SIMPLY STYLISH: At Mariposa, Neiman Marcus Fashion Island, Newport Beach, California, custom-designed white damask napkins woven with a butterfly logo make their subtle statement.
LOKING JUST WHITE: Tablesetting at Market Cafe, Loews Coronado Bay Resort, add style without competing with the dockside view.
THE CAFE GRAY WAY: Gray Kunz created compatible tabletops that speak of quiet for his new restaurant in NYC.
Restaurant table settings are one aspect of interior design that customers experience up-close and personally. Althought it is often said that quality is quiet–it certainly speaks volumes about a restaurant.
Customers blot their lips with a napkin and notice its scent, texture and size. When they reach for a fork, they are aware of its weight, balance, and pattern. As their meal is presented, diners zero in on the plate, and should anyone wish to slide that plate a little closer or move it a little farther away, even more details about the dinnerware become evident. Each time a customer raises a wine glass or coffee cup, the image of your restaurant literally rests in the palm of that customer's hand.
None of this synergy is lost on Gray Kunz, who opened Café Gray in New York City's Time Warner Center in early October. Architect David Rockwell of The Rockwell Group created the interior, but Kunz was responsible for selecting the elements of the Café Gray table settings. He says, "That's my role. I had a very good vision of how the restaurant would look, and that's why we went with bone china. It's a very simple white that matches everything. There are no table cloths, but we have very good napkins. The silver flatware is kind of uncommon; it gives a sense of elegance, but also a sense of simplicity."
Kunz, who made his name as chef at Lespinasse in New York City, has a different vision for Café Gray. "We're not aiming for fine dining, but we're aiming for quality."
Kunz's vision of the concept was inspired by European grand cafés, where beverage service and style play a large part. At Café Gray, for example, coffee is served with an accompanying glass of water. The restaurant features bread stations, and an open kitchen situated between the diners and the windows with a view of Central Park.
Kunz selected tablesetting elements, such as the bone china, that would counter the high-tech environment. He says of the Time Warner site, "There's so much steel and glass in the building that I wanted the restaurant to be quiet and comfortable."
Tabletop particulars: flatware by Christofle; glassware by Judel; bone china, Fortessa Accentz.
Table settings at the Market Cafe dining room, Loews Coronado Bay Resort in San Diego, refrain from competing with the dockside view. Fine white porcelain china, bamboo-style flatware, and the color accent of tabletop flowers or herbal bouquets from the resort's 3,800-sq.-ft. herb garden all work together to create a tranquil waterside setting. The look can be changed simply by using different herbal bouquets. Justin Searle is chef de cuisine at the Market Cafe, which averages 700 daily covers, and as many as 1,000 on busy weekends.
Tabletop particulars: Flatware is Royal Pacific by Clark Wolf for Fortessa; china is Evita by Fortessa.
Fashion and Flavor
Neiman Marcus stores are known for their fashion and style, and customers expect nothing less in the restaurants. Table settings at three locations—Fashion Island in Newport Beach, Calif., Coral Gables, Fla., and the new Las Vegas store—were recently redesigned. The guidelines were to create aesthetically pleasing, contemporary, stylish settings. Additionally, store officials wanted to add a special bread-and-butter plate to highlight the store's signature popovers.
Executive chef Kevin Garvin and Frank Zack, manager of foodservices/business collaborated with the store's design team and industry stylists to create a look that would appeal to the fashion-conscious customers of Neiman Marcus.
"The time and energy devoted to selecting the setting help make a dramatic impact," explains Frank Zack. "Our customers recognize the extra effort and appreciate it."
Table settings at all three restaurants incorporate the same china, flatware and glassware. The flatware features a stylish knife design that stands on its blade rather lying flat on its side.
Instead of tablecloths, custom-designed napkins take center stage. Napkin colors, which add flair to the tabletop, vary with location.
In the Fashion Island location, for example, the vivid green and red palette is set off by custom-designed white damask napkins woven with the Neiman Marcus butterfly logo. The butterfly itself sprang from the original Mariposa Restaurant in the Los Angeles store. The placemat is by Chilewich.
In the Las Vegas restaurant, napkins are in keeping with the sky blue color scheme. The Coral Gables restaurant features a bright chartreuse napkin that coordinates with the chair upholstery.
Tabletop particulars: China is by Rosenthal; crystal stemware by Schott Zwiesel; flatware is a Guy De-Grenne design; custom-designed napkins by Garnier Thiebaut.