Book Review: New Restaurant Design by Bethan Ryder
(Laurence King) £19.95
Reviewed by Guy Sangster Adams
The sequel to her book Restaurant Design, Bethan Ryder’s New Restaurant Design which is published in paperback for the first time, continues her exploration of the world’s most “elegant, unusual, and spectacular dining spaces.” Underscoring and continuing her theme established in the earlier book that eating out can be “as much a lifestyle choice and source of entertainment as a form of nourishment,” Ryder showcases 45 restaurants grouping their designs under four sections Global Views, New Baroque, Modern Classic, High Concept.
Philippe Starck features twice in the New Baroque section with both the “fairytale fantasy” of the Bistro of the Faena and Universe hotel in Buenos Aires in which the gilt detailed, snow white furniture is watched over by white unicorn heads emerging from white silk draped walls, and also with Bon in Moscow, the third Bon restaurant but the first outside Paris. Predominantly black and gold the space “conjures up a hauntingly gothic atmosphere” with an interior that includes black crystal chandeliers, gold Kalashnikov lamp bases, distressed, graffiti scrawled walls, and a white skull motif on the black upholstery of the “half burned gilded armchairs.”
Whilst the major feature of the dining experience at Evo, within the High Concept section, are the views of 18 kilometres (11 miles) afforded from the UFO-like glass, geodesic dome perched atop the 105 metre (344 foot) high Hesperia Hotel in Barcelona, designed by Richard Rogers Partnership, Alonso I Balaguer Arquitectes, and GCA Arquitectes Associats. Thus the interior has been kept simple with glossy black lacquered tables, cream chairs, and golden yellow rhomboid-shaped fabric shaded lights which arch up following the curve of the dome “like sci-fi sunflowers.”
Modern Classic includes the Lebanese architect Bernard Khoury/DW5’s extraordinary Black Box, the restaurant for the shop Aïzone, a branch of Aïshti the Beirut fashion department store akin to Harvey Nichols or Barney’s. The exterior is lined with black aluminium panels and there is a projecting arm which not only contains a three-dimensional picture frame to display images and advertisements, but can also accommodate Aïshti fashion shows. Khoury’s, as Ryder writes, “daring and creative reclamation of war-torn buildings” has continued to reassert the identity of this troubled city; Black Box itself was damaged during the 2006 Lebanon War.
But Khoury remains phlegmatic, as is underlined in Ryder’s interview with him in the introductory section of the book which features interviews with 11 of the most influential restaurant designers (including Patrick Jouin, Marcel Wanders, Rob Wagemans, David Collins):
“Our part of the world raises far more burning and dramatic questions which you are faced with and which you cannot avoid. The problems are so obvious, especially when it comes to entertainment, and the situations are very interesting, I like tough situations, and I don’t like cute, happy little stories. That’s not my department.”
New Restaurant Design is richly illustrated with photographs, drawings, and floor plans, and coupled with Ryder’s erudite, informed, and unstintingly researched text creates both a superb overview of current restaurant design and an highly evocative travelogue.