ULI – Asian flavours prompt inspired design
Dramatically re-opening with a flourish and a fresh, stunning new look in a new location, is ULI, a much loved Notting Hill Asian restaurant now on Ladbroke Road.
Originally established on London’s All Saints Road in 1997, ULI became revered amongst locals and critics alike, before closing three years ago.
Now the restaurant is back in a big way – with a fresh, clean and simple appeal complimented by a complete re-imagining of the menu that includes a selection of ULI’s homely and simple house favourites from regional China across to South-East Asia, together with a selection of cocktails, snacks and beverages.
ULI Ladbroke Road is the first collaboration between ULI founder Michael Lim and restaurateur Graham Rebak who appointed Jonathan Clark Architects to realise their vision. Main contractors were Elevation London.
The new 60 cover venue, which was previously a grocer’s shop, is located on the former site of the Queen Elizabeth Laundry from which the original Victorian sign has been lovingly preserved.
The property is part of a Victorian terrace, which include basements with shops above at ground floor level, and two floors above – most of which contain flats.
Jonathan Clark of Jonathan Clark Architects said: “The space was derelict and a great deal of work was needed to create the new restaurant – including the installation of all new services. We had to start from scratch.
“The brief for this project was to create an Asian restaurant without using any references that would normally be associated with far eastern design. Instead the food – which is fresh, light and healthy – became the starting point for the interior.
“We wanted to create a welcoming, fresh environment in keeping with the simple, homely, relaxed and informal theme of the menu. We definitely wanted to create something completely different and avoid all the Asian restaurant clichés such as dark timber and eastern motifs.”
A timber fenced and covered external terrace with planting, seating and tables for 30 covers is located at the front of the venue, which has a giant sash window frontage.
Internally, a long seating banquette runs the length of one wall of the space and continues to the outside terrace. Divided into three interconnected areas, the interior ground floor level accommodates a 30 cover restaurant, a private dining area and a dispenser bar, whilst the basement contains the kitchen, storage and staff areas and customer toilets.
The ground floor features a design palette including natural limed oak, soft tones of blue, contemporary art and a ‘hanging garden’ of pendant lights over the dispense bar, each filled with cascading indoor exotic plants which add an organic and natural feel to the space.
Within the main restaurant, coloured infill panels in shades of blue and contrasting deep brown add more separation where required, and although the colour combination sounds unusual, it works well combined with the distressed limed oak flooring and banquettes.
The defining feature of the interior space is a lattice structure made from limed wood, which fulfils several purposes. In the bar area it is used for shelving and display and also as screening for the courtyard to the rear, as well as providing separation to the venue’s corridor and front seating area.
The menu includes small plates ranging from lettuce wraps of Mongolian lamb or chicken, to crispy shiitake and water-chestnut wontons, classic hot-and-sour Szechuan soup, Peninsula Malay lamb curry and grilled fish kampong with galangal.
Graham Rebak said: “I have long admired the quality and consistency of Michael’s offering and initially encountered ULI as a regular customer. I am thrilled that we were able to reposition the restaurant in a more central location and our partnership now presents a very exciting opportunity to establish ULI as a brand representing healthy, honest and simple Asian food.”
Michael Lim said: “ULI encapsulates the very best of Oriental cuisine and I am thrilled that at our new location we’ll are able to continue offering our loyal customers food prepared using traditional Chinese, Malay, Thai and Singaporean disciplines.”
Challenges of the project included having to deal with water leaks, damp issues and the installation of electricity and gas into the space.
“Apart from this the project went extremely well and the restaurant looks lovely,” said Jonathan Clark.
The works commenced on site in mid-February and the venue opened approximately four months later.