Harvey Nichols', Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands
Three years after it first opened, Germano Di Chello of Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands returns to Harvey Nichols’ Manchester restaurant
In a restaurant like this, there will always be wear and tear.
But generally, we think the fifth floor bar and brasserie are wearing quite well. For a Tuesday lunchtime, it’s good to see the place is around half full. It has also been busy on other occasions I’ve been here; the other week we popped in after a meeting with a prospective client. According to the catering manager, the restaurant’s revenues have been increasing year on year, so people must be coming back.
We kept everything quite simple, in tones of black and white. What gives the space its colour and ambience is the coloured lighting from the ceiling troughs and the vitrines.
But there have been some changes since the contract was finished three years ago.
The magenta walls were painted last year — apparently in honour of Gay Pride last year — and a decorative film was applied to the bottom of the windows.
The restaurant, brasserie and food market are all planned around a central route that runs from the escalators at the rear, past the lift core and towards the full-height windows at the front. The route is parallel to the shape of the building, and is marked by a series of internally lit glass vitrines, which also define the bar/brasserie area. The rear of the brasserie is a white lacquered screen with storage on the reverse side.
The recessed incisions in the ceiling also give a sense of travelling along a route. Each inset has a set of red, green and blue cold cathode lamps diffused by stretch fabric, allowing us to get any colour in the spectrum. The lights change colour on the hour every hour, and at different times of the day. The incisions are actually GRG trough-shaped moulds; the lips of the troughs are joined with the plasterboard ceiling with a seamless flush joint. The ceiling surface looks really smooth; I’m pleased the joints aren’t showing.
The catering manager says the flexibility of the space works well. This full-height black sliding screen closes off the bar/brasserie area from the restaurant, so it’s used a lot. In the day they use three panels of the screen, which gives some separation but also allows light into the bar area. In the evening, they shut the screens off so the restaurant and bar/brasserie have a different feel. It’s a flexible space — they do a lot of events here.
The screens are in high-gloss lacquered mdf, which we had specially made to our design by a joinery firm employed by Andbridge, the contractor. Anything that involves movement takes punishment, and the problem here is that the tables bang against the screen. But the scratches are like marks on a painted wall: you would expect to repaint a wall every two or three years, so equally you have to expect to remove and respray the screen at some point.
The table’s wobbling? Ah, yes, you’re right, there is a problem. We had two sizes of circular table tops, but evidently the joinery firm only used bases in one size. So the cross-bracket on the underside isn’t big enough to make the large tables properly stable. Someone then added some additional struts, but some of them have come off. It’s clearly not what we would have wanted.
The restaurant is north-east facing, and the catering manager said there are problems with glare in the early morning and at lunch, so they’re thinking of putting in blinds. We originally designed pivoting screens to sit between the columns — which would have solved the problem — but unfortunately we couldn’t afford them.
The washrooms have a feature wall made out of rows of stainless-steel circular hollow sections interspersed with circular mirrors, some of which have light fittings. We designed the Corian sinks and had them custom-made. In the ladies’ washroom, we also gave them little metal shelves on the side for handbags.
The floor is in high-gloss polished black granite. This project came after the restaurant in the Edinburgh Harvey Nichols’ store, where we did a few studies on the flooring layout, such as staggering the flooring slabs in different ways. In the end we opted for a larger slab, it’s a nicer effect than having several smaller bits. It’s been well-maintained, with a high reflectance.
But I noticed that the manager has put down anti-slip mats on top of the polished granite in the corridor between the white screen and the back-of-house area. It has to be said they don’t look great. I suppose we could have specified a different, non-slip flooring surface, but then we never thought of this area as true “back of house”. The client could have asked for it — specification has to be a two-way process.
I think it’s really important to come back and talk to the clients after a few years. I’ve found things out today that could help on a similar project we’re working on, a department store in Milan. We always have to get a balance between the design and the functionality of a restaurant, and we’re always learning.
I think it’s really important to come back and talk to the clients after a few years