What's on the Menu?

Restaurants are marrying design and cuisine to usher in a new era of concept dining
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Posted October 14, 2019

Food isn’t just fuel – in 2019, it’s at the heart of social interaction and of time shared.

As eating out becomes an ever more valued and memorable experience, it’s essential that the environment and ambience are just as compelling as the food served. This year’s standout restaurant trend is the marriage of design and menu, as wine is paired with a meal. Destination dining is on the rise, so eateries are aiming to be worthy of the trip to keep customers coming back for future visits. New openings across the globe are utterly immersive spaces, telling the story of the food they serve through their interiors. From sustainable seafood in an innovative underwater restaurant to picture-perfect cupcakes in a wonderland-inspired bakery, these establishments are defining the new look of concept dining.


Under | Courtesy of Snøhetta, Oslo, Norway

Riding the Wave

At Under in Lindesnes, Norway, the interior color palette was created in collaboration with the chef, according to the design team. Like a shipwreck perched on the rocks, Under plunges five meters (roughly 16 feet) into the sea to rest amid the unique biodiversity of the country’s southern coastline.

Quite literally under the waves, the space draws on the immediate wild and wet surroundings for its interior. An expansive acrylic window offers an intimate view of the seabed, while the textile that clads the ceiling transitions from pink to dark blue like a sunset over the ocean. Wood accents are made from local oak and furniture finishes have a pearlescent, shell-like quality.

“The design has removed all unnecessary artificial elements to be pure and clean,” explains Marlene Fenger Vedal, Senior Interior Architect at Snøhetta (Oslo, Norway), the firm charged with the restaurant’s design. “The menu is based on what can be harvested locally, and the aesthetic is very similar – spectacular, yet natural and down to earth.”


Peggy Porschen | Photography: Tom Bird, Birmingham, U.K. 

Bloom and Grow

Peggy Porschen’s new Parlour in Chelsea, London, is the perfect example of bringing to life a dream-like vision. Her second bakery is “playful, photographable and pink,” a realization of the feminine spirit and imagination that define the brand – and its delicacies. Not just a place to pick up a pretty cupcake, visiting the Chelsea Parlour is an experience, with the façade a popular backdrop for an Instagram snap. Floral accents appear everywhere, from the bespoke floor tiles surrounding the patisserie counter to the ever-changing seasonal displays of real blooms.

“The food served at Peggy Porschen is indulgent – a little slice of affordable luxury,” says James Scott, Associate Director, Kinnersley Kent Design (London). With a location at the heart of upmarket Chelsea, a visit feels indulgent too. The artistry of the treats on display is reflected in the design, with the palette a celebration of pastels and custom details including rose wallpaper from illustrator Kerrie Hess.


Zuma | Photography: Darrin Hunter, Courtesy of Dyer Brown, Cincinnati

Essential Elements

For Zuma in Boston, both the food and the interior are “authentic, but not exactly traditional,” says Kasumi Humphries, Senior Interior Designer, Dyer Brown Architects (Boston). Classic and contemporary elements of Japanese culture and cuisine are brought together in this space – a sophisticated take on an izakaya (or Japanese pub).

The menu is heavily inspired by the elements – earth, air, fire and water – which feed into the design. Fire comes in the form of an open robata charcoal grill that flames in front of diners, while earth is found in the 12-foot-long monkeypod tree trunk that serves as a floating DJ booth and in the intricate bamboo lanterns that reach from floor to ceiling. Furnishings are finished in rich red and purple hues, and granite boulders imported from Thailand are repurposed as a sushi bar.

“The concept brings raw natural elements together as a vibrant backdrop for the textures and flavors coming out of the kitchens,” reveals Humphries.

Among these three locations, as well as a host of other restaurants and eateries around the globe, it’s this all-encompassing theming that runs from sustenance to surroundings. These small design touches are sure to keep diners  intrigued in 2019’s experiential dining market.