Jamie’s Italian Sydney

June 20, 2012

Jamie Oliver’s latest Jamie’s Italian iteration fuses vintage designs and light-Industrial elements for a casual aesthetic that’s dynamic in its detailing.

First published in Inside magazine 71: No Place like Home.

Bringing a known brand to a new market often entails cookie cutter design and its irksome side-effect: inevitably and exponentially, iterations tend to flag. When the brand is global, this is compounded by the costs and logistics of revitalising ‘the look’ and soon the whole brand suffers from ‘last year’ syndrome. Jamie’s Italian as a brand has rather nicely sidestepped this by creating a visual presence predicated on key inclusions that are open to interpretation. The latest incarnation is Jamie’s Italian, Sydney, by peckvonhartel.

The antipasto bar is lit by Jam Jar pendant lights.


Essentials in the brand’s visual language are tiling and lighting but, importantly, no particular tile or specific lighting. Rather, the lighting brief calls for a grand entrance chandelier augmented by complementary fixtures, while for tiling the brief specifies simply that it be included. “The site lent itself to an industrial aesthetic inherent to the Jamie’s DNA, which included industrial steel lighting played off against traditional vintage styles,” says senior interior designer, Jude Watson, of peckvonhartel. Effectively, this allowed the designers considerable freedom and their choice of a bespoke modernist slump-glass feature piece by Carl Dolan is both robust and elegant. It also allowed them a means to create a dynamic opening gesture that thrusts the eye upwards within an extremely long and narrow main dining area.

The mural is the work of a local Sydney street artist.


Structurally, the restaurant comprises two elongated floors, the main following and the upper sitting above the entrance foyer of the building it occupies. Unison is effected by affording the lower room a double ceiling height, while the upper floor exists as a mezzanine overlooking the whole. Watson elaborates: “The use of the elongation was a deliberate play on the laneway culture Sydney has at the moment.” With a significantly lower upper floor ceiling height, the open arrangement of the mezzanine negates any feeling of enclosure – an excellent solution. The areas have been further demarked by a large street art type mural by a local street artist. And, while this creates an immediate change of pace, the selection of furnishings makes the transition from one floor to the other seamless. In keeping with the light-industrial feel of the brand, neither floor is formal, with both having large portions of exposed raw wall, although the mezzanine is comparatively casual.

The Carrara marble antipasto bar on the mezzanine level is flanked by Tolix Marais stools.


The design fulcrum of the mezzanine is a large white Carrara marble antipasto bar with steel and zinc facing flanked by Tolix Marais stools. Moving away from the bar, simple café tables with Tolix chairs in fuchsia and teal dot the forward portion leading to the garden. “The garden on the balcony is all about theatrics and engaging people from the street level, while giving the people in the mezzanine their own sense of space, their own environment and destination,” Watson explains. On the lower floor, complementary shades have been used in the long swathes of raspberry and amazon leather upholstery covering the banquette seating that runs along much of the length of the main dining area. A long, shared table of recycled timber and the same café-style arrangements of tables and chairs as used on the mezzanine complete the main seating.

Plaudits go to peckvonhartel’s use of the space with excellent utility at every turn. Indeed, rather than compromise ceiling height in the main room, the narrow, but available area below the mezzanine has been dedicated to a wine display that acts as a feature wall while providing much needed storage. Visual depth is conjured with the wall directly above the banquette clad in an antique-finish mirror. With similar good regard for spatial possibility, the extreme front of the restaurant has been transformed into a flamboyant show pony for the amusement of the regularly waiting crowds. The area is faced by an existing curved wall of glazing, but rather than creating a fishbowl of diners, the space’s theatrical potential has been exploited with a fully functional pasta-making zone that is in constant use (the pasta machine is another Jamie’s ‘must-have’). The zinc-topped, copper-fronted bar, which follows on from the entrance, provides the first of the restaurant’s long horizontals. It is also the main repository of Italianate tiles and boasts some 25 different designs, most of which are usually concealed behind an army of drink-sipping patrons. The entrance way is characterised by a floor of black and white square tiles, while the main flooring is recycled blackbutt. A large amount of recycled timber has, in fact, been used throughout.

The fully functioning pasta-making zone can be seen from the street, and also greets diners upon entry.


Recycled lighting has also been used to good effect with a number of vintage Anglepoise lamps scattered about. The primary lighting, however, comprises bespoke wall and pendant lamps by Carl Dolan, which have been created in two versions for use in the dining and pasta-making areas. These are rounded out by a higher row of pendant spun reflector lamps in blackened copper from Davey Lighting, also responsible for the various versions of industrial shipping lamps used throughout. Contradicting the industrial whole, a glamorous mid-century knit glass chandelier has been used as the primary booth lighting both to highlight and contain the booth as a private world tucked below the stairs. Rather charmingly, the antipasto bar is lit by Jam Jar pendant lamps.

The kitchen is presented as an open and theatrical extension that complements – in black, white and grey – the eclectic mix of industrial, natural and high colour toned elements explored in the dining areas. Tile is used to a large extent, with polished steel and copper lifting the whole. Interestingly, while the openness of the kitchen is theatrical, it is not overwhelmingly so. Its location at the far end of the restaurant dissuades constant viewing; rather, the journey to the bathroom or when transitioning from floor to floor is greeted by a visual feast of activity. Very nicely done.

Italianate tiles on the front of the bar and the entrance chandelier plays off against the slightly industrial feel of the overall interior.


The bathrooms are perhaps the most masculine of entrants to the genre. Entirely clad in sage green, vertically placed 150mm x75mm  Olde English Tiles are lit by industrial caged lights and boast not much more than stark, square basins and unadorned mirrors. The toilets verge on the English, despite our dual flush regulations disallowing the pull cord variety used in other Jamie’s. This little glitch aside, their design is not only a cool respite, but also a dramatic welcome to a London-type environment that again signals the Jamie’s brand.

What makes the interpretation work is that it incorporates a contemporary Australian approach to dining, while reflecting the brand’s international identity. The shared elements of lighting and tiles are sufficiently stand-alone to give credence to an individual style, while the introduced elements, such as the bright seating, give the restaurant its own signature. Where peckvonhartel has excelled, however, is in the creation of a structural frame that will easily transition and support change through the interior’s life. Effectively, this will allow the restaurant to renew and reinvent itself as need dictates.

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