How can restaurant design be timeless? Eat Well Seated has a few answers

What makes a restaurant and its interior design immediately enjoyable and potentially timeless? To furniture brand Andreu World, there are two things that cannot fail: the dish has to be delicious and the chair comfortable.

That’s why Eat Well Seated, the brand's survey of 50 of the most delicious-comfortable restaurants throughout four continents, is such an important read for hospitality designers and gourmands alike: thanks to detailed interviews with the minds behind some of the world’s most successful restaurants – from José Andrés to Gastón Acurio – the team ends up with a set of keys to balanced quality.

We’re quite thrilled by the material – so much so, that we’re exclusively pre-releasing the book during this year’s Frame Awards, taking place this Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 February in Amsterdam’s Kromhouthal. And, in fact, our whole panel of judges will be receiving it as part of the welcome package during our kick-off dinner – in a restaurant selected by Andreu World, as they sure know a thing or two about eating well seated.

We spoke with Andreu World CEO Jesús Llinares and the book's editor, architect and journalist Ramón Úbeda, about some of the key ideas in the book, from the high rotation of Instagram-focused restaurants to the only thing that makes restaurant-goers forgive bad décor.

Can one detect the personality, empathy, and vision of a restaurant by analysing only the chair they provide to the guests?
JESÚS LLINARES: There is no need for chairs to have a back in the shape of a fish tail for the diner to know that it is a restaurant where fish is served. The chair has to have personality, but it should not be the protagonist of the place – the best thing about it is that we don’t have to remember it during the dinner, as Eneko Atxa says. If a chair is comfortable and of quality, it is noticeable at first sight, but what’s left unseen is also important – its durability. Andreu World, for example, offers a 10-year warranty for the units it manufactures.

In this era of Instagram-everything, we’ve seen an issue in the restaurant sector: many entrepreneurs think about design first and then the menu, and the latter is often significantly affected. How do you think the restaurants selected for the book have been able to achieve a balance with pleasure for all the senses?
RAMÓN ÚBEDA: That has been precisely the criteria in choosing them, the balance between both parts – that's why we call the interviews with chefs ‘pairings.’ Although today, and this is true in Spain, chefs have much more media presence than designers. So in part this is logical, as it is easier and more popular to talk about the restaurant's kitchen than about its chairs. However, let's not forget that in the 1980s and 1990s, design promoted the night bars and then the chefs, who knew how to use it to evolve, as it should be.

Today, chefs have much more media presence than designers

The Nub chair at the Alameda Restaurant in Madrid

Instagram has accelerated and simultaneously decreased the useful time of interior design of a restaurant. I saw that recently in Madrid, where there is a tremendous turnover in hip neighbourhoods. What do the timeless restaurants have that many ‘rotating’ ones do not?
This question can be answered with the words of Albert Raurich: ‘There are two types of cuisine, good and bad – I sit with the good.’ That's the main thing: if the food and the service are good, the customer can forgive bad decor, but not the other way around – a nice design by itself is not a guarantee of success in a restaurant.

From top to bottom, the Nuez Chair at the Cocina Hermanos Torres in Barcelona, the Alya in London's Vivi, the Zarina at the Glass Mar in Madrid, the Smart at the Royal Opera House in London and the Alya at the Dos Cielos in Madrid

Of all the cases presented in the book, which surprised you most in terms of research behind a seemingly simple visual element?
RAMÓN ÚBEDA: In the book there are 50 examples of restaurants scattered around the world, developed by high-level professionals who know the importance of eating well seated and also of the many other details that the design of an haute cuisine restaurant requires. It has to be carried out in conjunction with the chef, at the service of their concept. Moreover, each case is different in the same way that each kitchen has its own personality. Dos Palillos in Barcelona, which has just celebrated 10 years since its opening and continues to have the same chairs, remains for me an excellent example of a surprising place, for both the place and its food.

Which restaurant or designer surprised you with a combination of furniture that you did not know you wanted until then?
JESÚS LLINARES: I will say something that has not surprised me: the success of the Zarina chair. I remember perfectly that when I saw it for the first time in 2003, I thought it had everything needed to become a great success. The William Sawaya design has the right point of neoclassicism that provides a touch of class to any restaurant.

andreuworld.com

Eat Well Seated will be available on pre-release during this year's Frame Awards. You can purchase your ticket, which includes a seat to eat well during our grand dinner, here

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