The Gallery HBA has composed a heady pirouette of wildness and sophistication for Il Lago dei Cigni, the latest epicurean hotspot from the owners of the Buddha Bar St. Petersburg. This contemporary Italian fine dining restaurant impresses a sense of both wonder and contradiction through inspired design details that weave Russian folklore and the tale of the restaurant's namesake, Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, with the idyllic nature of Krestovsky Island, where the favourites of Russia's tsars once resided. The result is a modern gourmet destination for the city's aspirational residents and tastemakers alike.
Nestled into the woodlands along a small pond, Il Lago dei Cigni has been newly built next to the "swan house," the dwelling where the graceful birds which dot the island's lakes live and breed. Across the lake, a white gazebo with a delicate rotunda further paints a romantic ambience. Panoramic, floor-to-ceiling windows encircle the round footprint of the main dining area, framing the lakeside backdrop. An exquisite central column and chandelier together form the star of the room, a shimmering allusion to Russian fairytales and the folklore around maypole dancing, the ancient rite of dancing in the forest to celebrate the solstice and the rhythms of nature. Its pillar is clad in clefts of natural selenite rock crystal which disappear into the circular backlit soffit at the ceiling, whilst cascading from the round canopy are "ribbons" hewn from shimmering crystals interspersed with geometric copper wire talismen suggestive of magical forces at play in this enchanted place.
Peter the Great's vision for his new capital St. Petersburg is also honoured in The Gallery's design concept for Il Lago dei Cigni. During his rule, the tsar transformed the city into the "Venice of the North," investing in palaces, engineering and shipbuilding to create a glittering attraction for European architects, scientists and thinkers. This spirit of intellectual pursuit has been interpreted in a contemporary manner with numerous details to discover. Timber cabinets display intriguing curiosities as if scientific specimens meant for inspection: bespoke art fixtures have been crafted from magnifying glasses placed in front of wine bottle labels; glass domes exhibit mounted beetles or butterflies; small pen and ink studies of swans have been framed; and bundles of timeworn French manuscripts have been bound together with string into parcels. Some of the cabinets feature antiqued bronzed glass or backlit selenite back panels, adding to the sparkle in the room.
Beautiful natural materials add to the sense of luxury. Wide plank teak floors are rustic yet refined, selenite cladding appears again on the façades of the bar and cabinetry, and Italian-made chairs upholstered in rich cognac leather and truffle toned herringbone wool all bring a connection to the natural world. Modern renditions of traditional Russian fabric motifs usher in subtle splashes of softness. Scrolled floral patterns in the scatter cushions and embossed metal reliefs recall time-honoured Slavic textile designs and the stylized interpretation of traditional lace doilies in the cut and loop espresso and cream coloured carpeting adds a sophisticated touch of femininity. Above the bar, lighting crafted from hand-blown Czech glass casts a warm glimmer.
Tucked away behind sliding timber doors with hammered copper handles, Il Lago de Cigni's private dining space is a cosy haven which glows from the glazed antiqued mirror covering the back wall and a Czech glass chandelier. The restaurant's rarest vintages and varietals are exhibited in bespoke handcrafted wine cabinets.
Dining al fresco is also an alluring prospect. Downstairs, guests may enjoy the lakeside sunset, whilst the upstairs terrace and rooftop bar are sheltered from the elements by a glass canopy. A trellis woven with greenery breaks up the open space of the upper level, forming nooks with a degree of intimacy for dining or lounging on sofas kitted out with warm throws. The finishes maintain the natural feel of those indoors, with rustic hand-beaten metals, sun-washed timbers, planters of lush foliage and floor lanterns which cast dramatic shadows.
"By juxtaposing passion and edginess with tranquillity and heritage, we have created a unique dining experience that is new to the traditions of St. Petersburg and Krestovsky Island and is also a relaxing enclave to see and be seen in," commented Inge Moore Principal and Creative Director of The Gallery HBA.