Blacksheep has designed the latest Jamie's Italian restaurant for Jamie Oliver at the Westfield London shopping centre at White City, which the chef has called "probably our most stunning site to date." Leading design agency Blacksheep, famous for its high-profile international leisure portfolio (The Cuckoo Club, Whisky Mist, Inamo, Hilton Hotels, The Accor Group), is bringing its own design interpretation to the latest in this highly successful collection of restaurants. The agency is also working on a further restaurant for the brand, due to open later this year in Birmingham. Blacksheep Managing Director Tim Mutton called the new restaurant "a buzzy, stylish and warm environment, inspired by Italian food retail and dining, combined with Jamie's own cheeky Britishness."
The Jamie's Italian restaurants are Jamie Oliver's first completely independent restaurant venture and aim to bring "what's best about casual dining" to the high street. Locations to date include Bath, Brighton, Cambridge, Canary Wharf, Cardiff, Guildford, Kingston, Leeds, Liverpool, Oxford and Reading. The chef is famously besotted with Italy and the country's cuisine, stating "I should have been Italian. There is such diversity in lifestyles, cooking, traditions and dialects. This is why as a chef I find this country so exciting and what inspired me to create Jamie's Italian."
"As the brand was already well established, it was important to ascertain what was generic and where we could bring fresh creativity and site-specific ideas to the interior design concept," commented Blacksheep Managing Director Tim Mutton on the Westfield site. "We were very impressed with how open the client was to new ideas that expressed the fresh, honest and accessible feel of the brand. Every material choice and the story behind it was carefully considered as part of the design process and, in order to bring a truly authentic Italian feel to the designs, Blacksheep extensively researched not only the business, but also Italian restaurant and delicatessen culture."
Blacksheep Associate Mark Leib was instrumental in helping create the materials palette and the major feature areas for the new 250-cover restaurant. "Our new ideas begin right at the front door," he commented. "We suggested having a Jamie's ice cream van parked outside as a kind of brand beacon, both to highlight the restaurant's location and to serve passing trade. Our client loved the idea. In fact Jamie personally went out and bought an old classic Citroën van, which was then restored in order to serve Jamie's 'Smash Ups', where ice cream, fruit and nuts are all mixed to order and served on a plate."
Other major design features include a "Scooter Wall" (made up of many individual scooter headlights); a "Market Place" section to highlight the retail and theatrical aspects of the kitchen; bespoke wall treatments, both inspired by and commissioned directly from Italy and dynamic lighting treatments, from bespoke chandeliers to industrial-style workmen lights, in tongue-in-cheek 'gold' casing.
Location and Existing Site
Naturally, the site's location and footplate determined much of the design treatment. "The site had distinct advantages, but also some challenges to be overcome," explained designer Jordan Littler, another member of the Blacksheep team on the project. "When the centre was first planned, this space had been designated for use as a crèche and therefore had only a small façade and little in the way of services - and certainly not enough water or drainage to run a restaurant with its own boilers and pasta machine! But the great thing about the site is that it sits above the Westfield library as part of a standalone building. As a result, it's both away from other restaurants and also located on a corner with highly visible approaches."
The restaurant exterior has a great L-shaped space (approx 100 sq m in total) on Westfield's Southern Terrace, which offers al fresco dining beneath a canopy, suitable for year-round usage, with all restaurant doors and full-height windows able to be opened out onto the space in warm weather. The new, branded ice cream van sits at the corner of the L-shape. The external area is bordered and demarcated by planters made from reclaimed scaffold boards, which are full of herbs, creating both a great smell and a sense of anticipation for the food to come.
The 610 sq m interior is very long (55m from the main door to the door by the antipasti area towards the rear of the restaurant), with a particularly narrow central area, which wasn't ideal for seating. This gave rise to Blacksheep's ideas for the optimum space-plan and for zoned areas, from the main restaurant space ('Piazza') to a central 'Market Place' area, without seating, which made a virtue of the narrow central space and where customers can see views of the kitchens and fresh pasta making or can linger over a bigger retail area than ever before, en route to either the toilets or else to the restaurant's rear dining space, The Back Room, a special, more intimate area with lower ceilings and a slightly more 'bling' treatment.
