in December 2021, Mizzi Studio unveiled magical restaurant inspired by nature at Kew Gardens. The sun, the seasons, and the magic of food growth, Mizzi Studio designs a world of nature learning and wonder for Kew Gardens newest family eating space.
The Family Kitchen & Shop is an environmentally driven, educational food space for visitors of all ages, with interiors designed by nature-led, multi-disciplinary practice, Mizzi Studio. The new restaurant presents a world of fantasy – a colourful, interactive space that teaches families all about the origins of their food. The restaurant’s building exterior has been designed by renowned architects HOK as a net-zero carbon, timber structure, with shop interiors designed by international design studio, Lumsden Design.
The spirit of the Family Kitchen can be described as ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets nature-led laboratory’. Families are drawn inside the restaurant by a radiating LED sun, beginning a journey that introduces them to all the natural elements involved in the ecosystem and process of food growth – from the power and energy of the sun to the lessons of seasonality in production and harvesting, each illustrating the path from plant to plate.
The interiors create a magical world of gardens, forests and woodlands where human beings appear to have been shrunk to the size of small creatures living within nature – a play on scale inspired by fantastical worlds in literature such as Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. Situated next to the interactive Children’s Garden, this vibrant, stimulating world offers a backdrop that presents food in a theatrical, learning-based setting.
Comprising food preparation counters and serveries, a gelateria, a hand sanitising station, and differently themed dining areas, the restaurant promotes a blend of education and wonder, placing emphasis on a sustainable food culture through sensory and tactile design. The new restaurant promotes the global research undertaken by RBG scientists and the importance of diet. A number of interactive installations and signage, smartly integrated into the furniture and building fabric, offer children an insight into plant types, local produce, agricultural techniques, food processing and meal preparation. With sustainability and education at its heart, the restaurant has been divided into six key learning zones: Diversity, Autumn, Science, Water, Sun and Spring. Each of these themes were developed as critical aspects of the production, processing and preparation of healthy food.
Most importantly, the design has been conceived to take families on an exciting, nature-filled journey. It begins with the sun, the rain and clouds, and the parting seas, introducing the fundamental elements of nature involved in food growth to visitors as they enter the space – from the power and energy of the LED sun wall, Gaudi inspired blue mosaic wave seats representing the parting seas, and pendant rain cloud lighting. Next, they are led to a laboratory-inspired botanical water station for hand sanitisation, highlighting the importance of hygiene as well as putting on show the antibacterial properties of plants like lavender and rosemary. The process of germination and the magic of seeds is brought to life in a zone dedicated to spring, where lenticular panels and LED-lit push buttons animate the process of seed growth and dispersal.
In the centre of the Family Kitchen sits a tiled pizza oven draped with bright red infinity mirror periscopes that showcase harvested fruit and vegetables. This is where children will learn all about how food is made, where ingredients come from, and how to recognise and name the different foods that make up their meals. A pizza topping station allows children to select their own ingredients, pushing knowledge around the process of food making front-and-centre in the experience of dining out. Finally, families will enter a large deep magenta dining zone furnished with an oversized Enset tree surrounded with mirrors, illuminated foliage and colourful seating of summer berry tones. As well as this, is a dedicated seating quiet zone in the shape of a giant apple provides the perfect space for neurodiverse visitors to enjoy the Family Kitchen in a calm and relaxed way.
The journey’s zoning approach also follows the theme of the earth’s four seasons, with applicable colour stories and textures characterising the different sections and seating throughout the restaurant. In the autumnal section, artist Tom Hare has created large-scale, hand woven willow fungi sculptures, celebrating the magical world of mushrooms, their place in the ‘wood-wide-web’, and their significant role in the mycelium networks in woodlands and forests. Elsewhere, restaurant colours draw from the natural hues and tones of each season, functioning both as wayfinding and playful décor.
Jonathan Mizzi, Mizzi Studio, Director says:
“Kew is an institution that has brought so much value to the entire world. Our goal has been to design a space that celebrates nature and learning, helping to make children and parents excited about food growth, hygiene and preparation. It’s Charlie and the Chocolate factory meets botanical science laboratory. Through colour, texture and wild nature-inspired form, we have created a space that brings families closer to the roles of the elements in nature, to seasonality, and the overall journey from plant to plate.
The Kew Family Kitchen is a place where the entire family can learn about our ecosystem – how the sun works, how plants work, and how food is grown. As we are living in a climate crisis, Mizzi Studio believes that nothing is more important than using design to champion humanity’s role as stewards of our great and beautiful planet. Our goal is therefore to help children fall in love with nature, so that they will instinctively treasure and protect it as they grow.”