Autoban Designs London’s New Duck + Rice Restaurant
Opened last month, London’s New Duck + Rice Restaurant is an unexpected but harmonious layering of East and West.
Serving up contemporary Chinese cuisine over two floors of a former Victorian pub in the heart of London’s Soho neighbourhood, Duck + Rice is the latest addition to famed restaurateur Alan Yau’s portfolio. “Alan Yau has this unique ability to see cultural metaphors in a lot of things,” says the team at Istanbul-based design studio Autoban, who were tasked with bringing Yau’s Chinese gastropub vision to life. “He sees restaurants as film directing. That’s very similar to our approach in design. We create scenes, while thinking about every single detail; pretty much like a film director.”
From the outside, the traditional steel-framed, stained glass windows commonly found on Victorian pubs have been enlarged and abstracted, morphing into two levels of patterned opaque and clear floor-to-ceiling windows that wrap the restaurant’s facade, recalling Chinese pingfeng (folding) screens.
Upon entering, guests are met by four gleaming copper beer tanks—a distinctly British element that highlights the range of traditional lagers, ales and ciders on offer—and a long dramatically lit marble bar surrounded by high and low seating. While the decorative cast iron staircase, two tone timber floor and touches of marble throughout the space all reference the building’s roots, the elegantly poised dark wood dining chairs, round table with a rotating lazy susan and the metal screens that divide diners’ booths all provide an unmistakable Chinese aesthetic.
Subtly bringing a little of their own Turkish influence into the mix, Autoban designed a series of bespoke oversized white tiles that line the walls and the recessed lighting coves on the ceiling. While the blue and white floral motifs are inspired by traditional Chinese pottery, the technique of mixing cobalt oxide with water to create the vivid blue hue is the same one used to create traditional Turkish ?znik tiles.
“We had to be really careful with the square meters,” say the designers of their meticulously detailed design. “Every single centimeter counted. Duck + Rice went on to be a project that we designed—every single centimeter.”