Atelier Wren: “Social media is becoming very important when considering restaurant design”

By Restaurant

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Rebecca Dickson
Image: Rebecca Dickson

Related tags Atelier Wren Design Restaurant House of Ming Saltie Girl

Design duo Jake Raslan and Lorenzo Buscaroli on creating restaurants for Instagram, the growth in experiential dining, and why environmentally-friendly projects may take a back seat in 2023.

Tell us about Atelier Wren

Jake Raslan:​ Lorenzo and I have worked together with a lot of chefs such as Jason Atherton and Michel Roux Jr. on their restaurants and we’ve always had a good relationship with our clients. Towards the end of Covid we did what many people did at the time and thought about what we’d like to do next. We felt it was the time to make our move and do our own thing.

What have been your most recent projects?

Lorenzo Buscaroli:​ Our most recent restaurant has been Saltie Girl in Mayfair (below) and before that Caia in Notting Hill, which we worked on last summer.
JR:​ There has been a bit of a push in Notting Hill in terms of new restaurants and Caia was at the forefront of this wave. It’s on Golborne Road, which is the less developed part of Notting Hill that seems to be the coolest street in London at the moment.


What are you working on now?

JR:​ We’re working with the Taj Hotel in St James’s on the opening of a high-end Chinese restaurant called House of Ming​. As well as that, we’re working with Pitch Golf on its new Canary Wharf venue that will be a golf driving range and private members club with a bar and food offer.
LB:​ We also have a project on Portman Square next to The Churchill hotel (Hyatt Regency London) that will be an Indian restaurant with Atul Kochhar.

What will be the design trends for this year?

JR:​ Instagram and social media is becoming very important when considering restaurant design. We’ve always had clients asking us to create the Instagram moment, but that moment is changing. Previously you had a static display feature wall with lots of interesting stuff going on but now that Instagram is pushing people to post more reels, clients are looking for things that move and have more interaction. One of our clients is EL&N, which is one of the world’s most Instagrammable restaurants. It has been very clever with its flowers and pink colour palette that are fine for the classic Instagram, but it is now looking to do something more interactive at its new Birmingham site. This is something we’re now trying to push into high-end restaurants. Most places are going to start doing that in order to raise their profiles online.


How will that translate at House of Ming?

JR:​ One thing that has worked very well has been the ‘press for champagne button’ at Bob Bob Ricard and this is something we are trying to do at House of Ming. We’d like to have a button in two special two-seater booths and when it is pressed someone comes out with a special fortune cookie that has some significance to the moment. It is currently being developed - we’ve designed the button and the lighting around it but now it’s agreeing with the client exactly what that thing will be when the button is pressed.

Is it hard balancing a social media-friendly design with one that works in real life?

JR:​ We don’t work on the operational side of things but are instead about the aesthetics, but we have to make sure that things are going to work operationally. It is a difficult tightrope to walk. Bringing something that is interactive and will play well on social media ticks the PR box as it is getting more people into the restaurant, but you can’t go so far that it becomes just a gimmick and doesn’t add anything to the restaurant experience.

Are there any other design trends restaurants should be aware of?

LB:​ Restaurants and their design have become much more localised. In the same way that food is much more precise to regions in restaurants, if you’re trying to do an homage to a specific region with a design you can’t get away with something general. We previously worked on Sicilian restaurant Norma [in Fitzrovia] and we had to be very true to its Sicilian and Moorish influences.
JR:​ The cost of everything going up and we’ve noticed that has had an impact on clients wanting us to design things with green credentials. Previously, we’ve had younger clients looking to use recycled materials but that doesn’t seem to be a trend right now because it’s too expensive.

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