classid="clsid:38481807-CA0E-42D2-BF39-B33AF135CC4D" id=ieooui> Over a century after it first opened, 66 Knightsbridge — today the home of the stately Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park — is still one of London’s premier addresses
Long enjoying a reputation as a meeting place for celebrated statesmen, a steady stream of princes and princesses, maharajas and sultans, presidents and prime ministers have also passed through the doors of the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park.
Earlier this year, the hotel unveiled two of London’s most eagerly anticipated restaurants: Bar Boulud and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, both featuring interiors conceptualised by Adam Tihany of Tihany Design. “The operators have a significant impact in how we design a space,” Tihany explains. “Both Daniel Boulud and Heston Blumenthal called for two vastly different restaurants based on their personalities and their culinary vision.”
Where Bar Boulud was conceived as a contemporary interpretation of a wine-centric bistro with a sleek open kitchen and architectural, vaulted ceilings paired with classic materials such as wood, leather, cork and zinc, Dinner is a contemporary British brasserie showcasing Blumenthal’s take on historical British cookery.
“Bar Boulud’s location in the semi-basement with no views to Hyde Park made the link to history and site a bit less dominant, as the interiors were more introverted and intimate. On the other hand, Dinner’s prominent position within the hotel afforded an unparalleled opportunity to play up the connection to heritage and site,” says Tihany.
Dinner’s interiors, meanwhile, pay tribute to tradition, some subtle and others more obvious. The overall interior architecture, the exclusive use of period materials such as wood, leather and iron, the whimsical wall sconces and chandeliers, the mock Tudor private dining room and so on, are “all meant to create an environment that tells a story”, the designer explains.
Naturally, the historical structure of the building posed challenges. At Bar Boulud, it was the very low ceiling height, with lots of existing mechanical/electrical services, plumbing pipes and a forest of columns. “As a matter of fact, the engineers had to build a very complex model of what existed in order to be able to figure out how to build the restaurant,” Tihany says.
At Dinner, structural walls had to be removed to open the view toward Hyde Park. Kitchen construction, which took place in the basement, was complex, but Tihany notes that the most challenging and ingenious design was prompted by the desire to have two distinct entry points to the restaurant. “The hotel insisted on using the private dining room for breakfast. As such, I devised a solution that will afford the guests two very different entry sequences, one directly from the lobby at breakfast time and another through the MO bar at lunch and dinner times,” he says.
This called for specially-engineered hardware to swing the two massive PDR panels — which look like walls but are actually giant barn doors — and a custom sliding chandelier on tracks that retreats back to allow this convertibility to happen.
“Some of my favourite moments include the bar area and communal dining table at Bar Boulud. At Dinner, the boar’s head wall sconces in the private dining room, the porcelain jelly mold wall sconces and the secret leather panel openings are just some of the whimsically detailed aspects of the project,” says Tihany.
“One of the most enjoyable things about working with Heston Blumenthal is his great sense of humour. We had lots of fun coming up with whacky ideas — the Ebel rotisserie turning mechanism, paying homage to 16th century rotisseries and created by watchmakers is another fine example of unique design elements, as is the disappearing and reappearing menu box at the entrance to the restaurant.”
Late last year, Tihany completed interiors work at the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas (as featured in the March 2011 issue of Perspective), a world away in concept and style from the stately London property. “Every project I work on has its own identity, established by the location, architecture, and sense of place,” Tihany explains.
“The Mandarin Oriental brand identity centres on excellence and luxury rather than on a specific look and aesthetics. It is a collection of hotels rather than a chain, linked together by attention to details, site-specific considerations and carefully edited and crafted use of materials, art and accessories… It is imperative to have a complete understanding of the clients’ needs and wants, and it is equally important to have a strong feeling to what the space wants to be.”