, authentic experience.
The guided visits now include a visitor reception hall leading to an auditorium, the two-level Graham’s Museum, the Lodge itself, a tasting room, the Vintage Room, a shop and a wine bar and restaurant. Among the fake historic environments so prevalent in wineries, it is refreshing to see the real thing once in a while. - Tuija Seipell.
Romita Comedor is a restaurant that is less than two years old yet it has the ambience of a well-loved, casual tradition.
The interior touches - the use of wood and tile, the wood furnishings, the many plants and various surface treatments - all seem to belong here, and they seem to have belonged for a long time. Nice vintage-chic patina that also looks fresh and modern – not easy to achieve.
The dining room is located in Mexico City, in the heart of Colonia Roma, at Avenida Álvaro Obregón 49.
The building dates back to early 1900s and its style was inspired by grand railway stations. It is also protected by the INBA (Instituta Nacional de Bellas Artes).
The massive windows, glass ceiling and a retractable awning all take full advantage of the station-style architecture, and let the light in for the benefit of the many plants.
The building’s current owner, Rodrig Espinoza, and his two partners, Marcela Lugo and Arturo, designed the restaurant with the idea in mind that it would become a gathering place that would attract not just the locals but visitors as well.
Romita Comedor is known for authentic Mexican cuisine, great cocktails at the two bars, and live entertainment by well-known DJs. The building also houses a design shop and a hair salon. - Tuija Seipell
Biribildu is a new souvlaki restaurant in the Alimos (or Kalamaki) area of Athens. The quirky design of the casual fast-food eatery is by Thessaloniki architect Minas Kosmidis whose Farma Creaton restaurant we have featured previously.
The Basque word Biribildu means to turn, to make a round, to round out, to perfect, and the round form appears frequently in the design. As a traveling circus goes around from town to town it became a fitting theme for the casual eatery that offers gyros made with meat off a vertical rotating roaster.
Two circus carousel horses imply going around and around,and they also direct the customer traffic toward the ordering counter and large menu. The tables are circular, as are many of the circus-themed wall decorations.
The kitchen, washrooms and storage areas are hidden inside huge wooden “boxes” that give a nod toward the transportation crates used by a travelling circus.
The cash desk is inside what looks like a tiger’s cage and above it hang the knives of, Mr. Biribildu, the circus master himself who is, apparently, a mean knife-thrower.
We like the overall midway and boardwalk feel of the 80 square-meter (860 sq.ft.) space with its eclectic juxtaposition of elements such as the Mediterranean plaster mouldings in the ceiling and the tile pattern covering the air vents, mixed with the floor treatment that resembles a typical circus-tent floor: wet sand. - Tuija Seipell.
We have covered the restaurant design work of the Gothenburg, Sweden-based Stylt Trampoli before when we wrote about Le Rouge in Stockholm.
We loved Le Rouge for the same reasons we are now loving Le Pain Francais, located along Gothenburg’s classy boulevard, Kungsportsavenyen.
The slightly mad scale and the magical distortion of proportions, combined with an elegant use of colour and texture, make the four-story restaurant into a fantastic experience.
Le Pain Francais is an established chain of French bakeries in Gothenburg but this is their first foray into a full-scale restaurant.
Stylt, the architecture and design firm known for its use of stories and narratives as a base for design long before it became common, has infused Le Pain Francais with an eclectic and not-too-serious grandiosity harkening back to the times when Paris celebrated Jules Verne and Gustave Eiffel’s tower adorned the entrance of the Paris World’s Fair.
Founded by creative director Erik Nissen Johansen, Stylt has designed restaurant and hotel interiors in Scandinavia for the past 20 years including the recent successfully crowdsourced and widely celebrated redesign of the Livingroom of Helsinki’s Klaus K hotel. - Tuija Seipell.
Gilbert and Thierry Costes’s Parisian hospitality empire, Beaumarly, has produced yet another entry: Café Français at 1, Place de la Bastille.
Facing the Opéra, the Café Français includes a brasserie, a bar, a veranda and a terrace, and takes up almost an entire block, form Boulevard Henri IV to Rue Saint Antoine, making it one of the largest establishments of its kind in Paris.
We love the juicy leather seating, seemingly bursting out of its form and showing off the French national colors. Counter-balancing the roundness of the seating are the classic hard and reflective materials: marble, mirrors, terrazzo, brass and copper leaf with the black-and-white colour scheme bringing out a contemporary feel.
Topping the two dining rooms is yet another of our favorites: the blue sky mural on the dome. It adds whimsy and color and makes the large rooms appear even larger. Dramatic arches and alcoves create separate seating areas without breaking the overall flow of the space.
