Urbis checks out five stylish new restaurants that look as inviting as the food they serve.
The April issue of Urbis looks at five new restaurant interiors in Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland. They are the Stokehouse and the Millswyn in Melbourne, Avido in Sydney and Cafe Hanoi and Cocoro in Auckland.
If Stokehouse were an outfit, it would be a tailored cream shift dress worn with a great big statement necklace. All too infrequently this mix of classic subtlety with extravagant bursts of glamour isn’t done well. Yet here, in a refit to the iconic St Kilda beachside restaurant, designer Pascale Gomes-McNabb has seamlessly combined what is really a polished, unfussy base design – oak floors, pale grey banquettes, neutral walls – with eye-catching accessories such as brass-surrounded columns and bar and pops of yellow and red in the upholstered seats.
Being beachside, the colour palette was inspired by the view outside – sand, sea and sky have influenced everything from the mauve strips in the lined ceiling to the sandy banquettes and timber chairs, giving the space a casual, welcoming feel, even with those mirrored brass glamour objects.
The design of many seaside spots is influenced and inspired by water, but here, more than most, these characteristics flow throughout the space. The brushed brass that encase the long bar, columns and light fittings naturally dances as light catches the metal. “We wanted to bring the sunshine into the space and liven it up: to create a place where people could while away a few hours in a sexy environment,” Gomes-McNabb explains. The atmosphere is immersed in the feeling that sunlight is reflecting off the water, further amplified with small mirrors hung on the walls.
This isn’t just an exercise in materiality, Gomes-McNabb has artfully manipulated the materials into complex forms, adding depth and interest in every corner. The brass bar, for instance, is not just a block of polished metal, but is rather formed from an arrangement of facetted pieces, each giving a slightly different reflection? and view. Nicole Stock
“Think Sinatra in Paris” was the brief given by young entrepreneur Davis Yu to interior design team Hecker Guthrie for new Melbourne restaurant, The Millswyn. Positioned in the same building as former establishment Lynch’s, the new restaurant and bar interior combines calm elegance with old-world charm and a fresh contemporary vision. Many of the features of the existing Victorian building have been retained, and American-style furniture and a muted palette brings an almost Scandinavian minimalism to the space. Downstairs there is an open kitchen where diners are served in crisp white tones. Also downstairs, the main dining room is in gold with American speakeasy chairs providing an aesthetic that bridges the gap between antique and contemporary. Upstairs, two bar areas provide warm, inviting spaces for a drink with surroundings in darker hues.
Hecker Guthrie’s palette ranges from pure whites to warm neutrals without losing a homogeneity that ties the spaces together. Furniture, accessories and artworks have been chosen with Hecker Guthrie’s usual attention to detail, with every piece selected and placed just so to create character without becoming cluttered. This measured and considerate venue is set to become an institution in its own right. Penny Craswell
Avido, a restaurant and wine garden, is a fresh addition to the row of retail stores and boutique establishments along Sydney’s Oxford Street. It’s also designer Matt Woods’ latest project, hot on the heels of his successful Bloodwood interior. “The brief was fairly open,” says Woods. “The client wanted to emulate the intimacy of the modern dining restaurants he had frequented in New York, with some local flavour.” The site, formerly a cupcake bakery, began to reveal itself as the team chipped away at the rendered walls and plaster boarded ceilings. “We discovered beautiful needled brickwork walls and decided to use them as the backdrop for the space,” says Woods. “We worked intuitively from then on.” In true Woods style, the space has a deconstructed look; the fittings and fixtures made from reclaimed materials and furniture.
The bar counter of vintage French oak beams gently step back and forward, forming a classically styled cantilevered top. The frontage has been boldly finished with a custom-tiled geometric pattern. The defining fixture is the twisted rope ceiling installation by Sarah Parkes, pieces of which terminate on painted tie-backs in various locations on the walls. The furniture, Mark Tuckey stools, a mix of cafe-style chairs and a traditional-style leather bench wrap up the eclectic aesthetic. Elana Castle
Since being converted from an old commercial building, Cafe Hanoi has retained a few unique, industrial qualities. Located in the heart of Britomart, Auckland, the Vietnamese restaurant resembles a grungy old-school loft. From the street, bright paper lanterns attract passersby. Inside, ripped and fading paint barely cover the concrete walls and sleek red chairs and polished wooden tables dot the room and run along a smooth, timber-panelled wall. This mixture of textures gracefully complements the lively flavours and textures of Vietnamese food. Designer Nat Cheshire, from Cheshire Architects, says their aim was to create a humble, yet elegant space that delivered great dining as well as the “comfort and exhilaration of decay”.
Drawing to mind a worn, ancient manuscript, or some sort of recovered war relic, the menus themselves hint at the Vietnamese origins. The bathrooms, the most colourful rooms in the restaurant, feature a dazzling display of floor-to-ceiling turquoise mosaic tiles. The naked light bulbs that pop from red sockets and the vintage porcelain sinks allude to the “raw” and down-to-earth touches that Cheshire speaks of. This vibrant and confident restaurant will certainly leave the essence of Vietnam under your skin, long after the tastes leave your lips. Stephanie Lust.
The inside of Cocoro smells of freshly milled timber. The back wall and raw exposed concrete ceiling are lined with macrocarpa battens. A thin, slot window in the back wall allows diners to see into the quiet, orderly Japanese kitchen, while the ceiling battens hang above the lines of banquet seating on each side wall. The battens cleverly hide LED downlights, which help place the focus on the food, not the diner, and acoustic panels give this modest space a subdued din.
This is not a large restaurant, and the black-painted walls and ceiling make it seem even more intimate – like an upmarket izakaya (pub). Designed by Clark Pritchard of Gascoigne Associates, the overall look is simple and minimal, but small details abound. Take the flooring – so often a standard, overlooked element – but here, large squares of tightly woven carpet are reminiscent of tatami mats, and this subtle checkerboard pattern is also echoed in the menus on the tables. Another graphic element, large circular motifs pulled from the rounded letters of the Cocoro branding, soften and add interest to the black walls. Offsetting the battens, the up-lit walls and modern furniture is a long central table of solid macrocarpa with naturally chamfered edges that add a homeliness to the modern Japanese aesthetic. Nicole Stock.