Food by Design

With the recent opening of The Buchan Group’s Madame Hanoi and Sean’s Kitchen by Alexander & Co, Adelaide offers more high-end hospitality destinations.

The Adelaide Casino redevelopment may be impressive for its scope and budget, but its most exciting expansion to date is the addition of two new high-end eateries. Opening within months of each other, Madame Hanoi and Sean’s Kitchen have reinvigorated the North Terrace precinct with fit-outs by The Buchan Group and Alexander & Co, respectively. Both design practices have produced highly resolved design concepts that evoke other places, while each new fit-out is distinct in aesthetic and rich in ambience. Leanne Amodeo talks to The Buchan Group’s Bruce Dickinson and Alexander & Co’s Jeremy Bull about the importance of detailing, integrating art into an interior’s design and working with heritage features.

Associate and Senior Interior Designer – The Buchan Group
Madame Hanoi

What was the project’s overarching design concept?
The brief from our client – Adelaide Casino – was for a fit out that connects with the emerging street and laneway culture, which is exploding in Adelaide at present. Our original idea included a proposal based on artisanal materials and once Nic Watt came on board as Madame Hanoi’s chef, his ideas also became part of the client’s brief. He wanted to investigate French Vietnamese cuisine and so we created a French Colonial/Vietnamese theme for the space.

Are your influences explicit in the fit-out’s design?
Overall, we gave the space a solid background for the design’s curatorial component by using dark timber panelling on the walls – just like you’d find in a traditional Vietnamese guesthouse. We wanted to bring that feeling of walking into the cool, dark interior of a guesthouse from the brightness of a hot summer’s day into the Madame Hanoi space. And we installed black and white fl oor tiles in the café to give it a very simple, restrained French aesthetic and had the graphic designers take elements from Emma Hack’s mural and apply it as lacquer -work to the coffee machine, which creates a lovely detail.

How integral was artist Emma Hack to the design process?
Emma became a part of the interior design team, and the mural itself was a dedicated space for her to work on. She painted the model and photographed her and this image was then digitally transferred onto wallpaper, which was applied to the entry wall. Emma also curated the collection of framed images that were hung throughout the interior and the objects that were placed inside the display cabinets. This curatorial overlay was part of the overall concept as well – we wanted the fi t-out to have a display component and Emma sourced these objects when she was in Hanoi researching the mural.

Were there any obstacles you had to overcome in designing the interior?
The challenge was to work within the confines of the heritage-listed space. We worked with heritage consultants to incorporate the internal ticket booths and the original vaulted, coffered ceiling into the design. We were also able to install new glazed insertions between the original granite pillars along the street elevation, which I think is very successful. The other major challenge was creating the mezzanine level, which is completely new. Our project architect Paul Harrison was on site to ensure that everything worked, but we got around the challenges eventually and, all in all, it was a pretty good process – one we all really enjoyed.

Director – Alexander & Co

Sean’s Kitchen

How closely did you collaborate with chef Sean Connolly to realise the interior design?
We had worked previously with Sean on The Morrison Bar and Oyster Room in Sydney’s George Street, so we’ve got a great relationship with him. He’s really direct and always distils his ambition down to nice but simple things in terms of what he’s trying to deliver foodwise, and I tried to match him with a vehicle through which he could do this. He wanted a New York-style brasserie that was well detailed and highly resolved; it’s such a beautiful space and we thought the fit out should just tell the tale of moving through a city.

What was your approach in designing the concept for Sean’s Kitchen?
We divided the venue into two distinct dining experiences, so the upstairs space became The Distillery and the ground floor restaurant and bar took on the character of a Manhattan streetscape. Our intention was to tell a totally different story on each floor; upstairs was more moody than downstairs and the ground level was supposed to suggest to diners a walk through the streets of Manhattan, experiencing each of the different concessions – the ‘streetlights’, ‘park benches’ and train station-like opening of the kitchen – as part of that dialogue.

How did you incorporate the heritage ceiling into the overall concept?
The ceiling was repainted grey to sort of knock it back, because when it was really ornate it was far too focal; we wanted it to feel like the sky, but just more gently. For diners to feel a part of the Manhattan street experience we didn’t want the space to be all about the ‘sky’, so the ceiling needed to take a pretty neutral position in the overall concept. The volume is beautiful – we didn’t want to undo it, but we wanted to make the space tell our story not its own story.

Why was it important to pay so much attention to the floor finishes?
The flooring was a big part of the wayfinding strategy so the story begins with the yellow marble in a fan motif that really makes the entry sequence pop. We’d seen some really beautiful civic stone patterning and were keen to experiment with that; it was an opportunity to explore something fantastic with a budget that allowed us to do so. The marble squares beyond the entry were a little bit fascinating, but also slightly flamboyant, and then beneath the park benches the recycled hardwood planks gave it all a bit of detailing. At the end in the butchery we used a traditional white mosaic tile, so the floor finishes allow people to move through the space and contextualise the design decisions based on what they’re standing on.