Artistic design of the space is by veteran Thierry collaborators, India Mahdavi, and Mathias Augustyniak and Michaël Amzalag of M/M (Paris) Studio. Chef Pascal Lognon-Duval presides in the kitchen. - Tuija Seipell
A rear of a small inner city Melbourne pub has been transformed from a tiny add-on back extension into a voyeuristic playground by Techné Architects. The clever rethinking of the space has effectively turned the 130m2 back area of The Prahran Hotel into 300m2 over three levels.
The star of the design is a series of 17 ½ concrete waterpipes. These concrete culverts dominate the striking street façade.
For architect Justin Northrop, the pipes add a lot more than drama to the hotel’s exterior. “Inside you are climbing over the pipes, sitting in them, or on them at various levels. They have a lasting impact on the space.”
Guests can sit in booths inside the pipes. “We were looking for a sense of drama and theatricality,” says Northrop.
Booths can be seen from the street, and throughout the interior of the hotel. Each booth, that seats up to 12, features leather upholstered banquettes and is lined with recycled spotted gum slats and acoustic absorption mats. “The voyeuristic nature of these pubs is very important, the way the space is connected visually,” says Northrop.
The project is the fifth pub collaboration between Techné and hotel group Sand Hill Road (SHR has pubs around Melbourne and moonlight as successful film producers). Pub Group’s Matt Mullins was not trying to create a gastro pub. “I want it to be accessible, for locals, for neighbours,” he says. At the same time, the close collaboration with Techné in the past meant Mullins was more than open to left-field design ideas. The main bar features salvaged pipes, concrete cast lamps and plantings by Ayus Botanical.
Guests can choose between three levels; the ground floor mixes polychromatic textured tiles and spotted gum floorboards, with a light-filled courtyard and street views. The courtyard features a striking nine-metre trapezoidal concrete wall, that has a corrugated effect and porthole motifs.
The natural materials and soft upholstery take the edge of the concrete, steel and glass used in the interior. (Even the banisters are covered in leather for a luxe, surprise element.)
The 12-seat VIP area sits atop a giant water pipe, feeling suspended over the space. A key criteria of the design was to ensure that patrons always have a vantage point from wherever they are in the space. “It’s great for voyeurs,” says Mullins. An exception to the open-plan approach is a sunken seating area, known as ‘the lair’, below stairs for patrons who want to stay under wraps.
At its core, design “is about conviviality” says Northrop. “It’s providing people with opportunities to interact in non-standard ways, a whole variety of seating and gathering.” To make sure there is space for serious partying, one long table on the ground floor can be dismantled to make way for an impromptu dance floor. Northrop made sure the redesign featured a serious DJ deck. “Afterall pubs are not meant to be places of calm and reflection,” he says. Indeed. - Emily Ross
If the city is called Casablanca (White House), creating an all-white interior for a restaurant there isn’t a major creative break-through. But Christophe Pillet, the designer of the Maison Blanche (White House), reflected the omnipresent white back on itself with smoked mirrors, and created a vertigo-inducing vessel-of-a-space that forces us to look again.
The 600 square-meter (approx. 6500 sq.ft.) restaurant and bar, opened in July 2012 at La Place Mohamed Abdou and La Rue du Commandant Lamy, facing the Parc de la Ligue Arave. Maison Blanche Casablanca is the baby sister of Maison Blanche Fes, opened in 2009.
Maison Blanche Casablanca feels like a container, a bottle, or a jewellery box where the guest will appear as the filling, the jewel, the berry, or the decoration. Chef Thierry Vaissière’s cuisine will likely bring the guests back again for another look at themselves and their chic friends.
Our first landing into Casablanca many years ago offered an aerial view of a beautiful white city, but the actual on-the-street experience was a disappointing drag through an exhausted, dilapidated city whose vitality and lifeblood was sadly missing.
Maison Blanche and many other businesses like it are suggesting we should visit more often and give the white beauty another reason to charm us. - Tuija Seipell
High Tea at fancy hotels has long been a favourite of not just the Royals and the ladies who lunch, but even tourists glamming it up and gladly handing out their credit cards for a bit of high-brow fabulousness.
Wine Tastings and High Coffee came next, served and imbibed in various degrees of decadence and glamour.
But the stakes are getting higher and the temptations harder to resist. The Landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hong Kong is now serving a L900 Jimmy Choo package but only till early May. It includes afternoon tea for two at the MO Bar where the expected fare is served: cucumber and smoked salmon sandwiches, the Mandarin's famous ginger scones and clotted cream, and macaroons in a multitude of flavours, but it is all meticulously handcrafted in exquisite shoe and handbag shapes. Jimmy Choo, of course. And after the tea, you can check into the Mandarin 9200 square-foot L900 Suite for a night and select a pair from Jimmy Choo's new 24:7 capsule collection. Price tag for the splurge? Approximately $1,500 US. - Tuija Seipell