After the success of El Camino, Chef Matthew Carmichael approached Linebox to design his second Elgin Street restaurant–Datsun. Having worked with Matt on several previous projects, we were excited to work with him again. His creative energy, inside and outside of the kitchen, is both infectious and inspiring. Datsun is directly beside El Camino and the design team was challenged to create a restaurant experience similar to, and yet completely different from, El Camino. The end contrast? El Camino is dark, raw, and industrial whereas Datsun is light, fresh, polished, and approachable.
The interior space of the former nightclub was gutted and stripped back to its structural elements; concrete walls and columns were sandblasted to reveal their original beauty and a network of mechanical systems and stainless steel equipment were added for a state of the art kitchen. A delicate palette of aged concrete and modern white walls welcome complimentary layers of light birch wood, antique furniture painted pure primary colours, and textural contemporary art pieces; the space is light and pure.
Like with El Camino, exposing the creation, consumption, and celebration of food was primary to the overall design of this restaurant. A long wrapping bar and custom tables create opportunities for various seating configurations, as well as interactions between bartenders and guests. There are even moments where the bartender and guest exchange places; where one dines “behind the bar”. Original artwork, sculptures, and plant life blur the lines between interior and exterior spaces. An exterior terrace and standing tables allow casual conversation and dining to take place. Over time an ivy wall will grow and creep its way along the exterior wall.
Mirroring El Camino, there is a take-out window where patrons can sneak a peak at the happenings of the kitchen as they wait for their order.
An experience at Datsun is subtle and satisfying, much like the food Chef Matt creates. The minimal, almost stark space is a stage awaiting interaction and sensation; a space only fully completed when guests, chefs and food are interacting with it. The space, and your experience of the space, is completed by the tastes, smells, colours, and the subtleties of the characters within the space.
Photography: Union Eleven, Metropolis Studio