Cheshire Architects 68 Cafe Hanoi

  • Pou Auaha / Creative Director
    Nat Cheshire
  • Ringatoi Matua / Design Director
    Dajiang Tai
  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Members
    James Ting, Fraser Horton
  • Client
    Comensa Group

Café Hanoi’s is a dining hall nestled into an old building shell, a few steps above the new Hotel Britomart laneway.
The shell is not a single open space, but a fragmented collection of disparately sized areas. The configuration of the restaurant was conceptualized as a theatre: seats at a long chef’s table as the front row to the kitchen’s stage; the chef’s pantry floating above the cookline wrapped with fine timber slats.
The chef’s table is the linchpin around which all the spaces are held. Perpendicular to its far end is the bar, a stack of dark-stained cabinets and glistening glassware; the near end leads to an elevated private dining room, up a short flight of stairs. A sun-filled conservatory is the restaurant’s face to the street; a linear run of tables, deck-like, cast in the slanted shafts of light admitted by a screen of timber blinds.
Sourced from second-hand shops, the mismatched forms of the chairs are unified by a single blood-red palette. The chairs were cheap, but we took five weeks and a dozen samples to get the red right. Similarly, the simple oak tabletops are not encased in standard polyurethane but are shellacked and hand-oiled to develop richness, depth and tactility in the timber. Here the humble-special dialectic is explored to deliver a richness of space from a modest budget, deployed amidst real dilapidation of the building shell.