Wahaca – Cantina-style dining comes to Brighton
Inspired by the cantinas found in street markets in Mexico, Wahaca has opened a new restaurant in the heart of Brighton, with a delicious menu including tacos, burritos, salads and much more, in one of the UK’s most sustainably built and run restaurants.
Main contractors for the project to create the new venue were The French Group; interior designers were Softroom.
In common with Softroom’s designs for the whole series of new Wahaca restaurants, in locations including London, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool and Manchester, the new venue in North Street is geared to providing a unique environment and distinct experience to help attract customers in a rapidly expanding and very competitive sector.
The main design challenge was to recall the sense of vibrancy and energy of Mexican streets and market spaces. To achieve this, a number of richly textured materials have been layered in to the concept, including abstracted rough sawn timber canopies, reclaimed timber panelling, corten steel walls and polished concrete benches.
The overall result of the design of the 130 cover Brighton restaurant is a modern dining experience made up of a series of distinct, flexible spaces, all with their own defining characteristics, brought together by cleverly placed viewpoints which simultaneously encourage a natural flow of circulation around the restaurants. Custom furniture and fittings and artwork by a Mexican artist contributes to the contemporary, unique atmosphere.
The 130-cover Brighton restaurant features graffiti artwork from Mexico City-based painter and printmaker Mazatl, who is known for taking part in collectives that seek social, political and environmental justice. The street artist’s work is characterised by a strong use of detailed black and white, interspersed with hints of colour, and predominantly features animals which are used to symbolise struggle and the indomitable spirit.
Loose furniture arrangements encourage an informal atmosphere that gives the impression of the space being a collection of street stalls. Light walls are internally illuminated with yellow light to give the impression of a warm outside glow, and give the dining areas a welcoming, sunny disposition.
For Wahaca, sustainability is of the utmost importance and each restaurant is designed to have as low an environmental impact as possible. The restaurant group has recently been certified Carbon Neutral by Natural Capital Partners, becoming the first restaurant in the UK to be awarded the certificate.
Wahaca regularly assesses the efficiency of its restaurants to ensure that energy consumption is kept to a minimum. This is coupled with investment in renewable energy projects and local charity enterprises which has helped Wahaca reduce all of its company emissions to net zero.
Furthermore, all ingredients used in the restaurants are sourced as locally as possible, or transported with care for the environment. Where specialist ingredients have to be delivered from Mexico, the approach is to buy direct from local co-operatives that support local farming.
Wahaca was born in 2007 from a love of fresh, honest Mexican Market food. First inspired by Thomasina Miers’ travels, running bars there and exploring the cuisine, she and co-founder Mark Selby later set about recreating Mexico’s vibrant flavours and social dining culture at home in the UK.
Serving dishes conducive to sharing, Wahaca offers a wide variety of options such as freshly made guacamole with lime juice, coriander and ripe Hass avocados, or signature pork pibil tacos made with outdoor-reared British pork and locally made tortillas.
Right in the centre of bustling Brighton a new face has made its appearance on North Street. The French Group has just completed building a new Wahaca Restaurant, for the chain who have revolutionised Mexican food for the UK. This is not the first time French’s have worked with Wahaca, to date they have worked on over 15 sites with more in the pipeline.
Both the environment and the community benefit from every site built by The French Group for Wahaca. The two have a partnership in eco-sustainability to minimise the environmental impact and build sustainably. French’s growing eco-credentials have been boosted this year by the addition of LED lighting throughout the production space at Newick, East Sussex, BN8 4LQ.
Using as many recycled products in all the restaurants to build environmentally is one of Wahaca’s policies and this is decisively implemented by French’s. This year The French Group has been awarded two Considerate Constructor Scheme Silver Awards for sites built with the Wahaca group and they are proud of their ongoing partnership.
Every fit-out of a Wahaca is different and French’s are always up for the challenge. The Brighton Branch is another example of the professional finish delivered by The French Group.
UHS are the forerunner in the hospitality furnishing industry. The company continually inspires, creates, and finds imaginative and beautiful furniture solutions for restaurants, bars, and hotels.
UHS’ main offices are in Oxfordshire and Rome, plus the company has a global presence which has resulted in UHS creating the finest, specific craftsmanship and design of furniture for the hospitality sector. Recently, UHS has fitted out Wahaca Brighton.
Dan Gillmore, of UHS Group, said:
“UHS has worked with the design team to come up with a vibrant set of products with interesting upholstery, splashes of colour and great materials. The T chair with its diagonal stripe of colour, the Milo chair with its gold frame and gold upholstery all work really well to create this Mexican vibe! Another great project where our products have been customised to suit.”