London based interior studio A-nrd have completed the design of MR JI Camden, an Asian restaurant from acclaimed chefs Ana Gonçalves and Zijun Meng, located in the heart of buzzy Camden Town, London.
Led by founder Alessio Nardi and creative partner Lukas Persakovas, MR JI is the result of a long-term appreciation of work between the team behind TĀ TĀ Eatery and the design duo having previously collaborated on La Rampa and Korean Dinner Party. The brief, inspired by the menu, was to create a pared back neighbourhood restaurant with fun design details.
Relocated from Soho and back to where it all began for MR JI on Camden’s Parkway, the larger 100 sq ft space serving 40 covers evokes the look and feel of a late-night street food eatery, the kind of hot spot you may find in the bustling streets of the Shilin Night Market in Taipei.
Working with the fabric of the building, an old traditional fish and chip shop, the studio stripped the interior back to its core revealing layers of interesting textures and details such as old pink plaster walls, layers of yellow paint, old pencil scribbles and concrete patches. Taking inspiration from these previously hidden elements led to the evolution of the interior concept with the studio choosing to preserve and build upon existing features, materials and colours complemented by new furniture and fittings.
Upon entering the restaurant dark grey stucco walls, steel girders and a concrete floor speak an industrial language with metal mesh floor to ceiling storage units housing wine and sake. Sweeping banquette seating crafted from oak, custom designed by the studio, with seat backs in a buttery soft griege leather contrast the surrounding interior and add a warmth to the palette. Tables feature terrazzo surfaces with unfinished raw edges with complementary minimalist oak and black metal chairs and chrome bar stools providing seating. Red ceramic tableware, planting and artwork by Wang Wei in a commissioned series for MR JI called CHIC KEN break the muted coloured palette.
In the main restaurant, stucco walls are painted in a soft grey-blue with unearthed pink plaster patches becoming almost featured pieces of wall art. Modernist monochrome lighting wash walls with gentle illumination whilst a skylight and planting lifts the space with natural day light and architectural top light. A wine and sake bar is minimalist in style, clad by raw steel tubes with a sleek black terrazzo counter top, inset appliances and minimal back shelving. Unusual by most restaurant standards, its design speaks of a sleek, modernist home bar.
An open kitchen pass adds theatre to the restaurant space. Encased in narrow rectangular soft pink tiles chosen to match the exposed pink plaster work, the framed area creates a sculptural gesture against the bare, raw found wall complete with peeling yellow paint and pencil scribbles.
In contrast to the pared back palette, a Klein blue corridor which leads to the WCs, also painted in the same cobalt blue shade, adds a fun vibrancy to the interior space. Further artwork by Wang Wei adorns the corridor.
In Mr Ji Camden A-nrd have created a raw, humble and honest interior which is contemporary and curated with a considered material and colour palette led by the building’s fabric. Highly successful in its approach to feel both a quaint neighbourhood restaurant and a destination street food eatery, MR JI Camden is much like the food, innovative, avant-garde and sophisticated.
On the project, founder Alessio comments:
“Our experience in creating successful neighbourhood restaurants came in to its own here, it’s important to create a timeless place in which a local crowd will want to come back time and again and feel at home and also feel like a hidden gem and destination at the same time. As a studio we place great importance on repurposing and valorising spaces in order to be as sustainable as possible in our approach and so it was great to work with Ana and Zijun who understood our evolving designs and vision for the project.”