Hot International Restaurant Designs

These spaces use design to tell their brand story
Posted October 10, 2011
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Every restaurant uses design to capture a unique look and feel. Some use Tuscan murals, sculptures of Mt. Fuji or Aztec icons. And some just look outside the door.

So La Birreria in New York plays off the spectacular Manhattan skyline view from the rooftop setting.
Barbecoa in London uses the grand views of nearby St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Chinar, in Baku, Azerbaijan, casts its gaze a little further, using the central Asian country’s cultural history, from Turkish Empire to Soviet Union, with Muslim roots, Persian myths and neighboring China.

It’s retail, after all: location, location, location.


La Birreria, New York

It may be hard to say “La Birreria.” But it’s not hard to say “Wow!” – the initial response of so many people as they enter this new rooftop bar and restaurant atop Eataly, New York’s year-old temple to food.
The place (which means “the brewery” in Italian) has a dazzling Manhattan view and the romantic vibe of a 1920s speakeasy.

After Eataly partners Oscar Farinetti, Mario Batali and Lidia and Joe Bastianich (of Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group) completed the renovation of the ground floor of the old Toy Building, on Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street, into a series of restaurants and food venues, they all went up to the top: an empty 1600-square-foot shed on a sloping tarpaper roof (with an 800-square-foot landing just below).

As they looked around – at the Empire State Building to the north, Flatiron Building to the south and One Madison clock tower to the east – “they all gasped,” according to Alec Zaballero, principal and managing director, retail, for TPG Architecture (New York), “and decided this was too valuable a space to waste.”

Two exclusive elevators now take guests to the 14th floor, where they walk up the stairs to the next level. Through an iron and glass storefront, there’s a full craft microbrewery filled with copper-clad, stainless-steel vats. The design intent, says Zaballero, is the discovery of a brewery that’s been humming along since Prohibition.

The design components are intended to feel similarly dated: durable mesquite end-grain hardwood floors, wainscoting, framed black steel doors and windows, black-iron banisters and railings, custom copper shaded light fixtures.

The 4500-square-foot open dining deck with retractable glass top was built to seem to float over the former sloping roof.

The Northern Italian menu is from Batali, and the microbrew is a partnership between Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales (Milton, Del.) and Italian craft brewers Baladin and Del Borgo.

The view is purely New York.

Project Suppliers

Retailer: Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, New York

Design and Architecture: TPG Architecture, New York – Alec Zaballero; Vlad Zadneprianski; Diana Revkin

MEP Engineer: AMA Consulting Engineers, New York

Structural Engineer: Severud Associates, New York

Lighting Designer: Lighting Workshop, New York

Kitchen Equipment Consultant: Yui Design, Takoma Park, Md.

Brewery Consultant: JVNW, Canby, Ore.

Landmarks Consultant: Higgins Quasebarth & Partners, New York

Audio/Visual: A101 Inc., Middle Village, N.Y.

General Contractor: Structure Tone, New York

Kitchen Equipment Contractor: Baring Industries, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Millwork: Scanga Architectural Woodworking, Cold Spring, N.Y.

Steelwork: USW, Congers, N.Y.

Architectural Metal and Glass: A-Val, Mt. Vernon, N.Y.

Signage: Artfx, Bloomfield, Conn.

Retractable Roof: Roll-A-Cover, Bethany, Conn.

Brewery Equipment: JVNW, Canby, Ore.

Roof Deck Floor Tile: Maline Tile, New York

Interior Wood Flooring: Kaswell Flooring, Framingham, Mass.

Interior Wall Tile: Crossville Inc., Crossville, Tenn.

Interior Floor Tile: Nemo Tile, New York

Paint: Benjamin Moore, N.J.

FRP Panels: Crane Composites, Channahon, Ill.

Lighting Controls: Lutron Electronics, Coopersburg, Pa.

Decorative Lighting: Delux, Bell Gardens, Calif.

Track Lighting: Lightolier, Fall River, Mass.

Tables: From The Source, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Wine barrels: Emporio Enologico Albese S.R.L., Italy

Architect: TPG Architecture, New York

General Contractor: Structure Tone, New York



Barbecoa, London

London chef Jamie Oliver has built his celebrityhood around nutritious cooking and organic ingredients. New York chef Adam Perry Lang is classically trained but has directed his efforts into developing the most inventive approaches to grilling meats.

Odd couple? Perhaps. But the result of their friendship is a brand-new joint venture called Barbecoa in the shadows of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Barbecoa (Spanish for “barbecue”) celebrates the simple act of cooking over fire. The design intent was to balance the earthy nature of the cooking process with the refined elements of a high-quality establishment, says Clementine Rodgers, senior designer at Speirs + Major, the U.K. lighting design firm that designed the artificial lighting and managed the influence of natural light in the space.

