Whether the ambiance is ultra-chic or home-inspired comfort, hotel restaurants are as much a part of the street scene as they are a part of the property itself. Moreover, as new hotel restaurants surface across the country, several are creating dining experiences worthy of their urban land-scape.
For example, when the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Conference Centre in Regina underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation, the Wild Sage Kitchen & Bar became an integral extension of the lobby and community. The spacious and casually sophisticated restaurant seats 86 with room for an additional 68 in the bar and more in an adjoining buffet room that can be closed off when not in use.
According to David McQuinn, VP of Food and Beverage for SilverBirch Hotels & Resorts in Van-couver, which owns and operates the property, the bar is a highlight of the lobby’s welcoming vibe. “We wanted to step back and really understand the needs of our customers,” he says. “We also wanted to celebrate what we have in Regina and deliver on it.”
Part of the welcoming ambiance is created through the open layout and muted tones in the design. “We didn’t want to subdivide zones with hard lines, walls or doors. The intent was that it could be its own entity within the full design of the lobby space,” explains Catherine Berardi, corporate director of Design. “We also wanted to be subtle throughout, so it would be a bit more causal and earthy.”
True to its surrounding landscape, the restaurant design picks up on the hotel’s wheat motif by highlighting warm, natural wood and flooring finishes, decorative lighting elements and durable materials such as porcelain tiles in heavy traffic areas to withstand the wear and tear of everyday use. The muted green, blue and gold palette is punctuated with the occasional bursts of colour in its banquettes.
Given it’s a high-volume traffic area during breakfast and lunch, “We didn’t want it to feel like a cafeteria,” says Berardi. “But, we also wanted to create a vibrant nightlife, so people could feel comfortable any time of the day.” McQuinn adds: “There’s nothing like it in the way it connects to the community. The whole design draws people in.”
Across the country, a gem on the Montreal scene is Loews Hôtel Vogue. Its newly minted La So-ciété Bistro takes inspiration from the urban opulence of the city to create a show-stopping homage to Paris from stem to stern. According to Charles Khabouth, owner and CEO of Ink Entertainment in Toronto (winner of last month’s Pinnacle Award for Regional Company of the Year for F&H), which owns the restaurant, it’s similar to the original concept in downtown Toronto but half the footprint.
In its former incarnation, the Montreal restaurant served as an Italian eatery. La Société underwent eight months of redesign before its unveiling at the Formula 1 weekend in the first week of June. Inside, every detail mirrors an authentic Parisian bistro, from the opulent burgundy leather seating to the rich wood accents and brass railings, to the hand-cut mosaic flooring and stained glass and tin ceilings. The ceiling and wall sconce lighting fixtures are original antiques from France or reproductions. And, Paris is brought to life at the seafood bar — a staple bistro attraction in French quarters.
An interesting touch is the “smoked-stained” stamped tin ceiling. “In the old days, tin ceilings would turn yellow from smoking. So, we did a faux finish to make it look like it had been there for years,” explains Khabouth.
At $2.5 million, the budget was sizeable for a 2,800-sq.-ft. restaurant. The floors alone cost $200,000, he notes. “That’s about double what you would spend on an average restaurant design. We could have ordered pre-cut tiles, but it just doesn’t age the same. And, tin-stamped ceilings are very expensive features.” This level of authenticity comes at a price, he adds. “To stay as authentic as humanly possible costs more.” But, the investment was worth the effort, Khabouth concludes.
“The second you walk through that door, you think you’re in France.”
Alessandro Munge, partner at the interior-design firm Munge Leung in Toronto, who served as designer on the project, says that while the product may be smaller and more intimate than its Toronto counterpart, the real challenge was balancing the needs of restaurant patrons and hotel guests. That required tapping into the mindset of diners and determining if they’re travellers or out with a significant other. “You have to ensure the place has interest for everyone, because the restaurant experience is the first thing guests will talk about,” says Munge.
When it comes to reflecting the local scene, the new restaurant space at The Beverley Hotel on Queen Street West in Toronto may be small (1,750 sq. ft., including service and kitchen areas), but it packs a big punch with guests and locals alike. “It’s an interesting property with a special vibe,” says Scott Newnham, GM, who describes the restaurant as artsy, edgy, playful and “sexy.”
The artsy district served as inspiration for many of the design elements, from the white painted original stone walls to the massive black-and-white mural that captures a local Armistice Day com-memoration. The understated style includes a combination of walnut panelling, gunmetal bar stools, retro light fixtures and concrete flooring.
Paolo Silverio, lead designer with Toronto’s Butterfield Corporation, an owner of The Beverley Hotel, notes that because the space was a long narrow rectangle (only 17.5 feet wide), the best way to maximize the area was to create a minimalist approach. “At the same time, we really wanted something unique, because it was the Queen Street West area, so we went with a ’60s industrial design concept.”
Maximizing space meant combining a lot of white surfaces with clean, crisp lines. A simple but elegant feature wall at the end of the room hides the coffee station and entrance to the kitchen. Seating is a combination of banquettes, chairs and bar stools that service three areas: the front lounge, bar or restaurant. The unobstructed front window provides a perfect frame for viewing the bustling street activity.
The 70-seat roof-top patio also emphasizes the linear aspects of the design, including the inter-locking wood tiles, explains Silverio. Benches along the perimeter are dressed up in a combination of white vinyl and fabric cushions, complemented by metal and bleached wood accents. A special feature is the cedar alcove, where patrons can cosy up with their friends. For the more daring, there’s a second glass-enclosed area known as the ‘fishbowl,’ where smaller groups can celebrate in style while overlooking the city. “It’s all very ethereal,” Silverio says.
“Upstairs or downstairs, everything is maximized, just like the hotel rooms themselves,” adds Newnham. “It has everything you need and nothing you don’t.”