Innovative London restaurant aqua kyoto has recently relaunched following a spectacular refurbishment by Robert Angell Design International. We speak to the design studio behind the new interiors to find out more…
Serving the finest contemporary Japanese cuisine, aqua kyoto is one of London’s most innovative and exceptional dining destinations. Set on the fifth floor of the landmark former Dickens & Jones building, aqua kyoto has recently undergone a sophisticated renovation, with the restaurant’s stunning new look designed by award-winning international designer, Robert Angell.
Angell and his studio, Robert Angell Design International, have transformed the interiors of aqua kyoto, adding elements including marble floors, gold accents and mirrored walls to create an intimate, warm atmosphere. We spoke to the studio to find out more about the impressive interiors it has created for aqua kyoto:
How were you commissioned?
We have a great relationship with aqua group, having completed two successful projects with them previously, including Hutong New York and their Spanish restaurant, aqua nueva, in London. We have worked with them for many years and like any client-designer relationship, it's about understanding and developing the brand and acknowledging what their guest expectation is in this ever changing industry and rapidly evolving world.
What was the brief for the project?
The new aqua kyoto needed to encompass the founding philosophy - serving exquisite dishes using the freshest produce, presented with style and in buzzing environments. It needed to have subtle Japanese references throughout, whether in materials, textures or design principles. Lighting was one of the key elements we developed when designing the interior and is at the heart of the design. Guests can clearly see how the dishes are presented on the table and are exquisitely lit to bring out the amazing colours in the food.
What was your inspiration behind the design?
We took inspiration from the philosophies of Japanese culture and the quest for finding purity out of the impure.
How did the brief affect your design choices, and the materials you used?
We ended up completely redesigning the restaurant layout to give the diners a fantastic experience; one where a new open kitchen, sushi bar and grill is the theatre of the restaurant. We used dark timbers referencing the traditional Machiya townhouses of Kyoto along with four large parchment shades over the dining area and an abstract mirror to bounce the light in the space.
Lacquer japanning adorns the ceiling which links to the traditional European take on painting by building up layers to give a real depth of finish. We also chose to add a copper gold finish to the dividing screens, metals and ironmongery. This is an individual Japanese colour found by mixing copper and gold together called Shakud – which is also, interestingly, a way Japanese swords were decorated.
In terms of materials, we prefer to use natural materials to create an authentic feel to any space we design, something that will wear in time and is soft to touch. You want to create a comfortable guest experience for diners to enjoy.
Did you keep any elements from the previous design?
No, it's all new! We really wanted to make a change for diners and create a vibrant restaurant.
The new interiors are darker than previously, was this something you discussed with the aqua team?
The new aqua kyoto has a darker and sexier vibe. This was maintained throughout the design process. We have done so by the use of screens and new walls to diffuse light through the space so there is a different vibe for lunch than in the evening. That’s why the lighting, both natural and decorative, is a real highlight in the design.
Were there any unusual design elements involved in the project?
One of the elements we had to spend quite a lot of time doing research and getting samples for was the tone of the metals, which took a few attempts. This needed to be exactly right to create the impact. Also, the impressive lighting feature wall in the restaurant was quite unusual and required 3D modelling to get the right angles and lighting levels.
What challenges/problems did you face?
As with any project, there are always a set of challenges which are part of the design process. For example, a material that is difficult to make will throw in a curveball, or particular tones that need a specific method of producing, i.e. the bespoke colours for all of the metal detailing. There were also some pipes and grilles in places that meant rethinking ceiling details and so on. But it is always great to problem solve these and work as a team to get the results we set out to do.
Your favourite part of the design process?
The whole journey is always a very interesting one, from initial client discussions to the final opening. You see guests enjoying the restaurant you have created with a great production team where everyone’s input is crucial in the success of the final result.
Anything else to add?
Meticulous planning was key to delivery, not forgetting that everything was designed and made to a bespoke design by Robert Angell.