Autoban recently completed the design for The Duck and Rice, a pub with a Chinese kitchen that sits on two levels in the vibrant Soho neighbourhood in central London. Using a multi-layered approach, Autoban has created a contemporary design that pays homage to the densely decorated Victorian pubs beloved by Londoners while also incorporating carefully composed and reinterpreted Asian influences.
Abstracted geometric patterns are incorporated throughout, from the glass façade of the exterior to the metal screens dividing diners into cozy booths inside the space. A mix of opaque and transparent glass divided by aluminum strips creates a modern stained glass effect, which results in a play between inside and outside and lends a richly layered, dynamic surface to the exterior. In warmer months, the windows on the upper floor can also slide open up onto the lively Berwick Street below, which has a bustling daily market.
Inside the restaurant, Autoban has given the space a feeling of warmth and hospitality that has become a signature of their work. Oversized white tiles with striking blue floral motifs cover the walls and are repeated in sections of the ceiling. Specially-designed and produced by Autoban for The Duck and Rice, these reference China's renowned pottery traditions and pay tribute to the iconic blue and white porcelain glaze first used during the Rang Dynasty. The technique of mixing cobalt oxide with water to create this vibrant blue hue is the same technique also used to create traditional Turkish İznik tiles, which are further highlighted and backlit by custom aged brass wall lights with a half chrome bulb.
Four glowing copper beer tanks greet visitors at the entrance, referencing the space's former use as a traditional British pub and show the restaurant's emphasis on quality lagers, ales and ciders sourced from traditional brewers. The ground floor has a long, marble bar and a mix of high top tables and low seating with a fireplace and booths warmed by freestanding wood burning stoves.
A dramatic cast iron staircase leads up to the first floor, which has a casual dining room offering a menu of re-interpreted classics from the Hong Kong-style chop suey house such as Kung Po Chicken and crispy shredded beef. A series of banquettes are complemented by rectangular tables with rough honed, richly veined marble tabletops wrapped in a sinuous oak shell with aged brass bases. Beside the front window a large round table seats up to 8 guests and features a rotating 'Lazy Susan,' a common element in Chinese dining that creates a more communal, casual dining atmosphere. Two banquettes have also been placed directly in front of the upstairs windows facing Berwick Street, allowing guests to enjoy a view of the street life outside.
In addition to overseeing the refurbishment of the building and interior architecture, Autoban has also created a range of bespoke furniture and lighting for The Duck and Rice. This includes the chairs, barstools, round and rectangular tables, stools and banquettes and sofas with leather and fabric upholstery.
Photos: Ed Reeve