Inkwood Restaurant & Bar

One of the first restaurants to open in Shanghai's Columbia Circle, INKWOOD Restaurant & Bar is chef Beichuan Yang’s first solo endeavour. Serving European dishes with a Chinese influence and designed by Shanghai-based multidisciplinary design studio STUDIO8, INKWOOD has become a destination for the city’s fans of contemporary dining.

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Yang approached Studio8 founders Andrea Maira and Shirley Dong to conceive and create the restaurant’s visual identity and interior after seeing of one of the firm’s earlier designs, the Caozitou bench, which appealed to him for its simplicity and playfulness.

INKWOOD, from the name to the design aesthetic and menu, reflects the symbiosis between two seemingly dissimilar concepts. Yang himself is a combination of Eastern and Western cultures, having spent his childhood in China and his later years training as a chef in Canada then working alongside renowned chefs in North America. Back in China, Yang now shares his passion for using local ingredients to create innovative international dishes.

It was only once Yang had settled on the name that Maira and Dong began to conceptualise the visual identity and interior design of INKWOOD. 'On one hand, wood represents nature and ink represents constant daily routine. On the other hand, wood represents the ingredients and ink represents the sauces that make ingredients more flavourful,' Yang explains. However, rather than focus on either ink or wood the designers were drawn to what would become the key concept: the connection between the two.

Material and colour combinations express the marriage of ink and wood without detracting from the food. This ‘stroke of symbiosis’ is expressed in the recurring motif of a brass stripe, which appears on the floor, walls and furniture, as well as in the custom-made light fixtures.

Perhaps the most striking design element is the colour combinations, which were inspired by the colours of wood, sauce and ink that invoke, for Maira, the colour palette used often by Italian painter Giorgio Morandi. Maira explains, 'I want guests to feel the intensity and temperatures of wood and ink, and to "taste" the sauce and ingredients with their eyes first.' The designers chose dark green boiserie for the bottom section of the walls, making it seem as if the entire restaurant has been dipped in dark green ink. The remaining wall space is mustard yellow and finished with a rough texture that absorbs and reflects light, creating a soft, warm ambience.

Yang conceived the menu of sharing dishes and the space (with a variety of seating combinations) as a place to bring people together. The chef’s table looks into the kitchen through a large window, allowing guests to observe the cooking process. Below the window is a bookshelf on which Yang and his partners have curated a selection of their favourite cookbooks.

Studio8 has made sure that the details, from the tableware to the carefully selected custom-made accessories and paintings, and even the flowers and plants, tell the story of INKWOOD’s design - 'like the chemistry created by food and sauce, delicate, warm and many-layered'.

Text / Simone Schultz
Images / Rosu, Studio8

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