How AL_A turned a restaurant without a kitchen into London’s hottest dining concept.
December 1st, 2014
Tincan is one of the most talked about new dining concepts to come out of London – a remarkable achievement for a restaurant with no kitchen, no chef and no fresh food. Instead, the restaurant stocks tinned seafood – from exotic sea urchin caviar and Icelandic cod liver to the more familiar tuna and sardines – all served straight from the tin onto a plate with fresh bread, chilli, parsley and sea salt.
And, instead of a restaurateur, the six-month pop-up, located in London’s Soho, is run by UK architecture studio AL_A, who also designed the space.
The seed for Tincan was sown four years ago, when Maximiliano Arrocet, a director at AL_A, was in Lisbon, Portugal, where he’s working on a new cultural centre. “I went into a small restaurant after a long meeting and ordered some octopus,” he says. “It was literally being served from the tin, and I was outraged. Once I tried it though, I completely changed my mind. Instead of bringing chocolates back to the office, I brought tinned seafood.”
Fast forward a few years, and Arrocet was back in Lisbon with AL_A founder, Amanda Levete. They stumbled upon an old tackle shop that had been converted into a restaurant with no kitchen that served only tinned seafood and wine. They offered to franchise the concept in London, but the owner refused.
Back in London they came across a commercial space with a planning application in that was available for around six months, and Tincan was born – the studio’s first self-initiated project. Following a rapid three-month design and build, the restaurant launched in September during London Design Festival.
“I think designers are realising that investing in yourself is a real too to create more interesting products and projects,” says Arrocet. “For us, as architects, the idea of how to occupy space in an urban environment was very interesting and we could explore the idea fully: How do you get in very quickly, change it and regenerate a space?”
The answer was found in the tins. “We wanted to elevate the tin to an object of desire,” says Arrocet. “The perception of tinned seafood in the UK is not the same as in Spain or Portugal – it’s frowned upon a little bit.” So, the design team placed the tins on the walls and in the shop-front window, creating a graphic display that makes use of the beautifully graphic packaging design that many of the smaller, independent tinned seafood brands have adopted in recent years to differentiate themselves from regular supermarket brands.
DuPont Corian came on as a sponsor, using the bar to a showcase their new DeepColour technology, which delivers greater depth of colour and durability and offers wireless-recharging solutions integrated into a solid surface.
LG sponsored the OLED lighting technology, which was used by AL_A to create ultra-thin pendant lights. “As designers we need to understand and promote what’s new and interesting,” says Arrocet. “This was an opportunity to experiment with a new technology.”
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