November 26, 2013

Memo from Prague: What’s Trending

There once was a time when the main design of a restaurant in Prague was highlighted by jaundiced smoke-stoned wall and white-linen curtains and stained tablecloths. Alternatively, there were a handful of stuffy continental restaurants adhering to the classic white tablecloth school of design. All that has changed in recent years, as restaurant design has evolved along with Czech cuisine, which (if you know where to look) has been reinvented (and become very edible) thanks to a handful of young, talented Czech chefs.

The Ambiente Group is known for pushing the boundaries of dining in Prague. The restaurant group’s designer of choice is Studio Najbrt. The restaurant La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise pioneered a reinvention of Czech cuisine. It’s interior is also noteworthy. The understated design features original medieval arches, bare walls, and dark wooden tables, all in a dimly lit atmosphere. A few blocks away, Najbrt was more explicit in their design at Lokal, a gastropub with a theme that is mostly an inside joke. It might look like general kitsch to most people but Czechs of a certain age will recognize the fluorescent lights, the austere walls, and even the plastic breadbaskets at each table: the restaurant is a replica of a communist-era factory cantina.

Owner/chef of the acclaimed Asian-accented restaurant, Sansho, Paul Day, did Buddha-themed design of the restaurant himself. “I conctacted three Czech designers who were unable to understand my ideas,” he said. For inspiration he looked to Fergus Henderson’s legendary London restaurant, St. John, with its minimalist look.

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