Designing a contemporary restaurant is a serious affair, especially in today’s time when what is on the menu alone is not enough. The ambience needs to pique the senses just as flavours fire up an appetite. Matteo Cibic, who designed El Coq in Italy, explained that the “space involves you from the first moment; it is another adventure, like a theatrical show”.
Carnivorous plants that emit strange scents, hourglasses that play soft melodies, and a shapeshifting ambience—El Coq’s imaginative design choreography is as idiosyncratic as its unfamiliar ingredients. The luxury restaurant can be best described as a multi-sensory journey established by the world’s youngest Michelin-star chef, Lorenzo Cogo.
Matteo Cibic envisioned El Coq from an anecdote in colonial history which he narrates:
500 years ago, a young man from Vicenza joined Magellan in his trip around the world; they were the first to prove that the earth was not flat. Antonio Pigafetta wrote a book about his adventure, and I was inspired by his descriptions about the end of the world that eventually became known as the Magellan Canal. He describes weird smoke and fire, snow and shiny ice on the rocks, strange giant animals (that we now refer to as sea-lions), slimy and furry plants. I wanted to create a timeless sense of wonder inspired by what he saw.
The 200-square-meter modern dining room hosts four tables on the ground floor and five tables upstairs that offer a more personalized experience —the chef’s table overlooks the kitchen during the dining experience. The aesthetic is enhanced by mood lighting, sounds, and prints on the walls, sculptures, and quirky cabinets. Kolkata furniture label Scarlet Splendour’s ‘A Trip to the Moon’ was one of Cibic’s choices to deck up the idiosyncratic space.
The motifs on the walls are painted on silk, custom-made for this project. The sculptures are bespoke—we placed the furniture from Scarlet Splendour with wheels on them so that they can be shifted around and change the look and feel of the place as and when desired. This would create a new experience for the diners every time they visit. – Matteo Cibic
Sculptures and small libraries are from my Dermapoliesis collection: prototypes of plants of the future, each of them emit a strange perfume or smell. Lights and sounds change slightly during the evening, every course has a peculiarity, and the space might change accordingly. On each table, there is an audio hourglass—it produces sounds and soft melodies during the evening. – Matteo Cibic
“Some plants printed on the far walls are 3-meter wide, the one closer to the tables is 50 cm,” Matteo Cibic elaborates. “Managing the illumination in order to see the dishes on the table without compromising on the mood lighting as well as the face of the guests and to safely navigate through the environment while still maintaining a dreamy atmosphere was tricky,” he explains.