10 High-Design Restaurants Worth Traveling For
Custom furniture. Works of art. Statement centerpieces. The stunning interiors at these recently opened restaurants across the globe are a feast for all senses.
It seems fitting that Patricia Urquiola, the superstar designer and architect behind the posh Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona, is also responsible for the hotel's latest buzz: BistrEau. The sleek, light-filled seafood bistro has become a fast neighborhood favorite thanks to native chef Ángel León's unique Mediterranean dishes like plankton brioche with fish sausage, not to mention Urquiola's dramatic interior. Here, hanging topiaries and plush wingback chairs and padded sofas are artfully arranged beneath a spectacular white lattice structure suspended from the ceiling – the space's pièce de résistance.
Mourad, San Francisco
In a grand Art Deco building in San Francisco’s South of Market district, the bi-level Mourad provides a modern contrast to its granite, concrete, and steel 1920s frame. Inside, designer Olle Lundberg's vision juxtaposes contemporary touches – a gray palette with pops of color, glass and metal – with nods to Moroccan chef Mourad Lahlou's homeland, seen in the fabric ceilings, mosaic tilework, and, at the entrance, a commanding 14-foot-tall teak sculpture inspired by the Atlas Mountains. Lahlou's dishes (such as octopus with chickpeas, oranges, olives, and merguez) illustrate the same sensibilities, paying tribute to Morocco while adhering to California's fresh style.
The Jane, Antwerp
No detail was overlooked at this dazzling chapel turned restaurant in Antwerp from chefs Sergio Herman (formerly of the three-Michelin-starred Oud Sluis) and Nick Bril, where everything from the bread baskets to the staff uniforms are custom-made. Dutch designer Piet Boon executed the guiding concept – "fine dining meets rock 'n roll" – beautifully, adding a dose of irreverence to some of the chapel's original features (including a series of stained-glass windows that now depict playful images of skulls, penguins, and carrots). There's plenty of unadulterated elegance, too, from the velvet chairs and leather sofas to a statement central chandelier featuring hundreds of bulbs at the ends of lengthy steel rods.
For a serious dose of forward-thinking design, head to London’s South Bank, home to the newly transformed Tate Modern and the bold boutique hotel by the legendary Tom Dixon and his Design Research Studio, Mondrian London at Sea Containers. Its ground-floor cocktail bar, Dandelyan, is a real showpiece thanks to a seductive combination of dark greens, bright pinks, glittering brass, and sinuous shapes. Sitting in one of the velvet lounge chairs near the marble bar feels like being on a luxury cruise liner from the early 20th century. The captain of this ship is 2015 International Bartender of the Year Ryan Chetiyawardana, whose award-winning cocktail menu was inspired by botanists and foragers. Try the Vaudeville Venom, made with pisco, vodka, aronia berries, and pineapple skin shrub.
Duck Duck Goat, Chicago
The latest restaurant from Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard, Duck Duck Goat, is both alluringly exotic and comfortingly familiar. International design firm Avroko drew inspiration from Chinatowns across America to create a theatrical space with overhead paper lanterns, floral motifs, stylized neon signs, rich wood paneling, and recognizable splashes of red and green – each nook a distinct personality of eclecticism and chaos. As for the menu? Classic crowd-pleasers like duck fried rice, soup dumplings, and chicken chow fun.
Casa Cavia, Buenos Aires
This hybrid restaurant, flower shop, bookstore, and perfumery housed in a 1927 Palermo mansion might be the most elegant addition to well-heeled Palermo Chico. London-based designers Stephania Kallos and Abigail Turin used white and green marble, brass, velour, terrazzo flooring, and antiqued mirrors to spruce up the space, and the result – like stepping back into one of the city's retro-chic cafés from the 1920s – is stunning. After digging in to local celebrity chef Pablo Massey's market-driven Argentinian dishes like rib eye with ratatouille and fresh-herb chimichurri, guests are free to stroll the central courtyard, where a raised reflecting pool mirrors the sky and surrounding greenery.
Mott 32, Hong Kong
Who says basements can’t be beautiful? Local architect Joyce Wang used Mott 32's location inside the cellar of a bank building in Central to maximum effect, creating a moody, dimly lit space that interprets age-old Chinese design traditions and industrial New York. Inside, surprises lie at every turn: a giant abacus hangs on the ceiling of one of the dining rooms, an orange alcove is hung with hundreds of paint brushes, and another corner features a series of dangling metal chains and ropes referencing Hong Kong's fishing history.
Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris
The makeover of Alain Ducasse’s flagship restaurant, which just won back its third Michelin star, is one of the most striking results from the recent renovation of Paris's venerable Hotel Plaza Athénée. Designers Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku let their imaginations run free, adding futuristic elements like dome-shaped banquettes covered in stainless steel that reflect the crystals of the ceiling chandelier, the only piece retained from the restaurant's original design.
Le Sam Bistro Evolutif, Québec City
New York-based Rockwell Group, one of the most high-profile hospitality design firms in the world, was tasked in 2014 with redesigning the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, a Québec City icon originally built in 1893. One of the hotel's restaurants, Le Sam Bistro Évolutif, is particularly eye-catching, particularly its series of super-tall curved booths covered in deep-blue cushy velvet that incorporate details like rivets and guardrails – allusions to the Canadian Pacific Railway and the golden age of train travel. Another element we love? The semicircular central bar, jazzed up with herringbone brass tiles and a sculptural chandelier overhead made of thin metal chains that dangle like jewelry.
Stepping into Hueso, in Guadalajara's trendy Lafayette district, is like entering a macabre fantasy world. Architect Ignacio Cadena, the brother of house chef Alfonso Cadena, took inspiration from Darwinism, covering the inside of a 1940s Modernist home wall-to-wall with 10,000 animal bones along with all-white butcher's knives, cooking utensils, and decorative objects made by visual artists. The description may sound chilling, but the atmosphere – refreshingly monochrome, texturally rich, transporting – is anything but. And there's no bad seat in the house: from the large timber communal table that runs the length of the room, diners can watch the open kitchen at work.
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