Eat Drink Design Awards 2018: How the hottest restaurants get you in the door

A 'home away from home' mood dominates the latest bar and restaurant architecture design at this year's Eat Drink Design Awards, now in its seventh year.

There's also a generous nod to postmodern design styles too – plus comfy couches to keep you lingering for longer.

Around 90 projects have made the shortlist from a pool of 156 entries from around the country where bars, hotels and restaurants compete for the top gong.

Finalists include restaurant Fonda Bondi and Barangaroo House in Sydney and Sunda  in Melbourne. Whether you're a three-storey flagship or tiny bar down a laneway in Melbourne – it all comes down to how you deliver your ambitious vision.

Home away from home

Felicity Slattery and Sarah Cosentino from Studio Esteta are behind the Mexican modernism at Fonda Bondi. There's curved walls, neutral tones and powder blues that mirror the ocean nearby. 

"The client wanted a more sophisticated finish with Fonda Bondi," says Slattery who took art deco cues from surrounding streets to inform the final vision.

"It was all about speaking to the market of Bondi, so we go for bold colour in a controlled way like architect Luis Barragon. We use the ideals of modern Mexican architecture and go for sophisticated yet casual interiors," she says.

Others pushing the homely spirit are finalists such as Park House Food Merchants, Against The Grind, Imperial Hotel and Tribe Hotel Perth.

Space age energy

According to Chris Grinham of H + E Architects – which designed Barangaroo House – clients are willing to spend the big bucks to be the best on the strip.

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"In the case of Barangaroo House, you have around 20,000 office workers next door full of bankers, lawyers and high end of town people, so if you can hit their credit card, it gives you access to your target market," he says.

"You have to get the fit out right, because it's not just a case of opening a door and you're open for business ... You also need a narrative to sell your brand and then package it up so it's Instagrammable."

Sydney vs Melbourne

When it comes to Sydney's lock out laws, bars need to go to extra lengths to lure clientele to join for dinner and kick on for drinks.

"The lockout laws in Sydney make it hard for operators to even start a bar," says Artichoke Magazine editor Cassie Hansen. "So, when they do, they try to make it stand out."

Melbourne's bar template takes a different tack. "The bar culture in Melbourne has such a long history," says Hansen. "The laneway bar was invented there, so for a bar to succeed in Melbourne, it needs to feel authentic, original and backed by good staff and drinks for the discerning local who's already seen it all."

Grinham agrees Instagram add in a new design imperative. "Everyone is looking or the killer shot and that definitely informs the process one way or another ... everybody thinks of design in terms of what will work for those social media posts. It's a sign of the times."

The Eat Drink Design Awards will be announced at an industry event on November 14.