Blue Crush

Jan 22, 2016


Yin meets yang in Ilze Koekemoer’s newly revamped restaurant, where Victorian and Japanese aesthetics seamlessly fuse against a trendy blue backdrop.

Upon being asked whether he knew that Plascon’s Atlantic Beach – the hue he’d chosen to revamp what used to be The White Room restaurant in Cape Town – was named Plascon’s official colour of 2016, interior designer Francois du Plessis laughs. “I had no idea, actually,” he says. “I was quite chuffed to find out that I’m so on trend! I think colour trends have a way of spreading unintentionally through osmosis, be it in fashion and décor magazines or runway shows, which is how I believe I came to decide on this special shade of blue.”

After Vanessa Marx, the lauded chef who headed up Cape Town’s Dear Me restaurant, as well as the more fine-dining The White Room upstairs – an eatery adorned in milky shades from top to bottom – went on to pursue another project, owner Ilze Koekemoer deemed it the perfect opportunity to try something new.

Upon returning from an inspiring trip to Japan with Francois, Ilze decided to expand on the Japanese theme already established in the vibey Tjing Tjing bar above The White Room.

“The Japanese have very interesting fashions of which ‘Lolita’ is one,” says Ilze. “This sees women dressing in a very Victorian, yet contemporary way. As the restaurant’s space is Victorian and we didn’t want to detract too much from its inherent character, we thought that by incorporating these ‘Lolita’ elements, it would be a good way to subtly mix the Japanese and Victorian aesthetics.”

Francois was put in charge of executing the revamp of the restaurant and newly incorporated whisky and wine bar. “The white needed to go!” says Francois, who decided that Plascon’s Atlantic Beach would establish the required classic, yet contemporary feel in the space. The dramatic blue hue was used from floor to ceiling. “By painting the floor, walls and ceiling the same colour, it creates a sense of intimacy in the double-volume restaurant," says Francois. To complement the predominantly blue colour scheme of the restaurant, Francois incorporated accents in white. “I wanted to highlight the cornices, mouldings and trims of the original Victorian architecture, while also offering a slight reprieve from the blue,” he explains.

To tie the whole look together, Francois introduced elements including wood, velvet and Perspex. “I also used hints of olive green and grey for some added warmth,” he says. A nook adorned in custom-made wallpaper from Japan references the Japanese influence, as do three ‘Lolita’-inspired blinds emblazoned with lifesized anime-like illustrations created by local artist Jade Klara.

Once every piece of furniture was in place, a new chef had been appointed in Christi Semczyszyn and a menu incorporating Asian-inspired tasting plates had been finalised, all that remained was for the former The White Room to be christened. “We decided to call it Tjing Tjing Torii,” says Ilze. “Torii means ‘gateway to the shrine’ or ‘sacred place’ in Japanese, which we think is quite fitting, considering that Tjing Tjing bar with its ‘shrine’-red bar counter is above the restaurant.”

Asked what she thinks of Tjing Tjing Torii’s dramatic new look, Ilze enthuses, “I love blue, any variation of it! The blue that we decided on is peaceful but also dramatic.”

Indeed, in Plascon’s Colour of the Year, Atlantic Beach, Ilze and Francois have found a hue that ticks all the proverbial boxes – one that is most certainly guaranteed to encourage diners and wine fundis to linger as long as they possibly can in this gorgeous space where east meets west.

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Photos Jan Ras
Text Annette Klinger
Production Sumien Brink