With London-based restaurant and hospitality design specialist AfroditiKrassa at the helm, Heston Blumenthal’s latest restaurant in Heathrow’s recently-developed Terminal 2 was destined to be a design success. Drawing on the 1960s’ and 70s’ inspired menu for her vibrant design concept, Afroditi has defied the limitations of airport restaurants, instead creating a destination venue that stands boldly on its own two feet.
The interior design is a nod to an era in which part of the Modern British identity is anchored and regarded with nostalgia. Classic and warm, with a touch of irony, the space exudes the glamorous experience of travelling in the 1960s, complete with dark timbers and marble, brown veining, leather and brass detailing. Iconic 60s material, Formica, abounds, while the strong black and white floor tiles contrast with a more vibrant palette of blue, orange and mustard tones.
Iconic film and TV references from this period, from Mad Men to Catch Me If You Can, provided inspiration for Afroditi, who also drew upon the work of influential furniture and interior designer, Verner Panton, and the humorous and ironic style of American graphic designer, Saul Bass, who in fact created the branding for various airlines in those decades.
The space has been imaginatively organised to offer an array of sensorial experiences and paces to suit diners’ individual needs. The front of the restaurant, for example, is quick and dynamic, combining loose, flexible tables and hard surfaces such as tiles and marble. The over-sized bar becomes an ideal setting for a quick shared plate or cocktail before a flight.
As diners progress into the space, the pace slows to accommodate a more relaxed dining experience away from the hustle and bustle of the terminal. The finishes become warmer and softer, and key seats act as observer booths that allow customers to see the planes taking off and landing.
“I have a simple challenge each time, to design the true category definer,” explains Afroditi.” It takes some guts to want to challenge the status quo, yet this is where my studio operates, this is where interior design gets really exciting because it becomes much more than colours, finishes and trends. I want to turn spaces into three-dimensional stories infused with meaning, innovation and timeless value.”
One of the main design features is the communal table shaped as a propeller at the entrance – a subtle reference to airplanes and travel. It is anchored on a hexagonal pattern, which refers to an aerial view of Heathrow taken in 1955 which shows the airport defined by a clear hexagonal shape casting intricate patterns on the site’s tarmac surrounds.
In celebration of its famous chef, Heston Blumenthal, the open and theatrical kitchen creates a centrepoint to the restaurant from which the layout radiates. The kitchen is divided into distinct zones: the ice cream parlour offers Heston Blumenthal’s iconic liquid nitrogen ice cream, a first in an airport. Located in decanters, the nitrogen is brought to the working station through bespoke pipes.
Progressing through the space, there is a bar with a bakery and deli offering, as well as an exposed wood fire oven – another first within an airport – and a retail space dedicated to Heston at the entrance.
“This restaurant design extends beyond the layout, the colour and the finishes; it is the sound of the space, the smell of the kitchen, the weight of furniture and the clever lighting on the dishes that accentuate the creativity behind the cooking,” says Afrodit.
“We picked up on the multi-sensorial element of Heston’s cooking and set ourselves a brief that challenged the boundaries of restaurant design. I wanted this restaurant not to feel like a compromise, as so many airport restaurants do, but a destination; a place that has a real sense of arrival and a buzz of optimism running through its DNA, just like the food you are about to be served.”