One day, one project : Renovation of Nakano Restaurant by Pablo Muñoz Payá Arquitectos

Entrance of the restaurant
Photography by David Zarzoso for Pablo Muñoz Payá Arquitectos

In the midst of the covid-19 crisis (again and again), I found a project in Spain which, besides the architectural paw (to my taste), raises the question of a typology of restaurants exclusively oriented towards take-away. The health crisis having led bars and restaurants to close their doors (we all regret it!), some of these establishments have chosen to change the way they sell their products and share their cuisine.

In France, we were familiar with the famous pizza trucks, the example of a mobile (or not) place where one orders before going home with boxes of pizzas with a delicious smell. Bakeries also work on the same principle, with a ham and butter to be recovered and then eaten in a park or during lunch break. Then there were the fast-food outlets (chains, kebab, burger) which nevertheless chose to offer seats for consumption on the spot. Princess covid-19 (and her varying boyfriends) are however shaking up our habits.

This led me to raise several questions :

  • Since health risks are definitely part of our daily lives, how will we consume restaurants and bars in the future ?
  • Is it possible to enjoy the “restaurant” experience despite the health constraints ? Should this experience take place on the spot, in the restaurant, or can it be exported at home ?

This long introduction brings me back to the center of Alicante where the Pablo Muñoz Payá Arquitectos agency has proposed in 2020 a restaurant dedicated to take-away, while maintaining a strong identity linked to the image of the restaurant. At the Nakano (the name of the restaurant), no tables or chairs: we come to collect our order of ramen and/or sushi (for the gourmands), we pay and we leave. The architects explain that it was for them a journey, a transition, in the manner of a warm night subway that suspends you in time.

The project is marked by contrast : on one side, the curved sandstone wall (the mosaics) dedicated to the customers who order and wait at the counter, on the other, the corridor of wood and concrete, darker but with vegetal tips, dedicated to the deliverymen. The flows are thus optimized and separated in this reduced space. The back kitchen is treated in the same way, with a delivery area facing the delivery men’s corridor and a back office for the employees. Efficient.

Where this project charmed me was in the willingness to go beyond the simple counter refurbished with two sheets of PMMA (commonly known as Plexiglas, from the brand name) and a long queue overflowing onto the sidewalk. The idea here was to transfer the “Japanese” spirit of the restaurant to find a user experience no longer in the moment of the meal (seated), but in that of the collection !
A beautiful example of a comfortable and striking place, despite the fact that we were just passing by.

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