Brief and Background
Red’s True Barbecue is a concept drawn deep from the love of traditional barbecuing methods centered around cooking meat slowly at a low temperature to release the flavors and juices of the meat. Operating out of a busy city centre location in Leeds, the brand realised the opportunity to open a new site in Manchester to evolve the Red’s experience. Red’s approached Blacksheep to design the concept for a new restaurant and bar that could operate as an all day dining destination as well as a late night bar. A brand full of passion and attitude, they wanted this new design to truly reflect the character of the experience.
Blacksheep began the process by fully immersing themselves in the true Red’s experience to draw out the very essence of the brand. They also spent time with the brand’s creators whose personalities, travels and love for the concept would very much influence the design that was to be developed. Whilst the brand already used strong religious references in connection to the meat and how its cooked, the team saw the opportunity to evolve this by focusing on the darker side of faith. They also began to identify humor and attitude as other core elements of the brand. It is these influences that would shape the design and experience of this new exciting restaurant.
The building acts as a medium for a whole new world of Reds’ traditions, values and beliefs. It is divided into many intriguing and intimate spaces, each with their own different look and feel, within the grand overall scheme. From the entrance, the focus is centered on the kitchen. Covered with wire chain fence, it provides a curated but open view of what barbecue is all about, from a variety of different angels.
The space outside the kitchen also includes a chef’s table, which allows those lucky spectators a direct viewpoint into the heart of the action. The kitchen itself offers a visual delight for meat lovers with a large cabinet showcasing the brands own homemade range of beef jerky. Cuts of meat hanging from the ceiling and signage displaying the availability of certain products both convey the brand’s commitment to honestly and transparency. All of these elements combine to enforce the theme of provenance and respect for the raw produce and specialised cooking methods used.
The restaurant also offers an enclosed dining area with upholstered banquettes and blackened burnt timber paneling, this space is designed to reflect an unearthed burnt out pit, conjuring up images of the traditional barbecoa method of cooking meat. This dark area promotes a very different vibe to the main restaurant and bar area. Blacked out lights also add intrigue to the space by displaying bespoke artwork and brand relevant messages only visible at night.
Another unique and dramatic space takes the form of the ‘rub room’ referencing the barbecue process. This area offers an intimate dining setting containing just one booth. It presents the ultimate voyeurs experience and promotes the theatre aspect of the brand as it looks directly down into the kitchen. The space also includes a butcher’s table which cuts right through the space into the kitchen, again connecting the two worlds.
To fulfill the second stage of the brief, which concentrated on transforming the environment into a night-time venue, the team had to think dynamically about the design of the bar and how such strong daytime elements such as the kitchen would work after dark. At night, the kitchen provides a backdrop to the bar, which showcases a bespoke feature light reminiscent of a fairground. The lit bar flaunts the vast selection of craft beers and cocktails on offer, whilst a raised ‘pulpit’ like DJ Booth sits aloft, from which Red’s can entertain diners through their love of rock music. The restrooms also take inspiration from the brand’s ethos with cubicles in the style of confessional booths providing yet another surprise for the diner and a further insight into the world of the brand.
The overall design puts theatre at the very heart of the experience, entertaining the guest through every touch point. Religious elements such as crosses are combined with mortuary like tables and butcher’s curtains to remind the guest of the journey of the product and the primal connection between man and beast. Industrial finishes, metal framework and exposed brickwork all enforce the raw nature of the product.
Neon signage and bespoke artwork layers to convey the attitude and distinct humor of the brand and starkly contrasts with the darker elements within the design. The result is a true Red’s experience and a reflection of the passion and character behind the brand. A design not for the faint hearted, it is dramatic in its approach, in your face and fiercely intense, like the brand’s promise itself.
“Based on our initial brief, the guys at Blacksheep took what was seen to be a slightly offbeat idea and turned it into what we feel is the best restaurant in Manchester!
Together we managed to bottle the atmosphere and feeling of our first site in Leeds and faithfully re-create it, by injecting more punch and humour. Initial feedback from diners, both in person and on social media, has been incredible and that’s what it’s all about.”
James Douglas, Founder, Red’s True Barbecue