The Restaurant & Bar Design Awards are a prestigious achievement in the hospitality world. This year, competition in the ‘Americas Restaurant’ category was particularly fierce, with a total of 68 entries vying for the top honour. Among these were the plush blue Print Lounge in New York; the airy, old-world chic that is Tied House in Chicago; the rustic-industrial El Tapanco in Saltillo, Mexico; and the sparse and sultry cavern of Dulcerna in Barranquilla, Columbia. From the minimalist hotspots to the soaring cathedrals of fine dining, the nominated restaurants represent a smattering of the very best interiors across North and South America.
The prestigious title was handed to a restaurant a little closer to home: Jérôme Ferrer’s Europea in Montreal.
Designed by Provencher_Roy, a multidisciplinary firm with offices in Montreal, Gatineau, and Ottawa, the restaurant is a reinvigorated version of its original. When the time came to move Europea to a new location down the street in the city’s bustling downtown core, Provencher_Roy was approached to reimagine the restaurant’s identity and create an opulent, modern eatery on the corner of Rue de la Montagne and René-Lévesque Boulevard Ouest.
The existing interior housed a two-level restaurant and a large vacant space. The challenge would be to transform these separate sections into a cohesive whole, and with very little time to do so; Provencher_Roy operated with a tight deadline, with just ten months passing between the initial client meeting and the delivery date. The designers set about to quickly study the circulation patterns of waitstaff and patrons in order to create a space that would be functional as well as stylish.
The resulting restaurant is the perfect atmosphere to showcase culinary star Jérôme Ferrer’s fine cuisine. Ferrer envisioned a vast stage for his refreshed menu, and Provencher_Roy answered with a space that does feel incredibly theatrical. Paul-William Francoeur, designer and partner at Provencher_Roy, describes the initial vision fo the restaurant as “a grandiose space where customers could participate in an intense and moving experience revolving around food, enhanced by a stylish, timeless décor.” Walking through the restaurant, one could indeed call to mind the sleek grandeur of contemporary opera houses — especially when catching a glimpse of that grand staircase, which unfurls like a white satin ribbon.
The space may be designed with an open layout, but there’s a strategic organization at play. Four different “zones”, delineated by impressive wooden arches, lead from one to another. This creates an experience rich with discovery as guests pass through. Beginning in the lobby, which feels distinctly like that of a boutique hotel, a guest is immediately immersed in the bold universe of Jérôme Ferrer. Next is the bistro, with an aesthetic that will bring to mind the gentleman’s clubs of yesteryear; by day this space is a lively café and transitions to an intimate lounge by night. The anteroom follows, turning a transitional space into a focal point with a two-story cellar and that circular staircase.
Finally, the 160-seat dining room is the main course of this lavish interior. A two-level mezzanine espouses half of the floor area. It’s a grand sight to behold, with soaring ceilings, wooden walls, ornate mouldings, and enormous glass windows. The centrepiece — other than the food, of course — is the carpet. Inspired by the work of American photographer Ashley Woodson Bailey, this large-scale floral pattern enhances the muted colour palette of the restaurant and echoes the rich, light-catching tones in the wood.
The kitchen is situated at the heart of the dining room, literally placing the cuisine front and centre while also lending an air of deconstructivism to the experience, removing the mystery from the food’s preparation.
The firm approached several artists to create one-of-a-kind pieces for the project. Furniture, lighting fixtures, wooden detailing; much of Europea is an amalgamation of carefully curated bespoke elements. The materials were chosen to establish a sense of refinement, elegance, and timelessness — the natural, cool beauty of marble and the rich warmth of walnut.
This impressive restaurant is now a key player in the French city’s sophisticated culinary scene. “[It is] a space that masterfully plays on its scale and offers the ‘quietness’ required to fully appreciate the immaculate use of materials and detailing from walls to floors to stairwell, balustrade to screens,” said judge Leigh Robertson (Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration Magazine [South Africa]) as she awarded the firm. “It is both ultra-classic and modern, its cool, uncluttered corners and passages giving off an air of cool, confident grandeur.”
Images via v2com.