Tuesday 16 May 2017
Optimising the location's possibilities to the full, Mextizo provides a contemporary space for the enjoyment of food, in a setting that is at once seductive, warm and comfortable.
The restaurant project arose from the business initiative of the Spanish chef Adrián Marín and that of the Mexican García Bravo family, who joined forces to combine their respective knowledge of the restaurant industries in Barcelona and Mexico city to provide the best of both cuisines here in Barcelona.
The restaurant, located in the heart of Barcelona's Eixample district, is an addition to the city's extensive and highly-esteemed stock of restaurants. One of the main aims of the design was, therefore, to spurn any kind of imitation and give it a unique identity, furnishing it with its very own personality.
The culinary concept is that of Mexditerranean cuisine, an idea developed by Marín, based on combining the Mexican taco tradition with the Mediterranean one for rice and grilled dishes. In order to reflect this Mextizo culinary concept the stylistic spirit informing the interior design had to be contemporary, but with a quality verging on the timeless. In contrast with the deluge, over recent years, of interior designs that have sought to reinterpret the past—historicist, vintage, faux-antique, revivalist—the aim here was to project the present moment, 2016, in a contemporary and innovative manner, by enhancing and upgrading the wise and imaginative traditions that have characterised the restaurant industry in Barcelona for so many decades.
The restaurant, using the premises' unique features to its advantage, is distributed over various areas conceived as having different functions at different times of day. Without exception it has been possible to ensure that guests feel they are seated in a comfortable and luminous space no matter where they happen to be. The restaurant entrance is a "semi-exterior" space that contrasts with the busy comings and goings of the Carrer Diputació outside, and has tables and comfortable seating where guests may pause to have something to eat or drink. The Barcelona scene without imbues this interim space with an ambiguous aura that is halfway between the public, the street, and the private, within. Hydraulic, or encaustic cement, tiling with customised tones of grey, welcomes guests as they pass from one setting to the other, and as they do so a luminous "X" on the ceiling makes its introduction. The "X" is the leitmotif of the restaurant's name and graphic image and, apart from its typographical significance, it reminds us of the world of the geometrical cross and its existential and cultural significance. It defines many of the elements from the door handles and upholstery to the tiling.
On the left, after the entrance, is the bar, with its dark, stone top and faced with wooden strips. Overhead is an exclusive brass hood, and opposite, high tables next to the large windows that give onto the semi-exterior space, adorned with plants below and affording a view of the exterior panorama as well as suffusing the interior with light. Here the furniture and flooring display white marble, oak, brass and luminous, nuanced colours. The windows can be raised or lowered remotely according to the conditions outside.
On the right, after the entrance, is a more private lounge area with high-backed sofas and comfortable armchairs, for more relaxed moments. On the wall hangs a three-dimensional work of op-art by Steffi Herr, a curious "sea and surf" composition depicting a cactus enveloped by an octopus, Mexico and the Mediterranean beyond the cliché.
Enveloping wooden curtain
From the lounge a hall leads to the restaurant's interior, at the end of which an inner garden can be glimpsed, creating a pleasing visual and luminous connection between the street and the garden. The entrance door is located at just the point from which the inner quadrangle of this Barcelona block can be seen. The passageway leading inwards is far from dull, being decorated with a sinuous wooden skin, like a curtain, consisting of delicately illuminated strips of half-cylinder oak. Through strategically placed openings in this wooden curtain, guests can observe a part of the restaurant that is not generally seen, the kitchen. Other facilities here include the toilets, the wine cellar, the live shellfish tank, as well as a small bar area decorated with mirrors where guests may pause to enjoy a drink while waiting for a table. The ceramic paving of the bar gradually combines with, and gives way to, the smoked oak flooring used throughout the entire dining area.
The toilets are located at the beginning of the hallway and are faced with small, hand-cut, house-shaped hydraulic tiles. Their various tones create a gradient motif. The hand basin is also crafted in conglomerate stone to fit the curve of the wall. Each door is decorated with a peephole, typical of those of old apartments in the Eixample district of Barcelona which, when opened, indicate whether the toilet is for ladies, gentlemen, or mextizos...
Pyramidal dining room and inverted tree
At the end of the hallway is a large double-height room in which the various zones of the dining room are distributed. The walls are faced with an elegant canvas-coloured fabric and the ceiling, in the shape of an inverted pyramidal frustum, is made of sound-absorbing perforated oak plaques, enhancing the dining room with an air of quality and warmth.
On the right, the open kitchen with its spectacular charcoal grill, made specially to order in Getaria, in the Basque Country. The preparation of food here, in full view, becomes a show and a great attraction for guests. It is a kitchen that spurns the usual industrial look in favour of something more relaxed, almost domestic, where cold stainless steel has almost been banished.
Within the dining room a central island, defined by a perimeter bench, accommodates various tables that can be joined together or separated as the occasion demands, a private room almost. The perimeter bench is upholstered in an eye-catching black, grey and white fabric, by Gastón y Daniela, with an "X" motif. From the centre of the truncated pyramid, delimited by the island and with a mirror frame, hangs an illuminated sculptural structure, like an inverted tree, with holders that can be used for hanging plants or sculptures, a living element that will change in tune with the times. The truncated pyramid is inspired by the colossal construction at Teotihuacan in Mexico, "the place where men become gods".
To the left of this central island are a number of tables, shielded by original upholstered canopies and separated by wooden screens decorated with a filigree in brass. A metallic curtain, hanging beneath each canopy, endows these tables with greater privacy and comfort, notwithstanding their being in a large, single space. The curtain does not, however, prevent diners seated here from continuing to enjoy the general view.
To the right of the large central island is an area with a generous number of tables that can, as the occasion requires, be converted into a communal private dining room by means of a decorative, and sound absorbing, fabric curtain that can be drawn, or not, as the case may be. The backdrop to this private space is formed by a large cloud of fabric elements in black and white. "Clouds", by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, decorates the entire wall, while also serving to absorb sound.
Next to the large window which gives onto the gardened patio is a privileged area with a long sofa, various tables and a large communal, marble table.
All the furniture is ergonomic and exquisitely designed, with wide tables and cosy seating to tempt diners into prolonging their after-dinner conversations. Oak with upholstery in black, greys and natural colours, the tonalities of stone with contrasting brass at the bottom of the tables and dark flooring. The touch of colour is provided by the guests themselves. Illumination throughout was resolved with an efficient system of LEDs, developed by Biosphere, in which each light source is programmed to create a different ambience according to the time of day to achieve just the right setting, be it for breakfast, lunch, dinner or for after-dinner drinks.
At the end of the dining room the closure consists of a large window giving onto a gardened patio, for the use and enjoyment of all diners. During the day it is an exceptional source of natural light and at night it becomes an attractive focus of attention with the large "X" illuminating the vegetation. A restful place, in contact with the earth, where you can have a coffee or a last drink, seated comfortably, and for a while, away from the asphalt of the city.
Photography: Rafael Vargas