Wine tasting is passé and the English have already perfected the High Tea, and nothing surpasses the Japanese tea ceremony. So what’s next? The creative minds at L'Hôtel de Vendôme in Paris set their eyes on “High Coffee.” They don’t call it that, but it certainly looks and feels like it.
Every afternoon, superior gourmet coffee varieties are served according to the expertise of France’s Best Roaster of 2011, Antoine Netien, and Tom Clark, owners of Paris’s high-profile Coutume Café, and importers and roasters of vintage coffees.
Enticing the coffee-drinkers to elevate their experience to a sinful level of indulgence are dainty carts full of mouth-watering sweet delicacies created with the supervision of Luc Debove, Chef Pâtissier of the Grand Hotel of Cap Ferrat, that belongs to the same group as 1 Place Vendôme.
This culinary extravagance is served in the hotel’s deliciously prissy first-floor restaurant, 1 Place Vendôme with its magnificent views of the Place Vendôme. When the restaurant opened in 2009, it was Florence-based architect Michele Bönan’s first restaurant and hotel project in France.
Bönan created a completely customized, elegant setting in a couture-style theme with silver-studded black-and-white hounds’ tooth chairs, plush silk and velvet sofas, silver satin curtains, and cushions of pink silk satin with black and white ribbed motifs.
And to amplify the luxurious effect, all this is contained in a space with virgin-white walls, floors and ceilings. All furniture and fittings, including curtains, cushions and carpeting were custom-designed by Bönan and manufactured in Florence from fabrics by the Italian fabric house Dedar. - Tuija Seipell
Luzi Bombón in Madrid is the latest restaurant creation of the Barcelona-based Grupo Tragaluz.
The group’s beginnings date back to 1987, when mother and son, Rosa Maria Esteva and Tomas Tarruella, opened El Mordisco in Barcelona.
Now, 20 restaurants and one hotel -- OMM in Barcelona -- later, their brand is a strong, established player in the Spanish hospitality market.
Luzi Bombón on Paseo de la Castellana offers madrileños Mediterranean brasserie food from early lunch in the garden to late-night drinks in the bar with live DJs.
The mid-century minimalist interior design of Luzi Bombón is by Esteva’s daughter, Sandra Tarruella www.sandratarruella.com. - Tuija Seipell
Is there anything more basic, homey and familiar than a loaf of great bread? Yet it has become a luxury. More and more of us are sick of (literally and figuratively) the white, never-to-stale sliced bread in its never-to-biodegrade plastic bag.
We crave for fresh artisanal breads, natural ingredients, heritage grains, organic everything. Those who value great-tasting, healthy bread will pay for quality.
And with that quality and premium price comes the notion of design. Why should we buy that wonderful, healthy loaf at a horrible-looking bakery?
Hominess and hearty fare are great, but does the environment have to look so “homey,” too? Not any more. We are seeing more and more cool bakeries around the world.
Our fans and followers helped us track down a few examples that meet the requirements at least visually. If the loaves and other baked goods created at these establishments remain consistently as great as their environments, you can count us in as fans.
Blé, Thessaloniki, Greece
Blé Bakery on Agias Sofias in Thessaloniki, Greece, most certainly fits the bill. It was designed by the minimalist architects at Claudio Silvestrin Giuliana Salmaso (London & Milan). It has the world’s largest wood oven – gigantic, at 12 meters (almost 40 feet) tall!
And the bakery is built from cob made of white clay from Crete and Milos, plus sand and straw. Blé’s four floors house a patisserie, bakery, delicatessen and a wine and mozzarella bar.
Electra, Edessa, Greece
Another cool bakery in northern Greece is located about two hours’ drive form Thessaloniki in a town called Edessa. This central Elektra Bakery location is a prototype redesign of the family-run bakery chain’s stores.
The open, minimalist design by Edessa-based Studioprototype Architects helps to disguise the tiny space of 35 square meters (376 square feet) at a busy intersection.
The large outdoor seating area adds to the appeal, and glass walls link the indoors and outdoors to each other. Furniture by Xavier Pauchard and lighting by Tom Dixon.
