Ortolana was to be the cornerstone of our greater Pavilions project at Britomart. It needed to support and energise the retail that surrounded it. It needed to feel like the beautiful gardener’s cottage at the heart of an urban garden. It needed to deliver fresh, light food with real integrity and impeccable provenance. We knew it needed to be all of these things before it even had a client.

The Hip Group is one of the most able and committed operators in this city. They demanded enormous amenity, three services per day, and exquisite, accessible luxury from this tiny footprint. The accessible bit was important – this was to be a place as welcoming for a grandmother as a glamazon.

We designed the brief together with the client. We sought space that felt at once calm and celebratory. The starting point was the relationship between patron and kitchen. Diners are lined up at ninety degrees to an open kitchen, delivering the greatest possible density of seating. No matter where one sits, one’s position is triangulated by a chef to one side, a laneway ahead, and a garden to the other side. Everyone has a little bit of everything. We then set out to make that ‘everything’ as organic, warm and elegant as possible.

We filled the tall gabled void with dozens of bespoke, mouth-blown lights in order to deliver intimacy, warmth and a sense of informal celebration. Ribbons of soft seating are voluptuous in form and comfort, but their natural linens seek elegance rather than opulence. Timber linings and a fallacy of rough sawn trusses top recycled brick columns to complete a warm, organic shell. At the heart of the room a huge swamp kauri slab has been butterflied and inlaid with brass butterflies. Its live edge and ancient grain quietly asserts that Ortolana is an organic place made of the garden, for the garden. Concrete city be damned: we are headed elsewhere.

Almost everything here is bespoke. Only the chairs were purchased, because they seemed to talk to everything we believed in. We worked intensively with craftspeople to understand the nature of their endeavour before producing together elements like the mouth-blown bulbs. We worked alongside the landlord to direct the entire landscape strategy, so that our little restaurant might nestle into the best possible oasis. We generated window systems that would enable the entirety of each wall to fold upwards into its lane, turning an enclosed shed into an open pavilion. We tried at every turn to make this place feel simultaneously immersed in, and retreated from, the city that surrounds it.

The Art of Hospitality in Interior Issue 8 June-August 2013 pg 70-75

Photography by Jeremy Toth