A new independent Japanese brand called ROBATA has just opened its first site in Old Compton Street, Soho.
The entrepreneurial founder, Sonny Huang, wanted to introduce fresh Japanese cuisine with the style of a laidback Japanese ‘Izayaka’ pub or tapas bar – a concept that is perfect for the Soho crowd.
Sonny first approached turnerbates Design & Architecture when they were exhibiting at the Restaurant and Bar Design Show in 2016.
They worked together on developing ideas and eventually found the ideal spot on the site of a former restaurant.
The brief was to create a modern restaurant with an original twist, which combines the art and style of Japanese casual dining and reflects the restaurant’s fresh Japanese cuisine.
The new concept is inspired by the five elements of Japanese philosophy: Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Void.
Larger than life bold in-house illustrations in the Japanese manga style characterise these elements and reflect the menu offer.
Dark blue walls further represent the principal element, Earth, whilst the feature charcoal-effect wall captures the element of Fire.
Bespoke furniture inspired by traditional Japanese joinery features throughout the space.
turnerbates, who led the entire project, also created the clean branding and menu design for the restaurant, which includes the Japanese characters for ‘Izakaya’ and incorporates the dark blue or ‘Earth’ element that is seen throughout the design.
Monica Herdlevaer, Associate at turnerbates Design & Architecture, says “One of the main challenges of this project was the long and narrow space.
“Before, the design felt cold and stark with one type of banquette seating all the way around the walls. Now, we have created zones for different types of customer – some are cosy, protected areas with atmospheric lighting, whilst our stool seating faces the robata grill and allows diners to see the food being freshly prepared.”
Communal benches echo the casual ‘Izakaya’ style Japanese pub, and encourage conversation between groups whilst enjoying ROBATA’s sharing plates.
Dark timber and indirect lighting also help to create a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere from day into night.
Although by no means the area’s first Japanese eatery, ROBATA has all the ingredients to become a mainstay in Soho.