High Tea at fancy hotels has long been a favourite of not just the Royals and the ladies who lunch, but even tourists glamming it up and gladly handing out their credit cards for a bit of high-brow fabulousness.
Wine Tastings and High Coffee came next, served and imbibed in various degrees of decadence and glamour.
But the stakes are getting higher and the temptations harder to resist. The Landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hong Kong is now serving a L900 Jimmy Choo package but only till early May. It includes afternoon tea for two at the MO Bar where the expected fare is served: cucumber and smoked salmon sandwiches, the Mandarin's famous ginger scones and clotted cream, and macaroons in a multitude of flavours, but it is all meticulously handcrafted in exquisite shoe and handbag shapes. Jimmy Choo, of course. And after the tea, you can check into the Mandarin 9200 square-foot L900 Suite for a night and select a pair from Jimmy Choo's new 24:7 capsule collection. Price tag for the splurge? Approximately $1,500 US. - Tuija Seipell
Combining their three loves -- coffee, cycling and sustainability -- inspired two London Royal College of Art product design students to create a mobile espresso bar, the Velopresso, that operates on pedal power. No electricity, no tethers. A truly free-wheeling carrier of caffeine!
This concept has surfaced before in more tentative forms but the Finnish designer Lasse Oiva and London designer Amos Field Reid have taken it to a sophisticated level. To a point where they are now looking for an industrial producer for their invention that has won the Deutsche Bank Award 2012 (Design) and placed second at the 2012 Pininfarina Design Contest.
Just five seconds of pedaling the trike will grind enough for a double shot while a camp stove heats the water and steam than powers the espresso machine. The designers are also working on a way to generate their own fuel by repurposing the used coffee grounds.
We think that Velopresso would be perfect for events, camping areas or any other location where a good espresso is absolutely necessary, even if electricity is not available. - Tuija Seipell
It is not often that we see an extensive series of images depicting the visual and physical interpretations of a restaurant brand and we think: Wow. These are ALL great!
But that was the case with El Montero. It is a restaurant located in the city of Saltillo in the Mexican state of Coahuila, not far from the Texan border. The surrounding area is desert and the visual and culinary style of the restaurant reflect this.
The town itself is nicknamed both the Athens of Mexico (for its history and concentration of intellectuals) and the Detroit of Mexico for the automobile assembly plants of Mercedes Benz, General Motors and Chrysler. Seems odd that one city could be both an Athens and a Detroit, but that’s what we are told.
As always, we fall in love with dualities and juxtapositions. We like the combination of sophistication and aged materials, contemporary and historical, dark and light. One cannot miss the fantastic, custom-created chandelier consisting of more than 4 kilometers of chain.
Or the cactus forest of the roomy terrace. Or the great combination of an exposed old-stone wall with ornate gold detailing.
The branding and interior design of El Montero were developed by Anagrama, a multi-disciplinary creative agency located in San Pedro Garza García in the state of Nuevo León. - Tuija Seipell
We like the fresh, unpretentious and happy look of the temporary Movement Café and performance space built next to the DLR station in Greenwich, South East London. It was constructed in 16 days to be ready for the opening of the Olympics.
It is located at the gateway to the Olympic borough, on Greenwich Industrial Estate, currently being redeveloped by the Cathedral Group. The Café was designed by British designer and artist Morag Myerscough and he collaborated with poet and tweeter Len Sissay.
Sissay's poem of tweets is now on the hoarding on the site, but it will be eventually set into the road as a permanent ode to the site. - Bill Tikos
The Camélia restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Paris is both sparklingly new and elegantly timeless. Possibly because of our Mid-Century Modernist and Scandinavian leanings, we think this space is exquisite.
It was designed by Paris-based Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku of Jouin Manku Studio.
The camellia motif relates directly to the camellia garden in which the restaurant is located. We love the smooth surfaces, the white colour, the subtle feel of being inside a gigantic bloom. The furnishings echo the same smooth petal shape and remind us of the Finnish master, Alvar Aalto, and his timeless white buildings and furniture. - Tuija Seipell
There is something mouth-wateringly yummy and creamily liquid going on in the interior of Cioccolato, a bakery boutique in Monterrey, Mexico. The designers aimed for a Willy Wonka factory feel of slight madness, and we think they’ve succeeded.
The new shop focuses on custom desserts and special events, and it is a specialized spin-off concept of the existing, fairly traditional Cioccolato pastry and cake brand.
The designers of the new concept are Savvy Studio Savvy-Studio.net of San Pedro Garza García, Nuevo León, México. One of the main concerns of the design team was to ensure clear differentiation of the new concept, without confusing the brands current customers.
The gooey concept evokes cravings of sweet sugary treats and thick whipped cream, strong chocolate and colourful candies, feather-light macaroons and juicy cupcakes – anything sweet and happy and festive.
Our favourite is the white table with one leg formed by dripping something, perhaps jam or some other irresistible filling. Chocolate drips off shelves and the seats seem to be made of licorice and ice cream.
Savvy Studio was in charge of the entire rebranding concept, from visual identity to interior design and packaging. Savvy is a multi-disciplinary studio involved in industrial design, architecture, graphic design, marketing and communications. Tuija Seipell
Niche “bars” are the new Third Places. Your preferred, distinctive, highly specialised places between work and home.
We’ve noticed restaurants, bars and services specialized in a not just a specific style of cooking, but on one ingredient, or one way of preparing an ingredient . Or one essential service. Or establishments that are taking the typical environment in a new direction. Doing something new, with a bold, clear focus. Not following others.
