London-based architecture and design practice Sybarite has created an elegant, intimate dining experience for Beijing Kitchen at luxury department store SKP Xi’an in China. The restaurant’s design and layout are inspired by Xi’an’s streetscape and urban structure, as well as by the grids, symmetry, hierarchy and greenery of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Also taking design cues from the original Beijing Kitchen at SKP Beijing, this new restaurant is a luxurious, warm and informal environment in which to enjoy the cooking of renowned chef Ku Chi Fai. Rather than competing with each other for the diners’ attention, the food and the timeless design are in harmony in a restaurant with glazed openings to display the theatre kitchen.
At 1500 square meters, and 238 covers, this is a large restaurant, but Sybarite has subdivided the space, creating public, semi-private and private areas, ensuring it feels more intimate for all diners. Just as the Forbidden City was meticulously planned, the internal brass partitions at the Beijing Kitchen in Xi’an have been carefully considered and coordinated, delineating and connecting the brass floor trims, the ceiling framework, the wall framework, and the furniture. With their onyx marble infills, the brass partitions contrast with a neutral polished concrete floor, while they also cleverly house LEDs to diffuse light off the ceiling.
“This is a big restaurant, so we wanted to create different moods throughout the space,” explains Sybarite co-founder Torquil McIntosh. “A contrasting combination of warm brass, small amounts of opulent onyx, and larger, brutalist concrete elements, creates a richer, more interesting and intimate environment.”
Also enhancing the restaurant’s intimate feel are the large, upholstered and teal-coloured acoustic discs which hang above each of the tables, absorbing sound and breaking up the space. Designed by the Sybarite team, the bespoke lighting creates pools of diffused or directional light, depending on both the time of day and the required atmosphere.
Faux shagreen cladding adds luxurious textured detailing onto perimeter wall panels. These panels are capped with brass and backlit, illuminating key circulation routes and overlapping to create rhythm around the restaurant, while helping to reduce the scale of the space.
The panels have a dual function: they are a decorative piece of architecture and also provide discreet access to eight private dining suites, adding to the exclusive feel of those spaces. Inside the generously sized suites, diners can enjoy soft seating and tables designed by Sybarite.
Instead of hanging art inside the suites, Sybarite has created its own compositions on the walls using neutral paper. Light washes across the paper, which has an effect like dropping ink into water. While all of the suites have magnificent views overlooking Xi’an’s ancient city walls, one private room also has access to a roof terrace.
“Sybarite’s design for Beijing Kitchen at SKP Xi’an provides a beautiful backdrop for the culinary experience, combining a welcoming and intimate environment with a discreet functionality that helps ensure the team here can deliver a sophisticated international restaurant for the city of Xi’an,” said Chef Ku Chi Fai.