We spoke to Jacqui Kirk of Dexter Moren Associates, who tells us about the impact of winning the Restaurant or Bar in a Heritage Building category for Apero at the Restaurant and Bar Design Awards 2012/13, how the project was inspired, and realised by interior designers Rosie Morley and Shaun East.
What has been the effect of you winning the Restaurant or Bar in a Heritage Building category at the Restaurant and Bar Design Awards this year, and how has it influenced your design plans for future projects?
Hospitality design is a competitive sector and to be recognised with a RABD Award helps a practice stand out from the crowd. Receiving such an accolade not only celebrates the integrity of our project but also strengthens the value in our ‘we don’t have a house style’ approach. We look forward to the opportunity of continuing to work with clients such as The Ampersand to create unique, long lasting and individual designs which are bespoke and ultimately a success for our clients.
Tell us about the winning project, Apero, and how you were inspired to create it.
The concept for the dining room was to create a space which would stand apart from the main hotel. It was also important that the space embrace its location, so we referenced the local museums through the notion of collections and collecting (as seen in the 3m high feature cabinet of curiosities). The basement space also has a speakeasy feel to it, designed to attract passing trade as an evening bar as well as function as all day dining for the hotel.
Utilising the underground vaults were central to our design approach – we used the cellar arches to create snugs and private dining spaces helping to zone the areas, featuring exposed brickwork and Georgian wire glazing. Much of the previous fabric of the hotel paid no attention to the building’s history and architectural provenance. The space previously acted as a buffet service for both breakfast and dinner. Laminated chipboard surfaces and suspended ceilings concealed a whole host of features that had not seen light of day for some time. We chose to strip all of this back to celebrate the original brickwork and vaulted arches. We offset this with white brickwork to create a lighter space more inviting for breakfast.
Give us an example of a really great food and drink venue that is design-led, and works well for customers, and why this is?
The Albion Café at The Boundary – this is a really interesting design and operator model, as it functions as the hotel breakfast offering, yet actively works as a street level ‘local’ café. It offers a clever blend of café, store and hotel offering, which contributes to the street level buzz in classic Shoreditch style.
Which hospitality operator would you love to work for and why?
We’re big fans of the Soho House Group – they’re always one step ahead and have been responsible for lots of our favourite dining concepts.
What trends do you foresee for the next few years in designing for this sector?
There has been a major shift towards British produce that is locally sourced and seasonal, and the spaces we’re designing respond to this. Therefore we’re designing spaces that are more relaxed and informal. We are also moving towards incorporating design techniques typically found in other sectors, such as retail and residential. This blend of approaches results in dynamic and engaging spaces that appeal to people on the basis of both familiarity and surprise. Providing guests with an authentic experience tapping into local neighbourhoods will also play a bigger role.
Can you tell us any of your plans for 2014?
We’re currently working with one of the large international hotel brands to redesign their food and beverage offering to become a destination attracting locals as much as hotel guests. We’re also working on an exciting mix of hospitality and hotel projects in the UK, Montenegro, Switzerland, Belarus, Russia, and Africa.
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