Tapas on Tap
Marc Kristal -- Interior Design, 1/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
"Could you hang a ham over it?" When Yann de Rochefort engaged Meyer Davis Studio to design Boqueria, his New York tapas restaurant, that was the style barometer he supplied. "The restaurant is meant to re-create the vibe you find in cervecerías in Spain but in a more modern way," he says. Having admired Will Meyer and Gray Davis's nearby restaurant Mas, an update on the Provençal farmhouse, De Rochefort believed the pair might bring similar freshness to his own concept.
For inspiration, he and the designers spent three days in Barcelona, hitting countless tapas bars. "The lessons were several: Food that's ready and visible, people standing and eating at tall tables," De Rochefort says. "I was determined that the place be casual—no one comes back to a 'destination' restaurant week after week." As for Meyer and Davis, they were struck by the energy level in Barcelona's beer-and-tapas joints. "They were very social, with people talking from group to group," Davis says.
Back in the studio, he and Meyer interpreted and incorporated many elements of the Spanish originals. A critical factor in Boqueria's personality is the bar area and dining room's 42-inch table height, 12 inches higher than normal. This enables waiter and patron to see eye to eye.
While the tall tables also create unity between bar area and dining room, the designers still recognized the need, Davis explains, "to define each zone with an anchoring element." This they achieved with long horizontal pendant fixtures made of fluted glass, steel, and leather. Two hang over the bar, one apiece over the chef's table by the kitchen and the walnut communal table in the center of the dining room. To either side, George Nelson lanterns and bare bulbs with exposed filaments cast a flattering glow on smaller tables and banquettes.
The designers applied other cervecería traditions in unexpected ways. Burlap is used as a ceiling treatment. Wire-brushed oak clads some of the walls. On a wall in the dining room, ceramic tiles usually found in kitchens and bathrooms create a lively bar-code effect inspired by simpler tilework Meyer and Davis saw in Barcelona.
Other elements made the transatlantic journey virtually unchanged. Next to the wine cabinet at the rear, a sliding chalkboard announces the day's specials. In keeping with the restaurant's namesake, Barcelona's Boqueria food market, niches display pimentos, anchovies, and octopus.
De Rochefort admits that his "obsession with detail" led to some "epic battles," notably over the burlap ceiling, which he'd opposed at first. He prevailed when it came to the bar: In place of the initial design, which he deemed more decorative than utilitarian, a capacious, rugged slab of Danby marble is equipped with glass cases that display tapas alongside Spanish artisanal cheese, cured meat, and packaged goods.
Happy compromises reached, the finished 65-seat, 1,600-square-foot restaurant precisely balances sophistication and companionability. There's even a special niche in the dining room for that ham—though it typically hangs, invitingly, in the window.