Even as Dubai’s design landscape continues to evolve, food and beverage sector is perhaps the most dynamic milieu for designers and property owners alike to establish a unique brand identity for their projects. Referencing Dubai’s multi-cultural environment, the genres cover the entire interior spectrum from modern occidental to elegant oriental.
A new space on the block is Toro + Ko Spanish tapas restaurant by Bishop Design, which exudes the same cosmopolitan, urban edge this city is known for. Its location in Citywalk 2, one of Dubai’s toniest areas, also lends to the concept. The eatery is the fourth international outpost of the successful brand by award-winning chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette, which also has branches in New York, Boston and Bangkok.
The project brief mandated that while the design language of the local outlet should remain synonymous with the more established branches overseas, it should also allow room for a unique imprint of its own which suits its context. “It translated into a refined elegance balanced with a raw, industrial-chic environment,” says Paul Bishop, founder of Bishop Design. “It’s lavish but not extravagant; dynamic, yet comfortable. We optimised the space in line with the client’s vision for his venture.”
One of the biggest challenges on the project was to establish a seamless connection between the two independent floors occupied by the restaurant through spatial and visual means. The location also presented a challenge, demanding certain requirements to be adhered to with regards to the surrounding indoor and outdoor views. “We created a seamless transition between the interior and exterior dimensions, which allow the space to open up and become more versatile to the operator’s needs,” says Bishop.
Among the design highlights in the restaurant is a metal staircase which leads to the upper level, where subtle tones of cerulean and cocoa provide a contrasting yet harmonious backdrop. Constructed out of cold-rolled steel, the metal staircase is a central representation of Toro + Ko’s refined industrial style. “It becomes the initial focal point as soon as guests enter through the main door, building up the anticipation about what awaits on the upper level,” says Bishop. The colourful artworks and indoor landscaping on the walls, enhance the overall experience while visually and spatially facilitating movement between the two levels. A long martini bar, modelled after old-school watering holes, and a DJ station on the second level add to the fun vibe of the restaurant.
The design team used a diverse range of materials to create a sophisticated grunge look, referencing hip restaurants sited within industrial warehouses in New York City’s Manhattan borough. “Toro + Ko is essentially a Spanish tapas joint with the achingly cool personality of New York City,” says Bishop. “Its trendy culture provided the inspiration to create this chic hybrid space that best encapsulates Barcelona’s vibrant food offerings. which includes pintxos, small sharing plates, cheeses and a mix of hot and cold tapas.”
Its clever spatial planning aside, the two-storey dining venue is teeming with many interesting elements, such as especially-commissioned artworks by Spanish artist Ruben Sanchez. “The brief to the artist was to work alongside both Meraas, the owners of the property, and ourselves as the project designers, to create unique, statement art pieces which are synonymous with the brand’s ethos,” shares Bishop. “The artist had a complete carte blanche to create the content under the given direction.” Sanchez worked on the commission in-situ as the application differed with the varied wall surfaces.
In addition to the art-filled walls, there is a mélange of different surfaces throughout the restaurant. Some of these materials include corten (rusted) sheets, reclaimed, distressed wood, troweled concrete-rendered wall surfaces, cement screed and terrazzo flooring as well as saddle and cracked leather and fire glazed kitchen tiles. Running the course of the restaurant, all the materials, which vary in their textures, have been applied to the maximum effect.
The ambient interior lighting has also been custom-designed to create a desired effect, which animates different spatial layers throughout. “The light naturally enhances the finishes and overall setting,” says Bishop.
Last year, Bishop Design unveiled plans for a new dining space located in the ME Hotel, part of Zaha Hadid’s The Opus Tower. Founder, Paul Bishop, also revealed that the firm will be undergoing a rebrading to make way for a more “cheeky approach to interior design”.