Manouche, Malta

January 15, 2019

Designed by DeMicoli & Associates, Manouche in Malta, is a craft bakery and bistro that pays homage to the traditional bakeries and bistro restaurants of Paris.

The client’s brief was for a design that re-created the ambience of a classic French bistro, with an element of finesse that echoed their creative menu. The brand’s ethos is to have hand-crafted food made from the highest quality ingredients that use a mastery of both French and European techniques.

“We, and our sister fabrication DFAB, were equipped to take on the client’s unique brief for a bespoke and hand-crafted design,” said Rebecca DeGiorgio, lighting designer for DeMicoli & Associates. “However, achieving the client’s expectations for a high-level design, with several detailed and bespoke elements, was challenging given the tight timeframe and budget.”

In order to achieve the concept of a bakery and bistro in one space, the design team had to create a subtle divide between the two.

“The bistro and bakery kitchens are divided via a central service pass which allows for ease of operations. The restaurant and bakery seating areas, however, are divided by the fixed banquette seating. The primary lighting in each area can be set and dimmed to delineate between their varied operational hours,” DeGiorgio explained.

Decorative lighting not only played a role in the division of space, it was integral to the Parisian bistro vibe the client was looking for.

“The role of decorative lighting was to create the mood of the classic French bistro and enhance the brand identity. The brief required a careful balance of warm, ambient lighting, in order to create a welcoming and relaxed environment for clientele. Introducing attractive focus lighting accentuated the food and handcrafted architectural details.

“The fittings also needed to encapsulate the combination of traditional and modern, and the main colour temperature was based on the palette of finishes and materials.

A reduction in budget halfway through the design meant that the team had to prioritise which lighting was integral and which fixtures could be let go. Once this was done the team managed to achieve the lighting they desired and the build went forward as planned.

“The Faro Marlin pendant light struck an aesthetic balance between the traditional and modern bistro, whilst its shallow shade gave us the opportunity to choose a decorative filament lamp,” DeGiorgio continued. “We tested a selection of lamps to find an appropriate model and settled on an incandescent filament lamp that was aesthetically pleasing yet comfortable on the eye of diners.

“In the bakery area, the Vistosi Futura pendant fitting was chosen and placed over the bar area. A seemingly unusual choice over a bar counter, the Vistosi Futura was chosen for its handblown aesthetics, which compliments the uniqueness of the food on display. These decorative fittings were teamed with Delta Light’s subtle rotational spotlights, Boxy RB, to provide focus lighting on displays and menu boards. Smaller Vistosi Futura pendants were added over the tables to further enhance the subtle division of space between the bistro and bakery.

“The main entrance was designed to juxtapose its surroundings, with wood cornices and paneling that pay homage to the traditional bistros and bakeries of Paris. The lighting choice of the Mullan Dyra Swan Neck IP65 wall light further compliments this theme. The material finish of brass was chosen, not only to compliment the palette of materials inside, but as it was well suited to an outside environment, where over time its beauty would increase as it weathers.

“Due to the restricted width and height of the terrace, ultra-small luminaires from Bel Lighting Sami were chosen to fit perfectly within the planters providing soft focus lighting on the table. The fixtures’ metal finish complimented the material palette of the restaurant.”

Architectural lighting at Manouche played a supportive role in highlighting architectural features, as DeGiorgio explained:

“Lighting also played an important role in highlighting bespoke, handcrafted architectural details that echoed the client’s menu and brand. One example would be the solid milled walnut wall, reminiscent of melted chocolate, working as a backdrop to the entrance and window display. The fall of light over these undulations creates an exquisite play of shimmering edges and deep, soft shadows that invite spectators to dip their fingers in. The fitting used was Luce & Light Snack 1.2 with a colour temperature of 3000k and a narrow beam of ten degrees. On location the fitting was tested for placement to achieve the optimum result. A soft spotlight was then added to accentuate the display. We opted for the versatile Neko Fusion and subtly integrated it into the joinery of the front facade.

“The main ceiling treatment in the restaurant featured a system of treated walnut panels and acoustic tempering. This called for a subtle and integrated lighting system that would keep the ceiling uncluttered. Due to the limited headroom, a shallow fitting, with a good UGR rating to ensure visual comfort for diners, was chosen. The Mars CV Hydra LD10 IP20 fitting was the perfect solution to this problem. A warm colour temperature of 2700k, together with a 60 degree beam, ensured that a soft glow was cast over the dining area. The black finish of these fixtures blended them into the soffit design.

“Nestled spaces were created in-between columns, forming a series of fixed banquettes. The feature walls in these areas were accented with linear LED strip lighting, embedded in the furniture, to enhance the vertical walls within the bistro. The limited headroom below the bulkheads complimented the banquette seating and provided an intimate feeling for gathering and eating. This provided the opportunity for decorative focus lights on tables using pendant lighting.”

Reflecting on how the design process went, DeGiorgio put much of the success down to the collaboration between the involved parties.

“What made this project so unique was the collaboration between the architects and lighting designers from DeMicoli & Associates, the sister fabrication studio, DFAB, and the talented owners and chefs of Manouche on their first restaurant venture. A close working relationship between the team and the client established a dynamic design process that allowed us to assist not only in the design of the restaurant but in establishing their brand identity.”

Throughout the space, the design, furniture, lighting and materials echo not only the classic French Bistro, but the hand-crafted, creative and innovative work of the talented chefs. Manouche blurs the boundaries between food and art and so to the design has strived to take their food as a material for artistic production.