VyTA Boulangerie Italiana, Turin, Italy
In Italy, the drama never ends. Not even in a bakery. VyTA Boulangerie, designed by Rome-based architect Daniela Colli, is located at the epicentre of busy urban life, the Porta Nuova train station in Turin.
With its contrasting light oak and black polymer surfaces the shop resembles a high-end fashion boutique or bar much more than it does a bakery steeped in tradition or natural ingredients.
Yet, it is an engaging environment with its large L-shaped counter, the stylized natural-oak “hood” over the pastry displays, and the hexagonal beehive detailing. VyTA Boulangerie has stores in Rome, Milan, Turin and Naples.
Princi, Milan, Italy
Of course, the dramatic dawn of the designer bakery took place in Milan. Princi, also designed by Claudio Silvestrin, offers organic breads and other goodies made according to traditional recipes. And it is open 24 hours a day and even on Sundays.
Owner Rocco Princi opened his first bakery in 1986. He now has four stores in Milan and one in Soho, in London.
Joseph – Brot vom Pheinsten, Vienna, Austria
In Vienna, Austria, the latest cool destination for lovers of organic bread is Joseph - Brot vom Pheinsten (Translation: Joseph – Finest Bread), located in the 1st district at Nagelgrasse 9.
This is the first retail store for owner Josef Weghaupt and master baker Friedrich “Fritz” Potocnik whose Joseph delicacies are also available at the city’s finest cafés restaurants, delis and shops. Corporate and graphic design by Martin Dvorak.
Baker D. Chirico, Melbourne, Australia
In Melbourne, Australia, cravings for chic design and amazing bread will be satisfied at two shops owned by Daniel Chirico. In celebration of the artisan baker, his second Baker D. Chirico store in Carlton, unlike the first one in St Kilda neighbourhood, has no coffee machine, deli or other distractions.
It is all about bread. And of course, about design, wonderful curving wood slats infusing light and warmth into the tiny space. Created by March Studio, also responsible for a number of Aesop store interiors.
Bécasse Bakery, Sydney, Australia
The chic, French-inspired Bécasse Bakery is located in the new Westfield Shopping Centre in Sydney, Australia.
It is part of a group of establishments, all located on the fifth floor of the centre and all owned by Justin and Georgia North: Quarter Twenty One restaurant, store and cooking school, plus Bécasse Restaurant and Bécasse Bakery.
The bakery was designed by Sydney-based Mima Design with principals Mark McConnell and Micheline Li Yoo Foo.
Panscape Bakery, Kyoto, Japan
In Kyoto, Japan, Panscape bakery represents the new look of bakeries. The tiny space, just over 26 square metres (280 square feet), looks sleek and clean in the understated, minimalist way the Japanese master so well.
Yet, with its select, massive components of cement and aluminum plus a half-tonne log, the space also exudes solidity and strength.
The concept, architecture and interior are by Osaka-based Hiroki Kawata Architects: ninkipen!
Komsufirin, Istanbul, Turkey
In its fewer than five years of existence, Komsufirin has grown to some 60 stores in Turkey and it sells predominantly pre-baked products, so it is by no means an artisan boutique enterprise, but we like the clear, minimalist interior, redesigned by Istanbul-based Autobahn.
The store name translates as “the oven in the neighbourhood” and Autobahn principals Seyhan Özdemir and Sefer Cağlar used natural oak and white tiles to create a modern and visually spacey environment as a backdrop for the ancient process of baking.
Komsufirin is operated by the Doruk group and it is growing at a breathtaking pace, aiming for 350 stores by 2013 and 1,000 stores by 2020.
Helsinki Bakery, Osaka, Japan
One would expect to find Helsinki Bakery in Finland, but no, this one is located in Osaka, in the three-year-old Hankyu Nishinomiya Gardens shopping mall.
And not just the name, but also the white and natural-wood design have direct connections to Finland.
The store’s Japan-born designer Arihiro Miyake is based in Helsinki-Finland, and has studied in both Japan and Finland.
