A cocoon in concrete

The Ikoyi restaurant in London is already one of the 50 best restaurants in the world. Now it has found a new home in the heart of the city, designed by star designer David Thulstrup.

London, Trafalgar Square. From here, The Strand leads to Temple Bar, the border between the districts of the City of London and City of Westminster. Actually, the street is just called Strand, but the “The” in front of it has become established not only among locals.

Here cars and buses push on as well as people on the sidewalks, tourists as well as locals. The Strand is always busy. And it is exactly there, at number 180 to be precise, on the first floor of a brutalist building, that the Ikoyi restaurant is located.

The Vision

The move to the premises did not take place until the end of 2022. Since then, Ikoyi has impressed not only gastronomically but also architecturally. No wonder, since the interior was designed by Danish architect David Thulstrup , who has already furnished the Michelin restaurant Noma in Copenhagen.

Precisely because the concrete building at 180 The Strand appears so cool and unagitated, the interior was an exciting challenge for the designer. His vision: The restaurant and its interior were to echo the building’s brutalism, but still exude a sense of warmth.

“For me, this is very much about sense of place, because we’re in a Brutalist building in the vibrant heart of London, a multicultural city, in a restaurant with sophisticated cuisine based on British seasonality and intense spices,” Thulstrup explains. “This intensity, warmth and cultural ambiguity were the driving force of inspiration,” he says.

I thought it was a modern interpretation to create food awareness.

David Thulstrup

To the origin

Take a look inside the restaurant and the copper-clad refrigerator immediately catches your eye: it’s filled with fresh meat and fish hanging on hooks. Thlustrup wanted guests to be reminded of where the food comes from.

“The idea was that we know where a piece of fish comes from and we know what a piece of meat looks like,” he said. “I thought it would be a modern interpretation to create awareness about the food.”

A cocoon

Moving further, you discover the walls of oxidized copper, finished with beeswax. And the wooden tables. For they are placed in the room so that visitors enjoy as much privacy as possible. They were made of British oak, while the seating is covered with reddish-brown leather.

The atmosphere in the restaurant is deliberately kept warm with these elements; the lights shine – covered with a metal mesh – muted. This combination of light and copper allows Thulstrup to create an atmosphere as if in a cocoon: a place where you feel protected and safe.

Restaurant Ikoyi

The menu

If you wanted to describe the interior in three words, you would probably choose “cozy, friendly and subtle”. And just as the space has changed, so has the menu. With new spices and flavors, founders Jeremy Chan and Iré Hassan-Odukale are taking things a step further.

Here, Chef Chan uses high-quality organic produce, such as fish and beef from the British Isles, which he combines with West African spices to create dishes that are as unique and creative as they are bold and balanced. For example, in addition to scallops from Scotland’s Orkney Islands, the menu features jollof, a traditional rice dish from Ghana, Gambia and Senegal.

And that’s exactly what’s important when we talk about the restaurant’s interior, because Thulstrup wanted to integrate British seasonality and the spices of West African cuisine into the design. No easy task, as he had to find a harmonious combination of colors and materials that would take guests on a culinary journey.

With minimalist design language and a combination of traditional and modern elements, the architect wanted to create a welcoming atmosphere. A place where guests can feel cultural diversity without being reminded of a particular culture.

Everything is right

In addition to functionality, the Ikoyi should remain inviting. And, of course, offer a unique culinary experience. A credit to the two founders, who do not want to rest on their laurels, and the architect, in whom they have found a kindred spirit.

And one is not surprised that the restaurant in the middle of London belongs to the 50 best restaurants in the world. Because everything is just right here. From the menu to the copper wall.

Text: Resi Reiner
Irina Boersma