Overall, the interior has a pared-down industrial feel, with exposed gantries, steelwork beams and columns, dark grey paintwork and lots of timber. It is spacious (with 4.2m ceilings in the first two zones), warm and accessible but doesn't pretend to be what it isn't. "This isn't in any way a pastiche of an old building," explained Mark Leib. "It expresses its modernity quite clearly."
There is a great variety of seating in the various spaces that make up the restaurant, but there isn't a bad seat in the house; every zone has strong sightlines and areas of interest. Bespoke booth seating is added to with freestanding furniture, including the 'Omkstack' chair and the 'Tolix' chair, with the latter a brand 'signature' item from earlier outlets, but used in different colourways here, from galvanised and stainless steel in the outside area to blue and black in the restaurant.
Flooring is a mix of recycled, engineered timber and Black Mountain river slate (used in three different sizes in random patterns). Timber is used for the main restaurant area, slate for the central 'marketplace' and timber once again the rear restaurant zone. Wall treatments include re-claimed ceramic bricks in the main restaurant, feature metal panelling around the toilets area and bespoke timber and metal panels in the Back Room, commissioned directly from Italy.
When customers arrive, they are directed to a holding bar just inside the main entrance, whilst awaiting a table, but the focal point of the main restaurant area is the dispense bar to the rear of the zoned space and the 'Vespa Wall' in front of the toilet block area. This is made up of a large series of individual headlights which pulsate gently on different settings and can be seen from the outside.
In the daytime the daylight quality throughout is very good with strong shadows, but the lighting design has also been carefully considered to ensure it is as strong at any time of the day or night. One of the mechanisms for this is a metal gantry, which begins above the dispense bar in the main restaurant space and continues all the way through to the rear space. It is used both for hanging antipasti and for feature lighting and serves to unify the spaces and take customers' eyes through the space. Lighting hanging off the gantry includes anglepoise lamps and 'workers' lights' - bare bulbs with cage surrounds, but with a twist where the cage is in a sexy gold colouring.
"Jamie really loves Italian glass chandeliers," added Mark Leib, "and so we also did a 'meaty' take on this in the main space with two bespoke chandeliers, with three different types of glass hanging from butcher's hooks on a butcher's rail. The chandeliers are situated above the holding bar and the large group table in this space, which seats 8 people, as well as one in the Back Room area."
To the rear of the main space are banquette seating areas (in blue), alongside the dispense bar, which then lead off to toilets on the right (clad in bespoke rusted and non-rusted metal panels, inspired by ageing and abandoned agricultural equipment spotted in the fields of Tuscany) and a fresh pasta making area, with two large machines to the left, so that the freshness of the restaurant's produce is always transparent and evident.
Beyond the machines is the 'Market Place' area, full of noise, bustle, cooking smells and atmosphere. The Market Place houses the open kitchens, the bread display area, storage for the kitchens and retail displays for books, wine display and fresh produce (alluded to on each table with a little graphic display). Special products will be highlighted here. 'This takes the retail offer up a gear', explained Jordan Littler, 'with ideas such as the 'product of the month'. Jamie's head chef Jules Hunt really liked this idea and backed its inclusion at the Westfield site.' The wall treatment in this space is made up of an earthy-brown 'brick slip', reclaimed from a former asylum and made into tiles, with extra lighting from kiln-fired textured terracotta shades with white porcelain interiors (from Viaduct).
The final space is The Back Room. Here, down a small ramp and with a lower ceiling height of 2.4m, the designers created an intimate and glamorous space, lit by a stunning light feature, made up of 30 brass spun pendants on little arms in a single conglomeration against a dark grey ceiling. Two glazed walls allow views out, whilst a feature wall to the rear of the space features bespoke hand-made timber panels with patinated brass inlay details. The back wall is taken up by the restaurant's antipasti bar. The lighting gantry continues across the back wall and features 4 different types of lights.
"In this final space, we wanted to create an area ripe for discovery," explained Mark Leib. "Hopefully diners will want to come back and try it out if they aren't seated there on their first visit. It has a little bit of an insiders' secret feel to it, like a Milanese dining room, and the low ceilings and special design treatments serve to highlight this."