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In the vibrant Queen Street West district, the swirling coloured glass windows of restaurant Nota Bene invite and tantalize customers to step inside. Upon entering, they are greeted by the towering trunk of an ironwood tree, risen up from a Southern Ontario forest floor and treated with a traditional Japanese charring technique known as Shou Sugi Ban. The technique uses fire to preserve the wood through carbonization – a process that also turns the wood a deep, dramatic black and gives it a matte sheen.

The tree’s canopy is rendered in a geometric 3D-printed artwork that floats overhead like a pixelated cloud, casting shadows on the ceiling to suggest the murmuration of birds. Led by executive creative director John Tong, +tongtong has created award-winning spaces including Her Majesty’s Pleasure. Inspired by nature and the changing seasons, the team lifts colour and texture from chef and owner David Lee’s seasonal new menu and integrates these into the interior.

The redesign by +tongtong includes a custom-designed wine display, showcasing Chef Lee’s selection of bottles in soft leather saddles, which cluster together against a back-lit wall like bunches of grapes on their vines. The theme of celebrating the creative and transformative power of nature continues in the 13-m glass rail separating the bar area and dining room. A layer of dichroic film lends the surface the iridescence of insect wings, and laminated within the glass is an abstract graphic of bees and a beehive.

+tongtong also captures the energy of the kitchen through a translucent macro-photographic mural of fantastical space deep inside a chunk of glass, and reflects this out to the dining area. Diners at Nota Bene will enjoy their meal in the company of more than 70 tumble weeds. Sourced from Nevada, the tumble weeds take to the air in a whimsical installation that sparks the imagination and inspires travel.

Design: +tongtong

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