The images in this post are of BeefBar in Montre Carlo specialising in meat and established by European meat importer Riccfardo Giraudi who needed an uboring meat restaurant to showcase the best of meat and to entertain his clients.
The fairly recently refurbished interior is by Monaco-based Humbert & Poyet Agency. Especially impressive in the Monte Carlo BeefBar are the custom-made Murano glass chandelier and the marble bathrooms.
In our search for specialisation, we’ve encountered the Obika Mozzarella Bar in Rome/Florence/London/Milan/New York/Los Angeles/Toronto/Istanbul/Tokyo. We fell in love with their website’s sensuous Fabrizio Ferri-directed intro video about the art of making those delicious orbs of Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP, mozzarella made from the milk of the domestic water buffalo.
And the Poncelet Cheese Bar in Madrid with its cool, angular interior by Gabriel Corchero Studio.
Or San Francisco’s Coffee Bar, a coffee bar decidedly moving away from the atmosphere of scruffy armchairs and permanent residents with their laptops, to creating an elegant, minimalist stage for making an espresso drink .
We’ve also noticed the Asian Noodle Bar, Zozobra, in Kfar-Sabba, Israel, where chef Avi Conforti prepares Asian food based on centuries-old recipes in a shockingly vast and modern environment, designed by BK Architects.
Restaurant Farma Kreaton (Meat Farm in Greek)is the recently opened addition to the well publicized Fabrica Kreaton restaurant located in the center of the city of Komotini, (Adrianoupoleos 4) in northeastern Greece.
The architecture and interior design of both spaces are by Minas Kosmidis (Μηνάς Κοσμίδης) with offices in Thessaloniki and Komotini.
In the case of Farma Kreaton, graphic designer Yiannis Tokalatsidis created the minimalist, hand-drawn graphics and cut-outs of cows, chickens and the scenery of the countryside that set the whimsical barn-yard chic tone to the entire space.
The 270 square-meter (almost 3,000 square- feet), 150 seat new restaurant is in essence an additional open-concept eating area to the existing Fabrica Kreaton that, in turn, is themed around a Greek butcher shop. Both are housed in a renovated 1950s farm house with a large yard.
In Farma Kreaton, in addition to the graphic components, we were attracted to the lovely, white-painted wood floors and the overall feel of a temporary barn-raising supper.
The simple plank tables, the mismatched, unpretentious chairs, the humble potted plants and herbs on the tables, all exude a feel of a space dedicated — just for the moment — to sumptuous eating and enjoyment of good company.
The hay bales, pick forks, watering cans and cut-out animals remind the diners of the work done and to-be done on the farm, the dinner beings just a moment of celebration — perhaps of a good hay harvest or a successful calving.
In short, Minas Kosmidis and his team have managed to create a believable semblance of a working farm without going overboard and ending up with a contrived, pretentious “concept” instead.
The food at Farma Kreaton is typical Greek meat-based plates, and the diners are predominantly locals. Tuija Seipell.
Yoobi Sushi, London's first temakeria, opened last month on Lexington Street in Soho. Its interior design is an exercise in constraint that has produced a statement of clean minimalism at its best.
Temaki is fresh sushi wrapped in a cone. It is a take-out or eat-in variety of sushi that was born in Brazil where the largest Japanese population outside Japan resides.
London-based Gundry & Ducker Architecture Ltd. stripped the former warehouse back to its original brick and painted the walls dark steel-gray.
The designers were challenged to combine the vibes of Rio, Tokyo and London, and to reflect the Yoobi brand's color palette created by Ico Design.
They solved the riddle with a fusion of only a few distinct features. All key surfaces, apart from floors and ceilings, received a light timber covering. The only "colors" are added by the brilliant white sushi bar, by the on-brand color inlays in tables, and by the chairs.
The decorative touch that connects all of the elements is the on-brand angular detail on the floor, sushi bar, tables, and on the blocky benches and plinths. - Tuija Seipell.
Not being big meat-eaters, we may never become regulars at Yakiniku Master Japanese barbecue, but we do love the design of the chain’s latest, its third, restaurant, opened late last year on Shanghai’s Tianyaoqiao road.
The 300 square-meter (3,230 square-foot) restaurant seats 130 people. It was designed by Beijing-based Golucci International Design, lead by the Taiwan-born, London-trained designer, Lee Hsuheng, with team members Zhao Shuang and Ji Weng.
The interior of Yakiniku Master Japanese barbecue is a harmonious combination of minimalist modern design and references to both Japanese and Southern Chinese architecture and traditions.
We love the use of the wood frame structures of traditional Japanese architecture, and in particular, the oak lattice work or screens that simultaneously divide and unite the restaurant’s various sections.
We love the half-moon shaped ceiling light fixtures designed by Golucci and referring to small, traditional Chinese boats.
The seemingly random, rectangular patches of meticulously arranged pebbles create cool interest on the floor and resemble a typical Zen-like feature in a Chinese garden.
We like the large, black-and-white mural behind the bar area that shows the beautifully curving silhouettes of typical Chinese roofs.
But most of all we love the stunning, ink-black wall of stacked traditional Japanese barbecue coal. It is absolutely beautiful.
All of these quietly elegant elements are not just beautiful to look at, but tactile and interesting, with texture and life and stories to tell.
Lee Hsuheng established Golucci International Design in 2004. Its portfolio includes a number of high-end restaurant and hospitality projects. - Tuija Seipell