Simple, healthy and natural are the key words of the bakery and the Scandinavian design supports those notions perfectly.
Lagkagehuset Bakery, Copenhagen, Denmark
Lagkagehuset Bakery’s name translates as “pie house” but there is definitely no homey pie atmosphere in this location, designed by SPACE Copenhagen.
Lagkagehuset’s principals, Steen Skallebæk and Ole Kristoffersen, have been baking independently of each other since the early 1990s. But in 2008, they combined their successes in and started Lagkagehuset that now has 18 locations in Denmark. - Tuija Seipell
The 15-room Parisian boutique Hôtel Thoumieux in the Left Bank is yet another cool, art-deco-ish creation by Thierry Costes and designer India Mahdavi. Some time ago, we wrote about their Germain cooperation
Located above the popular Thoumieux Brasserie, the hotel also offers its own significant culinary input in the form of the 20-seat dining room Jean-François Piège, where chef Jean-François Piège is apparently creating gastronomic masterpieces.
The dining room’s tongue-in-cheek decor, also by India Mahdavi, exudes a somewhat out-dated and perhaps even a bit underworldly glamor of a bygone-era -- potted plants on doilies and elaborate wallpapers included. The pastelly furnishings, carpets and wall treatments bring out an aura of an elderly, once-quite-elegant aunt, who would not allow you to enter the room with a drippy chocolate ice cream cone.
The 20-seat dining room is not likely offer ice cream cones, but the atmosphere is relaxed, with no sommelier and no menu just “Les Règles du Jeu” (today’s market). - Tuija Seipell
French architect Odile Decq (born 1955) and her late partner, architect and doctor Benoit Cornette (1953-1998) have never feared bold, big, challenging projects.
This year, Decq who continues to lead Odile DECQ Benoit CORNETTE:Architectes Urbanistes in Paris, completed a task that has apparently eluded designers and architects since 1875.
She designed the spectacular L'Opéra Restaurant, located in one of the most famous buildings in opera, the 1,600-seat L'Opéra Garnier, on Place de l'Opéra in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris.
The 6 million Euro (about $8.2 million US), three-year-long project was completed this summer. The most significant features of the restaurant are the magnificent glass curtain walls that protect the original stone; the curved structures that define the new space and also create the seating areas and even some of the seating; and the simple use of white and red. The result is both minimal and grandiose, contemporary and historic. From some angles, the curvy structures create a cave-like view, perhaps a reference to the Phantom’s subterranean world.
The building, originally designed by architect Charles Garnier in Baroque Revival style, was inaugurated in 1875. Over the years, it has been known as Opéra de Paris, L'Opéra Garnier, Paris Opéra and L'Opéra Populaire. Its architecture set a new style for opera buildings, and for the next several decades opera houses around the world were built to resemble it.
The building’s fame has also been boosted because it is the setting of Gaston Leroux’s gothic novel, Phantom of the Opera (Le Fantôme de l'Opéra, 1911) and the popular musical ,by Andrew Lloyd Webber (1986). - Tuija Seipell
Pics by Roland Halbe
It seems we really like the work of Sydney's Dreamtime Australia Design as this is the third time we featured their work.
Dreamtime director Michael McCann and team are the designers of the Concrete Blonde restaurant recently launched in Potts Point at Kings Cross in Sydney.
Earlier, we've covered their Victor Churchill butcher and the Sydney Seafood School.
Concrete Blonde is a 100-seat restaurant presided over by chef Patrick Dang who has brought the many nuances of his international experience to the stylish tables of Concrete Blonde.
We love the stunning fireplace, the retro comic-book mural and the clever metal "tin-can" wall slots for firewood. The strong focus on metal evokes thoughts of industrial kitchens and huge dining halls, yet the atmosphere manages also to exude inviting warmth.
As it should be, the best feature of Concrete Blonde is the food. Our recent visit had us face the formidable problem of deciding what to eat. There are many options, plus the menu changes - the chefs here are capable of experimenting and improvising while focusing on freshness, local produce, Berkshire Pork, Murrylands Farm lamb.