“The raw materials used throughout the scheme were a reflection of the simplicity and quality of the Barbecoa brand,” Rodgers says.

The palette of materials evokes that sense of fire. But the refined interior finishes – polished brass and wrought iron sculptural forms – reflect the urban location, called The City, the original London neighborhood.

Brass-clad columns are grazed with light and the reflective quality of the brass bar is enhanced by an array of small pendant luminaires over the surface.

Close offset wallwashing was used to highlight the texture of the “cracked mud” walls without creating too bright a surface, so as to minimize reflections in the glazing and prevent an overly dominating bright surface in the dining atmosphere. Matte black surfaces that reference charcoal provide contrast through their absence of light.

Fixtures by Design Research Studio (London) include pipe light, suspended in clusters around the restaurant, and brass and glass light bead fittings in the bar area.

Big plate glass windows look over at St. Paul’s. “If all else fails,” Oliver has said, “that ain’t a bad view.” But somehow, you sense he thinks all else won’t fail.

Project Suppliers

Retailer: Jamie Oliver Ltd., London – Kevin Bacon, managing director (no longer with company); Justin Hardy, group project development manager

Lighting Design: Speirs + Major, London – Clementine Rodgers, senior lighting designer; Lee Sweetman, senior lighting designer; Mark Major, director

Electrical Contractor/Consultant: Amdon Electrical Ltd., Kent, U.K.

Lighting: Designed Architectural Lighting, London; Encapsulite Intl. Ltd., London; Projection Lighting,

London; Zumtobel Lighting Ltd., London; Tom Dixon Lighting, London

Interior Architect: Design Research Studio, London

General Contractor: Amdon Electrical Ltd.


Chinar, Baku, Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan has had a tumultuous history at the cross roads between West and East, bordered by both Russia and Iran. It has a majority Turkic population but has been in and out of the Russian empire, most recently a Soviet state until the Soviet Union collapsed.

And, like many countries in central Asia, it feels the gravitational pull of China. So a Chinese restaurant in the center of Baku, the sophisticated capital city, is entirely appropriate.

“Baku is a mixture of century-old Central Asian culture with European flair,” explains Henry Chebaane, creative director of Blue Sky Hospitality Ltd., a London-based hotel and restaurant design consultancy. “Both the locals and international visitors are looking for an experience.”

Named for a native tree, Chinar had been a traditional Azeri tea house. But with a new group of
investors, and under Blue Sky’s conceptualizing, Chinar has gone, thematically, from “tea house” to “tree house.”

“I wanted the building to integrate the nature of trees through the huge glazing, internal wooden surfaces and multiple details,” says Chebaane, “and in return make the building belong in the trees. Physically as well as conceptually, Chinar is a celebration of the tree and botanical world.”

The carbonized bamboo flooring is from Sichuan; a triple-height ceiling is covered by 155 vertical timber fins like a giant canopy of branches; and a multitude of wooden floor screens are decorated with botanically inspired fretwork.

The sensory journey is accompanied by what Blue Sky calls a “scenography.” Three dozen general lighting scenes have been programmed into a computerized dimming system that controls several hundred luminaires and light sources.

There are also wooden birdcages from Guangzhou, hand-made pendants made of a thousand silkworm cocoons and a dragon lounge featuring references to the mythical Persian dragon-slayer Bahram Gur. It’s a Pan-Asian experience, indeed.

Project Suppliers

Design: Blue Sky Hospitality, London – Sanna-Maria Kemppainen, director; Henry Chebaane, creative director; Simeon Wake, design manager; Tapio Rosenius, lighting design director

Architect: Hasan ÇALIŞLAR Earch Architects, Istanbul

Kitchen Consultants: Makpa, Istanbul

Audio/Visual: Blue Sky Hospitality

Ceilings: Blue Sky Hospitality custom design

Fixtures: Cascade Coil, Portland, Ore.

Flooring: Carbonized bamboo from Sichuan

Carpet: Desso, Netherlands; Blue Sky Hospitality

Furniture: MOB, Istanbul; Leather from Edelman, New Milford, Conn.; Moore & Giles Inc., Forest, Va.

Lighting: Flos S.p.A., Brescia, Italy; Metalarte Spain, Barcelona; Cube Lighting & Industrial Design Ltd., Berkhamsted, U.K.; Precision Lighting Ltd., London; Ango World Co. Ltd., Bangkok

Props and Decoratives: Blue Sky Hospitality

Signage and Graphics: Blue Sky Hospitality

General Contractor: Pasha Construction, Baku, Azerbaijan