HOSPITALITYDESIGN: 3 Experiential Restaurants Go Big With Artistic Moves

At the center of hospitality for both restaurants and hotels are buzzwords like authenticity and experiential. Guests expect to not only be transported but transformed and designers are doing that through celebrating—and preserving—original details, highlighting renewable resources, and creating captivating and shareable moments to attract new and loyal customers alike. Here, we highlight three restaurants that are pushing design boundaries with concepts that, more than just a place to dine, are works of art on their own.

50% Cloud Artists Lounge

From the red soil of Mile City in China’s Yunnan province emerges a series of undulating brick volumes that boast powerful curb appeal, thanks to sculptural, wine bottle-esque forms that, when clustered together, are reminiscent of clouds. The bulbous buildings—crafted by local artist and sculptor Luo Xu—are the centerpiece of the Dongfengyun cultural town, which comprises a multifunctional hall, art gallery, MGallery hotel, and 50% Cloud Artists Lounge—all featuring interiors by Hong Kong-based Cheng Chung Design (CCD).

Inside the restaurant, which was made without any steel reinforcements, CCD founder Joe Cheng opted for a pared back approach to let the soaring, curving brick interiors take centerstage. “We were moved by the unique original architecture, which shocked both the eyes and soul,” he says. Because the firm was asked not to modify or decorate the building’s walls, Cheng and his team positioned furniture—curved wooden banquettes with gray-blue seating, circular tables, large woven pendant lights, all set amidst delicate trees—to correspond with daylight, which filters through skylights to suggest the interplay of the sun and cloud shadows. At the center, where the brick archways meet in one column, stands a blackened metal circular bar. This air of ephemera permeates the multisensory dining experience against a backdrop of multimedia artwork, intended to provoke conversation. “It is not only a restaurant but also a comprehensive art space, enabling people to communicate with the art and also with each other.” Cheng says.

Spice & Barley

With sustainability top of mind, architecture firm Enter Projects Asia outfitted craft beer-centric Spice & Barley with an abundance of rattan—a renewable material it formed into towering structures that mimic beer being poured into a glass. They draw eyes to the gold-painted rattan ceiling, which aids in hiding the large beer pipes and air-conditioning. “We wanted [to have] a natural material solution in an urban context,” says firm director Patrick Keane. “The golden rattan is designed to be a beacon in the skyline, referencing the sparkle of Thai temples and also the color of beer.” The impact of the designers’ material choices is another major part of the story. “The arts and crafts culture is seriously under threat from the importation of inferior plastic products,” Keane says. “Our work with rattan saved three factories from extinction and [helped keep] five generations of arts and crafts alive.”

Ping Pong

When patrons walk into Brisbane, Australia’s Thai restaurant Ping Pong, they are immediately engulfed in hyper-pink surroundings. “Color is the most important aspect of the design,” says Alexander Lotersztain, founder of local multidisciplinary studio Derlot. “We envisioned a highly memorable, Instagrammable restaurant. It’s become that and much more.”

Bright pink wraps walls and floors, covers custom furniture, and is even an accent to a long mirror. The only contrast comes from the bar and tabletops made entirely from recycled plastic that work gray and blue in with notes of magenta, while 300 white spheric pendant lights hanging overhead cast an ethereal glow. Further in, however, is the secluded, more intimate Jungle Room, featuring ambient lighting and wilder prints that mesh with its green palette. This “quiet” zone is aided by a dedicated soundtrack of jungle sounds, including calls from monkeys, nodding to their cameo on the wallcoverings. “Both zones allow guests to immerse themselves in an experience that is fun,” Lotersztain says. “Word of mouth is more important than ever in hospitality and creating venues that allow people to experience dining with all their senses is a surefire way to get people talking.”

This article originally appeared in HD’s May 2021 issue.

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