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‘Work hard, play hard’ at Centara Grand in Osaka

A hospitality venue in the heart of Osaka comprising four dining options – a place where nostalgic pastimes meet high-end dining.

‘Work hard, play hard’ at Centara Grand in Osaka

The aesthetic of Japan oscillates between minimalist and futuristic. Locals and tourists alike will either foray into a classic vinyl bar or a venue adorned in a manga-esque aesthetic. Yet, it seems for a while there was a gap in the market for a venue that bridges these archetypes – a place where heritage and antiquated venues fuse with the avant-garde and ultramodern. Centara Grand is home to not one but four gorgeous venues. Located in the heart of Osaka, the hospitality experience was designed to represent an aspirational future for Japan’s bar scene.

Perched on the 32nd floor, the venue evokes the visceral feeling aroused by an aesthetic akin to that found in the iconic movie Blade Runner. Upon arrival, guests are greeted at the front desk, where the design reflects a cartoon artist’s dream-making studio. The space, adorned with a vintage analogue clock and work-in-progress sketches on the walls, signifies the transition from the workday to a vibrant celebration, setting the tone for a scene that blurs the boundaries between reality and fantasy.

Of the four, the first is a whisky-centric lounge that pays homage to the vibe of 1980s Ametora. A space for guests to taste an array of whisky-inspired cocktails, an extensive collection of wine and the ever-popular fine-aged steak. The diagonal wood trim detail, reminiscent of an oversized comic panel, imbues the space with a strong graphic character.

Against a backdrop of handcrafted mustard yellow wall tiles and patterned Japanese parquet flooring, the bold brick-red bar stools and high-gloss lacquer ceiling are the focus. Meanwhile, asymmetrical wall sconces and halftone bar lamps provide varied lighting, that plays with the ambience and playful atmosphere of what would usually be refined and handsome.

Related: A sense of place at Shanghai’s Shangri-la Qiantan by Takenouchi Webb

Upon entering the main dining area, a custom-made whisky display cabinet showcases a curated collection and serves as a storage space for regular guests to house their favourite bottles. The antique brass name plates allow VIP guests to label their bottles, creating a sense of ownership and exclusivity, and heightening the overall experience and personal touch. A moveable partition becomes a canvas for a series of illustrations by a young Thai artist, whose work celebrates the vibrancy and playfulness found in Osaka. The illustrations are a nod to the local culture while honouring the roots of the Centara brand, uniting the essence of both worlds in a visually striking display.

AUTOMATA is a retro-futuristic dining venue with a self-pour beer station and simple bar food, which takes its inspiration from Japan’s automation culture. Concealed behind the main bar of Whiskey Nova, the entry to AUTOMATA is ingeniously hidden, with only the shadow cast by its logo revealing its location when illuminated. The venue is elusive; the intrigue is heightened through a secret rotating pass-through window. The space is lacquered in semi-reflective stainless steel which is a reference to Japan’s robotic era. The sleek concrete floor adds an industrial touch, evoking a sense of technological progress. Custom-made hexagon neon light fixtures, running LED menus, and meticulously chosen metallic furniture come together to create a real-time warp.

Ascending the staircase to the highest floor, crossing into the collector’s room with panoramic views of Osaka, guests will arrive at Smoke and Spin. There are two indoor areas connected with outdoor seating, offering guests a range of dining and lounging options. The living room functions as an inviting afternoon tea lounge, and adjacent is the grand kitchen and dining room, serving signature cold smoked dishes sourced from the sea. Warm wood finishes cover the walls and envelope Smoke and Spin with a sense of refined luxury.

A grand light feature is suspended above the raised seating upon entry and reflects the glow of a stadium spotlight – a nod to Japan’s baseball history. Ceiling panels shaped like a home plate further reinforce this connection and the bridge between athleticism and glamour. The design uses funky Technicolor highlights, exuberant bright colours and geometric shapes and patterns on the furniture.

Kunsei Kitchen is inspired by Japanese traditions, accessible to guests after sunset, where the food served is made of the highest calibre, smoked on-site and served straight. The design of Kunsei Kitchen is a fusion of contemporary elements and traditional Japanese features. The venue is adorned with handcrafted blue tiles, that stand as a mural of the vast Sea of Japan, enveloping visitors in a calming ambience.

The entrance features a custom-made smoker fridge that shelves fresh produce – this display acts as a tantalising introduction to the epicurean experience. Opposite the smoker fridge, traditional Japanese straw works hold an assortment of locally sourced herbs, infusing the air with their fragrance. This connection to the land pays homage to the roots of Japanese cuisine. The centrepiece of the venue is a light feature, taking inspiration from traditional Japanese lanterns; this contemporary interpretation casts a warm glow over the centre seating area.


Courtesy of AvroKO

Next up: Peruvian-Japanese cuisine with views of the Burj Khalifa

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