If you’re on the hunt for an authentic New York brasserie, you could try the West Village or the Upper East Side. But for an atmosphere resembling New York of the 1920s, you might have to travel more than 10,000 miles from New York to Adelaide, Australia, where interior design firm Alexander & Co. has transformed Adelaide’s landmarked railway station into a romanticized version of a Manhattan-style eatery called Sean’s Kitchen.
The restaurant serves typical American fare, such as hamburgers, shucked oysters, and mac and cheese prepared by Australian chef and cooking-show host Sean Connolly. The menu, says Alexander & Co. principal Jeremy Bull, was the conceptual starting point for designing the 4,445-square-foot, multi-level space. Inspired by period film footage and photographs of Great Gatsby–era New York, he and his Sydney-based team re-created the look and feel of lamppost-lit streets for a dining experience that starts at a gleaming, brass bar at the front of the house.
One of the many lighting challenges was how to provide illumination for the tables without installing any fixtures in the barrel-vaulted ceiling of the heritage-protected former railway station, which now houses a casino in addition to the restaurant. “We could paint the ceiling,” Bull says, “but we really couldn’t do anything else to it. We [certainly] couldn’t put downlights in there.” To aid in the illumination strategy, Bull enlisted Sydney-based lighting design studio Point of View (POV) to create a lighting scheme that would evoke the feel of 1920’s New York, while meeting contemporary lighting requirements. POV designed streetlight-esque luminaires for above the banquettes, which sit in the middle of the main dining area, called “The Marketplace,” to simulate the feeling of dining al fresco on park benches. To achieve this look, POV retrofitted a decorative bronze outdoor wall fixture with a 3.2W 2700K filament-style LED lamp and two MR16 LED downlights, along a free-standing pole-style armature. The combination of the two fixture heads provides highlight and ambient light for the diners. At the seating counters overlooking the open kitchen, the lighting designers opted for a custom industrial-style ceiling mounted fixture.
Wherever fixtures weren’t integrated into the architecture, they were hidden. The bar area was one such exercise in concealment. Here, POV used 14W 2700K LED strips underneath the brass countertop and behind the perforated brass panel that silhouettes the glasses and creates a sparkle effect. Bull says that his overall strategy was to light as many of the textured, artisan-made surfaces as possible.
The back of the restaurant features a butchery display with a butcher’s table, oxidized metal cladding, and mosaic tile floors to conjure the feel of New York’s Meatpacking District, which was once home to the city’s slaughterhouses and packing plants. Stairs lead to the mezzanine level, where diners encounter charcuterie display fridges brightened by 6.6W 2700K LED spotlights on their way upstairs to a mezzanine-level private dining room, called “The Distillery.” The “streetlight” style luminaires are repeated with a balustrade that supports suspended decorative globe shades outfitted with 3.2W lamps.
A ring of linear, baffled LEDs set at a 45-degree angle run along the wood-paneled walls, drawing diners’ eyes to the original ceiling and to “The Distillery,” a darker, moodier counterpoint to downstairs. “Because the ceiling [of the upper level] is so much lower, we took the position that it was almost like being in a speakeasy or a cellar,” Bull says. Wine is the major theme, with a black steel wine rack spanning the entire rear wall. POV backlit the rack by recessing LEDs inside its joinery to cast a glow on the bottle labels. Located over the double-sided leather-upholstered banquette, a custom U-shaped pendant, with 2700K LEDs, throws concentrated light onto the tables below without diminishing the feel of the intimate lighting. The texture of the wood floor was also showcased and lit with linear LEDs to “add an ambient light to an otherwise quite contrasty space,” says POV senior designer Ingrid Baldwin.
The barrel-vaulted ceiling—at once the space’s foremost challenge and defining feature—received special treatment. Discreet 6.6W 2700K spotlights uplight the arched cutouts at a 30-degree beam angle, enhancing the sense of rhythm along the curved ceiling. A fully automated lighting control system equipped with an astronomical time clock controls the light levels from morning to late at night. “To avoid the restaurant feeling dull and cave-y during the day, the key was to light to higher levels and increase the amount of ambient light in the space to balance this daylight ingress,” Baldwin says. Mixing stylized design and lighting elements, Sean’s Kitchen provides restaurant-goers with an atmospheric dining experience. •
Project: Sean’s Kitchen, Adelaide, Australia • Client: SkyCity Adelaide • Interior Designer: Alexander & Co., Redfern, New South Wales, Australia • Lighting Designer: Point of View, Sydney • Project Size: 413 square meters (4,445 square feet) • Project and Lighting Costs: Withheld • Code Compliance: Building Code of Australia/AS1680 • Watts per Square Meter: 17W • Manufacturers: acdc Lighting; Boom; Davey Lighting; Filix; IBL Lighting; Light Force; Lucent Lighting; Masson for Light; Meyer; Schoolhouse Electric; Vuelite