Binchy and Binchy Architecture’s interior design for Menagerie restaurant, inspired by geometric forms, is highly detailed.
It may sound oversimplistic, but one single word − the restaurant’s name − formed the basis of this project’s entire concept, from food to design to function.
Located in Mirdif 35 Mall, Menagerie, which, according to the dictionary definition, means ‘a diverse collection of people or things’, is the brainchild of a young Dubai resident, who struggled to find suitable food options while eating out owing to her food allergies. It led her to envisage a new boutique restaurant concept offering alternative and healthy food choices to those who have specific dietary requirements.
Award-winning interior design firm Binchy and Binchy Architecture was commissioned for the project with a design brief, all of one word. Diving deeper into the contextual definition in relation to structural design, Jennie Binchy, design director of the firm, sought inspiration in geometry. “Traditional menagerie, aviary and conservatory designs are predominantly led by structure, and based around the geometric concepts of single and double cube,” she says, further stating that despite being methodical, these structures are elegant and have a sensorial lightness. “They are extremely detailed to create the right nurturing environment and at the same time be a relaxing and enjoyable place to be,” she continues.
The client provided Binchy with an extensive moodboard of around 1,000 images, which she had collected over the years since conceiving the idea for her business. “We distilled these into four images that best summarised the client’s concept and also incorporated the same geometric ethos we had in mind,” says Binchy.
Varying geometric proportions on opposite sides of the kitchen – a pink-coloured single cube structure to house the live kitchen and a green-coloured double-cube frame for prepared dishes – have been highlighted using colours.
“We used colours to accentuate the forms and patterns. For example, small, coloured bevelled tiles in square format and herringbone patterns draw attention to the structural shapes,” explains Binchy. The same geometric design extends to the ceilings, which mirror the concept of the vertical structures on the horizontal plane.”
Shedding light on the various surface textures she has used throughout the restaurant, Binchy says that materials and colours can be combined in a harmonious scheme “when the application is considered in terms of three-dimensional space rather than just the outer surface”.
The designer also took into consideration the colourful and balanced aesthetics of Menagerie’s dishes. “The main colour accents are green, pink and gold, with a base palette of grey in varying textures, such as those seen in the porcelain tiles, water-resistant pitted plaster on the walls and grey bevelled wall tiles,” she says.“ We also used oak veneer for the ceiling, which has hints of warm grey, and Calacatta Oro marble for the counters, tying the base palette and accent colours together.”
Like any design project, there were challenges. To ensure that the staff connected with diners, the team decided to replace the raised floor at the back of the counter with a serviceable existing precast slab, which allowed staff to interact with guests at an eye level. “This change required additional sign off by a third party. In all, we had a great team of consultants, a great client, a great contractor, and it was a pleasure to work on this project.”
Hospitality-related businesses require a great deal of attention to details, including spatial design and the menu and their dependency on each other. “The creation of the menu and the importance of how this links to the kitchen design was really key, and also had to be carefully considered for space efficiency, which includes equipment, storage and functionality,” says Binchy.
Lighting design plays a crucial role in enhancing the geometric structures. To achieve this, Binchy used a combination of ambient and functional lighting options. “We wanted to create as much flexibility in terms of developing the right ambience in the restaurant as possible. Spotlights with a narrow beam and high colour rendering index were specified to let the food display be the focal point, but without disrupting the diners’ mood,” she says, adding that since it’s an all-day dining venue, the lighting has to make a subtle transition from early morning coffee to cosy dinner timings within the same space.
The furniture selection is also as carefully studied as the other fixtures, emphasising the proportions. “We placed a great importance on our selection by looking at the chair legs and table bases. The main access to the restaurant is via the mall’s main entrance, making the furniture base and flooring visible from a distance,” she reveals. “It also had to correspond with the structural, looping aesthetic of the main space.”
The communal banquette style seating maximises the available space by placing the table around a lively and vibrant open kitchen, allowing people to sit together, and watch the chef prepare their dishes in the pavilion-like kitchen. In addition, the designer added movable furniture that can be taken outdoors during the winter months, when the glass fronted restaurant opens up and the tables extend across a tree-lined terrace.
During the summer months, the interior planting is arranged to visually extend into the greenery outdoors.