Chinese heritage symbols like porcelain bowls and chopsticks to add a touch of nostalgia to an otherwise modern restaurant in Ningbo, China.
In the last couple of years, some of the coolest restaurants around have opened up in China – look at the exquisite Temple Restaurant Beijing, a chic French establishment housed in an ancient Chinese temple, or Yongfoo Elite, and eclectic old-Shanghai inspired space in the French Concession. In China, it seems, the sky to designing successful restaurant interior concepts is to blend western and oriental styles and motifs while mixing in a little old with the new. This is a delicate balancing act which comes together wonderfully in Taiwan Noodle House-2, a restaurant in Ningbo designed by Beijing interior architecture firm Golucci International Design.
Established by Taiwan-born, London-trained designer LEE Hsuheng in 2004. Golucci specializes in the conceptualization and creation of hotels, bars, clubhouses and restaurants. Lee’s awareness of Chinese consumer psychology and his ability to merge eastern and western aesthetic sensibilities has made Golucci one of the most sought after firms for new F&B establishments in China. Other projects that the firm has worked on include Yakiniku Japanese Master BBQ Restaurant in Shanghai, and P.S. postscript Restaurant in Beijing.
Taiwan Noodle House-2 is owned by Mr. Zhang, a former Taiwanese soldier form Mianyang in China’s Sichuan province. He followed Kuomintang troops to Taiwan in 1949, where he settled, but pined for the beef noodles of his hometown. Zhang returned to China and opened the first Taiwan Noodle House restaurant in Beijing 2011, specializing in Taiwna-style Sichuan beef noodles. The restaurant did so well that Zhang opened another branch in Ningbo last year in May.
Both restaurants were designed by Golucci, created with the goal of taking diners on a nostalgic trip back to their childhoods. This was achieved by fusing the elements of the noodles houses of old – large porcelain bowls, chopsticks and a roomy environment – into a clean, streamlined, modern concept. The signature dish(steamy broth infused with aniseed, herbs, and chunks of tender beef, served in large blue-and white porcelain bowls) is the essence of that nostalgia, and the inspiration for the look that Zhang wanted to convey in his establishment. Other than that, he allowed Lee’s team free reign over the project.
Lee and his team gave the second Taiwan Noodle House a modern and slightly whimsical spin, lining the ceiling with about 400 porcelain bowls sourced from China’s porcelain capital – Jingdezhen – to “arouse people’s childhood memories of Taiwanese-style beef noodles”. The dining area consists of a single large, open space, much like a Chinese teahouse, where customers can see each other and socializing is encouraged to create the convivial atmosphere befitting of a noodle house.
The more cosmopolitan, modern side of Taiwan Noodle House-2 can be seen in the clean, minimalistic forms of the stairs, ceilings, shelves, tables, chairs and lighting. Dark marble stairs and oak-paneled walls give the space a very sleek, industrial feel. Contemporary furniture pieces like 1950s Hans Wegner Nordic- inspired wishbone chairs and Tom Dixon “beat” lights were incorporated to up the hip factor, while the bowls hanging from the ceiling and a massive wind-chime constructed from thousands of chopsticks serve as installation art as well as interesting focal points.
“The project is sited on the corner of a building, on two floors, braced by structural steel beams. This gives us different ways to use the windows,” says Lee. “We opened many square holes in the wallboard,” so you can see the famous Ningbo bamboos through these holes”.
Using materials like Moso bamboo, oak, black marble, blue-and white porcelain bowls and chopsticks within this 350 sq meter space, Lee created a pure, Chinese-style noodle eatery with a modern and upbeat vibe. “We don’t think that just because it is a Chinese restaurant, it needs to be surrounded by Chinese symbols throughout,” Lee notes. “Instead, we used Chinese symbols like the bowls and the chopsticks to reflect a modern style. I think the space reflects Chinese culture in a contemporary context.”