The real delight of KōL Izakhaya is in the seating plan. Located at Hyde Park Corner, the restaurant offers all permutations of seating for diners – whether you’re in a large group or solo, you can slip into a comfortable cabin, book the private dining room or the intimate, bounded lounge, or perch on a high stool at the bar or one of the counters.
Merging two cultures via its name – with KōL being the Japanese interpretation of the kanji symbol for coal, and Izakhaya a suitcase play on the informal Japanese food bar, izakaya and khaya meaning “house” in Zulu – the space brings people together to connect around a fire, the robata.
“It’s a contemporary take on a traditional Japanese izakaya in South Africa,” says the restaurant’s interior designer, Tristan du Plessis of Tristan Plessis Studio. “It focuses on texture and materiality, not just aesthetic appeal. We wanted the space to be experiential.
Robatayaki, or robata – an ancient method of cooking over white-hot binchō-tan charcoal – is central to the menu and at the heart of KōL; everything that happens here emanates from it. The Fireside Grill menu is divided into Yakitori (like chicken hearts and livers), Niku (meat), Umi (ocean) and Yasai (vegetables), and served in one or two pieces per plate – you’ll need to order a good number of servings as they are rather small.
Appetizers, small plates, and snacks include edamame; crispy sticky hot wings; dressed Namibian oysters; gyoza; wasabi and shiso croquettes; and more. The sushi menu is wide and has the expected offerings – but those with a more adventurous palate should pull up a chair and chat with the sushi chef at the dedicated bar.
Previously occupied by a bank, the sprawling restaurant also includes a private workspace, a zen room, a shower room and a luxurious bathroom that includes a tray of perfumes from Metropolitain Cosmetics, with which customers are invited to refresh themselves. .
But perhaps the most striking element of interior design are the beautiful and luxurious natural finishes used in all spaces. “Everything had to be natural,” explains Tristan, “so we used fine natural products rather than anything that wasn’t authentic: charcoal, natural stone, lots of woodwork. The latter is a cornerstone of design in Japan that you’ll see in the restaurant’s wall panels and wine display.
The result is a space that has plenty of luxury visual interest as well as plenty of textural appeal. “We chose materials and products based on texture – how they feel in the space rather than just how they look,” explains Tristan. “So we used rough cuts of granite and huge slabs of solid wood with a live edge.”
All the layered natural materials also give the space an inviting feel. “An izakaya is meant to be accessible,” explains Tristan. “That’s why I wanted to use warm and rustic materials, put together in a semi-premium finish.”
Images: Studio Tristan Plessis
This article was originally published on TO VISIT.