Tom Arbuckle | February 01, 2011
On a site leveled by German bombs during World War II, the Barbican Centre rose from the ashes to become London's most-hated architectural landmark, thanks to its 1970's brutalist style. Critics have been kinder when it comes to the Barbican's capabilities. It's Europe's largest performing-arts and conference center and, more recently, a hot destination for cuisine, too. The Barbican Foodhall and Barbican Lounge have debuted as sister venues designed by the firm SHH.
On the ground level, SHH gutted a lackluster café and repaved it in red brick to create a casual environment for the Foodhall. This is where patrons on-the-go grab a chutney-and-cheese sandwich-please pay at the back-painted glass counter. Separated from the takeout area by lacquered aluminum shelving, stacked with glass jars, are long oak-topped communal tables where people with more time to spare might linger over marjoram-infused mackerel. However, full-service restaurant dining takes place one flight up in the Lounge. SHH exposed the walls of hammered aggregate near the black bar, clad in mosaic tile and topped in glass. Resin flooring, royal blue by the bar, changes to teal in the sunnier dining area. It's furnished with pedestal tables from the 1960's and chairs with backrests lacquered Chinese red. Quite a diverse visual menu, but it all comes together in adjacent terraces shaded by the occasional olive tree.