Located on the ground floor of a modern commercial building complex in Beijing, the latest outpost of the Pang Mei Noodle Bar chain deftly balances a clinical impression of functionality and efficiency with a playful sense of gregariousness reflecting its hybrid operational model that shifts from counter service during the day to table service in the evenings, the former catering to office workers on their lunch break, the latter to a livelier crowd of theatre goers. Long-time collaborators interdisciplinary design practice Office AIO combined a simple yet effective layout that allows the venue to easily switch between the two modes, with a minimalist, Pop Art-inspired design language that idiosyncratically conveys the brand’s youthful identity – the restaurant chain has been serving Sichuan dishes in Beijing since 2015 under the name “Pang Mei” which translates to “chubby girl”.
Taking advantage of the property’s wide façade, the team introduced eating counters along the length of the space. The counters, which jut out of the building enabling patrons to sit both inside and outside, delineates a linear “grab-and-go” zone with a series of serving windows lining the other side. During peak hours, the restaurant expands onto a more spacious dining room for full table service, which can be easily closed off with the help of a roller shutter. Bi-fold lining the eating counters blends the interior and exterior once open, as well as encourages socializing among single patrons, while a lustrous shading canopy that brings to mind Jeff Koons’ balloon-like metallic sculptures makes for a bold architectural statement.
The playful geometry of the tubular shading canopy is carried on inside with a series of chunky, cylindrical volumes that the team have used as building blocks to separate the restaurant’s front of house and back of house. In contrast to the monochromatic, all-white interiors, the noodle-like structures are rendered in a nude hue as a whimsical nod to the brand’s “Chubby Girl’s” famous noodles. Aluminium-frame chairs sporting cork seating and elastic bands for backrests add to the interior design’s idiosyncratic sensibility as do partly-fogged mirror-clad walls, the latter a signature motif in all of the chain’s restaurants.