Art and Design

Jakarta’s great restaurants

Striking peel-off ceiling adorns Collage’s dining area. Courtesy of Pullman Central Park

Gone are the days of having a good meal served by friendly waiters in pleasant surroundings when eating out in town. The capital is burgeoning with sophisticated restaurants enticing today’s urbanites to revel in a wholesome yet entertaining act of dining out.

These upscale eateries go the extra mile, going beyond providing tantalizing menus specially crafted by international chefs, exceptional wine collections and top-notch services.

Three of Jakarta’s prominent restaurants – Cassis, Table8 at Hotel Mulia Senayan and Collage at Pullman Jakarta Central Park Hotel – also present a luxurious social space meticulously crafted with refined interiors and décor, ensuring diners have a memorable dining experience while indulging in high-quality food and services.

Glenn Pushelberg — one of the world’s sought-after interior designers who is also part of the award-winning design team Yabu Pushelberg, with design firms in Toronto and New York City — believes Asians are very well-informed about current international trends and want to be part of them.

The region’s rapid economic growth has triggered a rising trend of innovative contemporary restaurant designs across Asia, including Jakarta, over the last decade.

When it comes to important design elements of a chic, world-class restaurant, Pushelberg points out that a restaurant has to have a clear and specific identity that resonates with the customers — “Brand-new designs are fantastic, but there needs to be an extra connection like food and history”.

Marilyn Monroe dressed in Chinese costume above Table8’s majestic pagodas. Courtesy of Hotel Mulia Senayan

When designing an elegant yet inviting fine dining restaurants, the Yabu Pushelberg team is always on a mission to personally engage with the customers.

“We always try to write a story of the customers, who they are, where they’ve traveled, what they might like to see and experience when out dining. We are art lovers and always try to incorporate an art program in all of our projects,” says Pushelberg, whose team was appointed to reinvent Cassis to be the best fine-dining restaurant in Jakarta.

Moving from the fact that each person has his or her own way of imagining France or Paris, Caroline Meersseman, design leader for the Yabu Pushelberg firm in New York City, and her team came up with three keywords to shape the concept for Cassis: “memory, trace, and dream”, with the latter being the focal reference point.

“In dreams, we tend to overlap our memories with inventions, to give great importance to some details and forget others, to overlay our desires onto the memories of our experience. All the elements in the restaurant’s design have therefore undergone this sort of treatment,” Meersseman says.

The team brings a luxurious environment in Cassis to life in the form of modern elegance that oozes a vibrant yet relaxed ambience, as opposed to the extravagant glamor of the 20th century French fine-dining era.

“We try to design spaces that are more timeless and more solid in a way, so you feel you can come back over and over again,” Meersseman says.

In Cassis, Meersseman used some classical French design elements, details, patterns and materials, and cleverly reinterpreted them in her own modern version. Exclusivity also plays a dominant role in the project, in which all of the furniture and lighting fixtures are custom-designed.

For the basic color palette, Meersseman took a fresh modern spin on the classic black, beige and brown with charcoal grays, cord and caramel colors, with a few hints of fresh greens and deep reds.

An extreme transition of moods was felt right upon arrival at the restaurant. A contrasting display of lavish tropical greens with beautifully trimmed hedges at the façade and the formal lanterns adjoining a giant dark metal entry door somehow, as Meersseman describes, transport you from a tropical garden into say, les Jardins du Luxembourg.

“Instead of walls, what separates you from the main dining rooms are windows with water-glass, which lets the light go through but distorts the vision of the dining rooms behind, almost like in an impressionistic painting.”

Meersseman agreed it’s important for designers to have a clear understanding of how the restaurant functions.

“We want to make sure we are all on the same page in understanding what the spirit of the restaurant is, what we want the experience to be like for the guests. So the involvement in the way a restaurant functions is very deep,” she says.

Fabrice Mini, general manager of Pullman Jakarta Central Park Hotel, is of the same view, that a design is created after considering the place’s purpose and function.

“It’s always important to combine a great designer and a great operator to provide great hospitality for the guests. Combining functional things without diminishing the importance of being creative.”

Balancing all different factors as a solid, unified force is vital in creating a moving experience for the guests.

