Best New Restaurant Design 2012

Hawksworth’s privileged location in the historic Rosewood Hotel Georgia fronting the VAG meant it had to say something about our city. The design meets this challenge by representing the two sides of Vancouver: the comfortable wealth that befits our status as an urban resort town, and our subterranean edginess. And it does so in a space that was less than grand; the existing low ceilings and big columns may have cramped the space but not the creativity of the designers. The contrast between portly and prickly starts with the lounge, where the rumps of the rich nestle into butter-soft white leather under an avant-garde Damien Hirst. But the distinction is best caught by contrasting the Pearl Room, where a central glittering chandelier shrieks of old dough, to the adjacent Art Room, where a Rodney Graham wall sculpture-Psychomania (inspired by a ’70s British zombie movie)-and memorable mod lights add a vampy edge. Nicli Antica (Silver) is less than 10 blocks from Hawksworth, but while the latter rubs up against the moneyed sidewalks of Howe Street, the former pushes the Gastown restaurant revolution further east. The Neapolitan pizza trend is housed here in an enduring design-brick bones revealed but contrasted by circular forms and red accents: pizza splashed with tomato. This is a room that welcomes both high-chairs and hipsters. At the centre of Bronze-winner Black + Blue’s darkly masculine space is a glass meat-curing closet where a backlit wall of salt outlines the red slabs of drying flesh. The space works as a big room but allows for intimacy; flaunt your taste in expensive quaffs at the central bar or enjoy an illicit date in the darkened alcoves above.

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