Bar & Restaurant Q&A with THDP

THDP is a UK & Italian, multi award winning Architecture and Interior Design practice specialising in hospitality and high end residential projects, product design & creative product consultancy. We took the opportunity to learn more about this international practice and their work for the bar and restaurant sector.

Nicholas Hickson and Manuela Mannino. Photo by Linda Scuizzato

Established in 2004 by partners Nicholas Hickson and Manuela Mannino THDP’s goal is to bring together some of Britain’s & Italy’s diverse architectural & design talents and to serve the most prestigious International clients.  Since then THDP have gone on to design many other hotels and residential interiors in Italy, Germany, Spain, Poland, Russia, Israel and the United Kingdom where we are based.  

Mediterraneo Sorrento restaurant. Photo by Vincenzo Tambasco

Your studio specialises in hotel design, can you tell me more?

Our principles of design start with our 360° service, it’s a full circle of complete design services. We know that any successful project is built upon consistency of vision running through its centre, so that is why THDP offer both architecture, interior design, procurement, project management as well as site supervision as part of our 360° service.  Starting with Architecture we work in Europe but have local knowledge and partners particularly in the UK and Italy where we offer the following services: Feasibility Studies and Brand Consultation, Building design from Concept to Detailed Plans, Planning submissions, Detailing of Project.  For the heart of any building there is the Interior Design, which we separate in to four principle disciplines which we define as: Interior Design – Interior Architecture -FF+E Design and Installation – Artworks and Accessory Curation.

Indigo Venice. Photo by Veerle Evens Photography

How important are a hotel’s bar and restaurant to the hotel’s commercial success?
Very. They are extremely important because they  can connect the hotel with the city (in a way that the hotel is open not only to its guests but it welcomes guests walking in, that can integrate with the urban community). They also increase the revenue of food and beverage and if they are well designed and thoughtful they can become a new local destination· What are key design considerations when designing a hotel bar or restaurant?
It has to be visible from the outside (or in the lobby), it needs to be created to be a space within the lobby so that can attract people.  It needs to beckon the guest and draw them down from their rooms into a vibrant and welcoming area in which to socialise with friends and colleagues.

Hudson Yards Lounge Bar at Hilton Frankfurt City Centre. Photo by Beppe Raso.

Do the design considerations for a bar or restaurant which is within a hotel setting differ from those for a standalone bar or restaurant?
Yes, definitely, they fundamentally need to change their offering throughout the day, in the mornings offering a breakfast menu, at lunch a more substantial offering and in the night to transform in place to be, to eat and to be seen, this is the real trick . They have to allow privacy and to be comfortable too, even though they are part of a busy environment where guests are checking in and out.

Savor Restaurant & Bar, Hotel Indigo Venice. Photo by Veerle Events Photography.

Do the design specifications for hotel bars and restaurants reflect the country or city they are in?
Of course. It is interesting to understand that social drinking culture is different in Europe, you will find for example that in Italy even if the bar is a drinking one, the coffee machine will always be visible. With many projects we custom colour the machine and place it client facing so the Barista is facing the guest as he prepares their beverage – this is more engaging. In northern Europe generally there are two counters, one for cocktail stations with stocked up shelves and one more café style counter, with many choices for coffee and cappuccino, light snacks and food – almost deli style.
Pre-COVID19 what were the latest hotel bar or restaurant trends?
We never liked the world trend and we always tried to design timeless spaces that reflect the history and the culture of the city they are in, instead of becoming a trendy destination. Trends pass, good design stays forever. According to us, a space, to be beautiful and timeless must reflect the local community and be good looking at the same time.  Obviously COVID19 has meant that the interior needs to adapt for mainly table service, which means the space needs to be considered for the staff moving though it efficiently.

Hotel Indigo Verona, Grand Hotel Des Arts. Photo by Veerle Evens Photography

What trends or requirements do you expect to see once we come out of this pandemic?
We think people will quickly bore of being locked at home working, and they will wish to return to finding ‘joy’ once again. They will travel less for work, but travel more for pleasure. That means there’s going to be even more need of well designed bars and restaurant, and even more resorts. People might like to meet more after long periods of isolation, and therefore, there (hopefully) will be a huge increase of clients. So it will be a good moment for hotels and bars to focus on their strategy in terms of design.
Could you tell me about some of your key hotel bar and restaurant projects?
Aurt Restaurant (in Hilton Diagonal Mar Barcelona) and the Hudson Yards Bar (in Hilton Frankfurt City Centre)

Aurt Restaurant, Hilton Diagonal Mar Barcelona.

Aurt: In Catalan Aürt means punch. This was the simple yet compelling briefing and concept from Artur – his food a profound encounter with proximity and simplicity, it’s an intense gastronomic hit, the main ingredient being emotion. There’s a genuine honesty in every dish that are meticulously prepared right in front of the guest’s eyes.  Preparing such a setting was the challenge for THDP where right in the lobby we were asked not to place just the restaurant but the preparation kitchen itself. Never had such an undertaking been made, and it was not a small feat to blend the requirements of a busy working lobby with those of a fully working kitchen.  The solution came with the specification by THDP of an external cladding of the kitchen with a thin layer of Neolith, a Spanish made 6mm Sintered Stone which encases the technical equipment and allows the kitchen to visually recede whilst losing none of its functionality.  Pared back, with simple forms creating a visual ‘punch’ this was our design concept from the outset. However simple rarely means easy, as we learnt crafting each piece and tending to the exact requirements of Artur’s team and those of the hotel’s guests.  Finally, here then is a restaurant where traditions are told and fables unfold, an exclusive and unique setting limited to just 15 diners.  The lobby area too was to receive an update and to visually tie in whilst develop the visual simplicity of the Aurt Restaurant.  Free here to add more colour – the forms are still oblique, challenging yet for a visual dance for the guest.  Screening allow THDP to divide the space into different areas, drinking, waiting and chatting zones.  The upholstery is relaxed, colourful and playful with touches of local fabrics and forms.

Hudson Yards Lounge Bar at Hilton Frankfurt City Centre. Photo by Beppe Raso.

Hudson Yards: The new Hudson Yards Bar, resembles a typical New York bar, with brass gantry shelving, custom counter lights, brass foot stops and front facing custom coloured Rancilio Barista Machine. The perfect place to kick back in the day or evening to enjoy a beverage, snack or dine in style. The bar is adaptable, with the back bar having swing doors closing a ‘day’ focus section, for coffee and cakes – to reveal a ‘night’ time set up of cocktails and spirits. The hotel is providing guests with an inspiration of New York with a local twist, in its food and beverage offering at Hudson Yards.The overall style has a sense of heritage, with a focus on natural leathers, elegant veneers, Verde Alpi Marble, and brass. The colours are strong and invigorating with only 3 or 4 colours used to dress the interior.
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About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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