Calling all architecture, art and design enthusiasts. We’ve found an Australian restaurant that not only serves delicious, fresh and seasonal French food, but they do so in a space that matches the food culture of Sydney. Barangaroo’s Été is so thoughtfully designed that the interiors change with the seasons. So, it’s out with one menu and in with the next set of artisan-made serveware.
It’s hard to say whether you’ll walk in and notice the fragrances wafting into the space from Drew Bolton’s kitchen before or after you spot the hand-drawn illustrations in frames on the wall. Or is it the sweet ceramics you’ll eye first? Maybe the handmade green tiles behind the bar will catch your attention. Whatever design detail you latch onto first, your eye is almost sure to next make way to the artfully plated classic French dishes on the tables.
Photography by Nikki To
We recently caught up with the design team at Foolscap Studio who were behind the project. Below, lead designer Kathrin Wheib fills us in on the inspiration behind the space, the Chicago-based artist they brought in for artwork and murals, and how they achieved a gorgeous space that changes with the seasons.
The concept for Été is based in chef Drew Bolton's menu and food philosophy which inspired us from the outset. He is classically trained in French cuisine and grew up in country NSW. His food uses French techniques but ulitises the best local NSW produce which is heavily influenced by the seasons.We approached the interior in a similar fashion. We wanted to explore how an interior could respond to the seasons and how the French farm aesthetic could be re-interpreted in a contemporary Australian way. Referencing the French aesthetic that appears effortlessly put together yet is so carefully refined, the design of Été at Barangaroo draws inspiration from a classic Provençal style, but gives it a thorough polish with a confident, contemporary Australian-ness.
At Été, which means ‘summer’ in French, the menu constantly changes to reflect the arrival and departure of the seasons, and so too does the interior décor. Bespoke table vessels and a timber entry screen host ever evolving produce and floral installations, while removable window decals, rotating menu covers and the seasonal illustrations within indicate the shifting nuances inside each season – just like the produce on offer from the kitchen. We wanted to invite diners into a distinctly different interior each season.
The space itself references seasonality year-round, with contrasting materiality working to define two distinct zones within one open space. Autumn and Winter are heralded in the rear of the dining room by a moody, warm palette of plum, burgundy and dark timber. Up the front, bright tangerine and green tones uplift light timbers and call out Spring and Summer.
The site presented challenges, due to its triangular floorplate and inclusion of two imposing, structural columns; one of which we repurposed into a wine display feature. In order to maximise covers within the restaurant, we needed to be strategic in our seating arrangements. Long communal tables to the front of the space are highly efficient in this sense; recalling farmhouse trestles, they create a convivial, casual atmosphere. Considerately-placed bespoke vessels act as dividers to enhance diners’ sense of privacy, and along with a timber entry screen, host ever-evolving produce and floral installations. Removable window decals and rotating menu illustrations and covers—hand-crafted in leather—further echo seasonal nuances.
For the graphic and art elements, we worked closely with Chicago-based artist John Zabawa to develop a rough hand-drawn typeface, business cards, menu illustrations and a series of artworks, including two full-height wall murals and ten framed paintings. The brand identity and artworks seamlessly combine with the interiors to create a genuinely holistic dining experience. We worked with a Melbourne leather maker for the bespoke menu covers and with another Melbourne maker for the custom outdoor steel furniture. We added a variety of fabric upholstered elements to the traditional Thonet chairs for added comfort and to tie in with the different zones within the restaurant. All the tables and joinery were designed by Foolscap as unique pieces for Été and include details such as leather-bound handles and table legs, carved timber edges and granite inlays elevate that comfort with evocative luxury.
The client's brief was quite open and simple: they wanted the restaurant space to be approachable, down to earth and relaxed. We achieved this through the use of natural, raw materiality, flexible communal dining tables and an abundance of natural light. Finishes like the handmade green tiles and zinc bar with their beautiful imperfections to the rough limestone floors and wood fibre ceiling create a lived in, country feel.
For the walls we opted for a hand rendered plaster with rounded edges rather than standard plasterboard to give a subtle rusticity whilst still looking elegant and modern. We used a mix of light and dark timbers and a collection of different Thonet chairs so the space feels more like an eclectic French home rather than a homogenous hospitality space."