It was in 2002 that Mark Bithrey founded this acclaimed architectural interior design consultancy, bringing with him a wealth of experience in developing branded architectural interiors in leisure-dominated agencies. Under Mark’s creative direction, B3 Designers has grown from strength to strength, and its formidable portfolio has garnered several major awards over the years.
What would you say are the top three trends influencing restaurant interiors at present?
Niche Concepts is a continuous trend which sees food and design working closely alongside each other to create the distinctiveness of the experience on offer. Restaurants are creating very interesting menus by focusing on one main food offer and delivering it very well. Food and drink pairing is still a very successful trend running parallel to niche concepts.
Restaurants like Bubbledogs are focusing on a complimentary combination like hot dogs and grower champagne, limiting choice initially, while certainly creating a surge of interesting combinations within the pairing menu. Many restaurateurs are also taking food back to its provenance, focusing on the honesty of food, preparation and dining techniques.
We’ve seen a real focus on the all day dining offer and how restaurants can transition different phases of the day from a design perspective. There are more food offers that now cater from breakfast/brunch through to late night dining and cocktails e.g. Dishoom, Jackson and Rye are great examples.
Lyles in the Tea Building, Shoreditch also do a wonderful pastry and coffee offer and deliver a wonderful changing menu for lunch and dinner. Great detail needs to go into designing the interiors to be welcoming early morning through to late into the evening, the environments need to transition those times of day with suitable level of ambience and comfort and attention to operations.
As seen recently at Salone del Mobile in Milan, there is also a shift towards using softer finishes like paper, fabrics and soft textured materials and finishes that evoke more delicacy, softness and femininity.
We believe this concept will follow through in form as well, seen more prevalently in shapes of light fittings, introduction of more plants used in interiors and a general application that evokes a softness, as a contrast against all the hard materials such as steel and concrete extensively used over the last few years. This can already be seen in restaurants like Spring at Somerset House.
What, for you, is the most critical element of effective restaurant design?
We believe in creating a story, a holistic identity. We plan a design path when developing concepts and believe it's important to create interior and branding together to form a sense of overarching identity. Continuity, a sense of purpose in the overall design is very important when building your brand.
How do you ensure your projects stand out in such a fast-paced and heavily populated sector?
We strive to give the client what they want, but the feedback we often receive is that there is an underlining elegance and attention to detail across our projects. Equally we strive to include big statement features like the scaffolding wall at Topolski Bar, the ‘rammed earth’ wall at Nando’s Chesterfield and the antiqued mirror walls at Trishna.
What would you say is the most unusual restaurant project you’ve worked on, and why?
Topolski Bar was an interesting project. The café and bar space is located under the arches at Southbank and was, for many years, artist Felix Topolski’s studio then gallery. We worked with the client to design a space that was true to the existing ‘raw’ building structure and paid homage to the artist and his work by creating a scaffolding structure as a creative solution for displaying artworks. We used floor graphics to guide patrons through the different phases and geographic representations of his work, so one gets the sense that it is still very representative of a gallery space.
How do you feel the UK’s restaurant scene compares on an international level?
London still sets the benchmark for food offers and design globally. In the UK, generally, dining is firmly embraced as a social and cultural part of our everyday lives. We are often approached by clients with projects in other capital cities looking to achieve an essence of that ‘London’ look and feel.
We strongly believe that every project should be designed with the local patrons and culture in mind. However, we appreciate that a proportion of the ‘London formula’ as a standard is usually a great asset to design of restaurant spaces globally.
Have you got any new projects on the horizon you’re able to share with us?
We have recently completed work on the Summer Café & Bar at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre, which opened 15th May. We are working on a premium burger concept in Mayfair concept due to open early July, and have also been working with the team behind Manicomio on their third site and sister restaurant, Canto Corvino. We’re working on the branding and interiors and the restaurant is due to open in August.
We are continuing work with chef Vivek Singh on a transformation of the Cinnamon Club due to reopen in September as part of the celebration of the restaurant’s 15th anniversary.