“The intangible factors, such as the atmosphere and the space’s character, are essential. But we also have to compromise on certain things, like how do we fit inside the structure, what sort of design elements and flow do you want to bring to the place,” says Mini on Pullman’s interior style.

Setting a daring hospitality trend in the capital, the hotel displays an inimitable blend of raw industrial and contemporary designs with eye-popping Pop Art elements serving as the ultimate “agent provocateur”.

In Collage, the hotel’s sole international restaurant, this bold approach is very much integrated without being over the top. It’s a place filled with wonders yet still serves as an ideal haven to quiet down during a busy day. “At Collage, I want guests to be astonished in every direction they’re looking at. And at the same time, I want them to have a moment of contemplation away from the hectic life,” Mini explains.

Together with Miaja Design Group, an international design firm based in Singapore, Mini produces one-of-a-kind design that is highly imaginative in Collage’s open and airy spaces.

The most interesting design element in Collage is the unique peel-off ceiling, which adorns some parts of the restaurant. The curved white outer ceiling took inspiration from the curling shape created when peeling off an orange or an apple with a knife. Underneath the layer, a brown-colored wood ceiling peers through, radiating a warm and relaxed ambience.

With great interest in bringing top quality arts to the public, in this case vibrant and cheeky Pop Art objects, Collage creatively showcases these creations in ways they usually do in a museum or art gallery.

Looking down on the floor, interesting quotes from well-known Pop Art artists, including David Hockney’s “Anything simple always interests me”, are inscribed in three separate locations and highlighted in bright red, yellow and blue.

When highlighting Jakarta’s top-design restaurants, Table8 at Hotel Mulia Senayan easily slips into mind as the definitive example of superbly impressive design ingenuity.

Boasting modern Chinoiserie interiors, this beautiful Chinese restaurant was the winner of the fine dining restaurant category in the 2010 Hospitality Design (HD) Awards for Creative Achievement in New York City, just three months after it opened its doors in early 2010.

Table8 outstandingly captivates diners with its whimsical yet opulent design concept, with the restaurant’s famous landmark -- a series of 24 Chinese fine porcelain pagodas of various heights nicely adorned with chic contemporary chandeliers containing thousands of sparkling chains that subtly form a dragon silhouette — mounts graciously on the center marble table at the main dining area.

Unlike the typical Chinese restaurant with its striking red and gold décors and round table, Table8 displays its own original version of a stylistic modern day Chinese fine dining eatery.

The restaurant stunningly blends the pastel colors and light earthy tones of the interiors, from walls, wood panels and partitions to furniture and window drapes, with assorted vibrant room accessories, all exclusively custom designed.

The intricate chinoiseire details are clearly visible throughout Table’s wide and airy spaces, some infused with light humor to amuse guests in unpredictable ways.

Even when you just step in, one of the silk cushions on the black wooden rocking armchairs decks a playful image of a traditional Chinese man looking cross-eyed at a large fly sitting on top of his nose, instantly removing the usual formal atmosphere of a high-end fine dining restaurant.

Right above the majestic pagodas, the tongue-in-cheek fun continues with two massive paintings covering a large ceiling panel, which gorgeously display the legendary Hollywood siren, Marilyn Monroe, wearing two different types of Chinese traditional costume.

Artfully translating the meaning of Table8 as the “Table of 8 Goddesses” into the interiors, the restaurant resembles, “a contemporary regal dining room where diners can wine and dine like the Gods”, as described by Romy Herlambang, the hotel’s Director of Communications.

“Table8 is the first Chinese fine dining restaurant in Jakarta to offer an open kitchen concept consisting of several food stations with diners who come from all walks of life.”

Consequently, the restaurant is stylishly filled with different types of contemporary dining tables and chairs covered in high quality leather and French silk fabrics.

Timeless chinoiserie motifs superbly crafted as remarkable embroidery patterns for the dining chair cushions, such as exotic landscapes with Chinese pavilions and pagodas, giant trees and birds as well as fanciful dragons, all tailored-made in France.

Consistently projecting only the best craftsmanship in providing guests with a homey yet fabulously elegant dining escapade, Table8 strongly remains one of the most cutting-edge innovators in the capital’s high-design restaurant industry.

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