We had the prawns popped with popcorn, then Himasa kingfish (coffee-cured with cranberry & burnt-scallion vinaigrette, pickled mustard seeds) and for the main event, we had the Meredith duck (passion fruit-glazed root vegetables with duck ravioli in pain d'épices consommé).
Being big fans of duck, we had high expectations and they were exceeded. By now we were stuffed, yet had to indulge in dessert, which turned out to be the best part of the already amazing dinner. The chocolate dessert with its pistachio wafers and olive oil jam was phenomenal in its perfect consistency, sweetness, and rich chocolate flavour. And don't get us started on the lychee and rosewater martinis, one of the many choices on the extensive martini menu. We will be going back for more. - Mark Cunial
33 Bayswater Rd, Potts Point, NSW 2000
Phone: 02 9380 8307
(Next to Hugo's Lounge)
Retail interiors by Chikara Ohno of Tokyo-based architecture and interior firm Sinato are often characterized by elegant simplicity and smart use of light. A great example of this is organic store and restaurant, +green. It is located on the ground floor of a basic concrete-frame apartment building in a residential section of Tokyo`s Jiyu Street, close to one of the city’s largest parks, Komazawa.
The 111.5 square meter (1,200 sq.ft) space is exceptionally high (about 4.4 meters or 14.4 feet) and much of it is underground but customers — and light – can move freely between the three levels.
The take-out, popular by park picnickers, is on the ground floor. In +green, Ohno has used clever partitioning, neutral materials and subdued colours to create a space that appears both intimate and large, and despite its underground location, has a refreshing, airy feel. - Tuija Seipell.
Dining in the sky is so last decade, but how about dining under water? And if submarine supper is your thing, wouldn’t you want to experience it in one of the world’s top diving destinations, the Maldives?
Anantara Kihavah Villas unique underwater restaurant, Sea, is part of a quartet of culinary experiences aptly named Sea, Fire, Salt and Sky — each with its distinctive cuisine, atmosphere and location.
Sea offers Mediterranean buffet lunches and a degustation dinner with stunning views of the sea life in the channel. Sea is also a wine cellar stocked with 250 labels representing 14 countries, and serving more than 20 labels by the glass.
The luxury resort is located on Kihavah Huravalhi Island in the Maldives, half an hour by seaplane from the Male International Airport. Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas is a group of 15 luxury properties in Thailand, the Maldives, Bali and the United Arab Emirates with near-future openings in Vietnam, China, Bali, Thailand and Abu Dhabi. - Bill Tikos
We love the deliciously pastelly mood and the interplay of light and shadow in the new Mordisco restaurant in Barcelona’s Eixample district. Designed by Sandra Tarruella Interioristas, the former family residence now exudes a Scandinavian modern clarity, yet preserves some of the touches, such as the massive staircase and the ceiling cornices, from the high-ceilinged grand home.
The patio is now covered and functions like a sun room or greenhouse, bringing the greenery close to the diners. At the entrance, a little grocery area offers the guests fresh vegetables and produce and many other fine ingredients used in the restaurant’s kitchen.
Mordisco is part of the Grupo Tragaluz hospitality family empire founded in 1987 by mother and son Rosa Maria Esteva and Tomas Tarruella. Tragaluz began with the fist Mordisco restaurant and has since expanded to include several restaurant concepts and the boutique hotel OMM. - Tuija Seipell
Twister is a new restaurant concept proposed for a space in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. The design team, Sergey Makhno and Vasily Butenko also of Kiev, work on residential and commercial interiors and architecture but we are particularly fascinated by their furniture and their sculptural approach to interiors. We wrote about one of their office projects a while ago.
In Twister, the duo has captured the upward pull of a tornado in the main two-storey dining area with furnishings that seem to hover above the floor on their super-slim legs, with light fixtures resembling rain drops, and with massive sculptural columns that are in fact crow's-nest balconies.
The bar area is yet another iteration of a bird’s nest with walls covered with thatched sticks and with cushy seats resembling pods or cones. The warm-toned color palette conveys a sense of calm throughout, in spite of the avian connotations and air-borne allusions. - Tuija Seipell.