Everyone one in London knows the iconic black and white ‘pony skin’ décor which has graced this leisure landmark for nearly 30 years, but even Icons need to keep up with the times. In recent years, through the ever changing fortunes and dips in the economy, even the stalwarts were affected and Gauchos was no exception, but waiting in the wings to save it, was one of London’s most famous restaurateurs, Martin Williams. Mr. Williams, also the CEO of M Restaurants, had a personal interest in reviving Gaucho’s fortunes, having previoulsy headed up the chain for many years and it was through our long standing relationship with him, that top London interior design studio, René Dekker Design was invited to be part of a small team of design companies, involved in bringing this landmark restaurant chain into the 21st century.
The brief for the interior design was to modernise the interiors and freshen up the palette, without changing it so much it might lose the core clientele who had grown very fond of the familiar black and white décor. RDD had design sessions with both the client as well as the other studios, to agree the details that would make-up this modernisation. The rich hues of the Pampas were a significant influence in colour choices as was the use of dark timbers and terracotta tiles, ubiquitous on the Estancias of Argentina. Further, the use of leather and distressed brass, emulated the accessories of the South American cowboy. Once all details had been agreed, they formed the basis of the design ‘DNA’ that would be issued to a designer working on any of the restaurants. This would mean that all the restaurants would have an underlying and recognisable brand identity, but also an injection of original ideas based on location and interior designer.
We were given the flagship, 3 storey O2 Arena restaurant, which would be revitalised in three stages, to avoid complete disruption. The first order of the day was to turn the ground floor bar/restaurant into an action bar, able to host not only a large number of patrons on their way to see a show at the Arena, but also private parties as well as eager foodies waiting for their table upstairs. Whilst it was a large premises, it was nevertheless tricky to work on as it was also the entrance to the first floor restaurant, so plans were conceived to create a new entrance via the emergency stairs. Gaucho was also historically known for blacking out the windows, giving the restaurant interior a ‘night club’ feel, but this was scrapped in favour of opening up the windows of the entire floor and ‘letting in the light’
The budget was very tight, not anything like the interior decoration projects RDD was used to working with, but we were determined to provide the client with something very special. The design and planning needed to take into consideration several key features. The location of the WC’s could not be moved, the bar had to remain roughly in the same location due to the plumbing and the curved shape of the external façade, which would dictate further serpentine details on the plan. To create further interest, we made use of different levels which also helped in creating less disruption to the services which were mostly located under the floor. The client finally settled on a plan that included a breakfast/lunch area, a large bar with poseur tables and standing room only as well as a small VIP area for private parties. We also introduced a new separate entrance lobby to the lift and completed the design installation with new wall coverings and bespoke lighting.
There were two distinct features that played a role in identifying the old Gaucho scheme: the first was the black and white colour palette and the other was the use of traditional crystal chandeliers. Our first Eureka moment was replacing the black and white pony skin with the stunning black and white ceramic tiles, which imitates Grand Antique marble. Laying this on the floor instead of using this on the walls, would give this familiar element a less important role in the scheme, yet still keep it visible to the patrons. As you enter the bar, the floor is made up of a combination of black & white ceramic and terracotta tiles. This immediately sets the tone, giving on the one hand a familiar nod yet providing a vibrant and dynamic feeling. The ‘Pampas’ palette has been used on various architectural elements such as the columns and walls but also in more saturated colour on the furniture. Chairs make use of distressed tan leather upholstery and dark brass nailing, evoking the Gaucho spirit and a feature ‘lasso’ chandelier made up of a plaited leather frame and inverted bronze cups, completes the scheme. Other more subtle elements include black and white piping detail to the ottomans and the modern Moooi chandeliers which echo the brands previous scheme.
The ubiquitous black and white palette has been re-introduced into the new scheme using stunning ceramic tiles and their traditional chandeliers were given a modern twist
Reimagining the soft yet vibrant landscape of Argentina