A Saint or a sinner? The perfect juxtaposition of classic art and whimsy

by Madelein
A Saint or a sinner? The perfect juxtaposition of classic art and whimsy

“Saint is the culinary duel of our inner conflict, incarnate. The push and pull of light and dark. Good and bad. The tussle between yes and no, now and never. The decadent mingling dangerously with the divine.”

The first thing you’ll notice when you enter the whimsical Saint Restaurant, is the bespoke tapestry designed by GRID behind the reception desk, depicting a cherub kissing a satyr – it’s an interesting juxtaposition of classic art and a little bit of tongue-in-the-cheek humour which delights as a first taste of what’s yet to come.

Irene Kyriacou, interior designer at the Marble Group, assumed responsibility for this twisted Italian wonderland in the heart of Johannesburg and is the creative mastermind of this new very upmarket eatery’s spectacular interior.

“A restaurant is an interesting space, as it can be decked out with all the bells and whistles, have the finest finishes, serve top-notch food and still lack ambiance… and in Johannesburg that’s often the quintessence of a restaurant experience,” explains Irene.

Playing on Saint’s tagline of “Pazzo Italiano” (twisted Italian), Irene, Redecco and GRID began their design process by focussing on touch points of classic Italian inspiration with various nods to Renaissance architecture and art paired with contemporary design to start moulding Saint’s personality and ambience.

“We’ve created a space that is theatrical, and it should almost feel as if there’s a production going on while you’re dining. It’s larger than life, with something new to see whichever way you look,” she notes.

Keeping it intimate

When it comes to a behemoth of a restaurant like Saint, which has a personality of equally magnanimous proportions, it was important that the space was imbued with an energy to match.

“That was the challenge when it came to decking out the restaurant – how do you take such a grand space and make it come to life? I knew we’d be working with scale, from the sheer height of the restaurant and the long pass running the length of the restaurant to the gold mosaiced pizza ovens. Saint was always going to be big and bold,” she says.

Cutting-edge merger

One of the most recognisable aspects is the cathedral-esque ceiling upon which animated illustrations reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel flow into one another, with the larger-than-life deconstructed statue of David creating one of the most imposing bar backdrops. This is a bar where you want to be seen sipping some fine champagne or an exclusive martini.

The client wanted something that was both seemingly classic and completely modern. By using top of the range 4D Epsom laser projectors, the team merged these two elements. It allows them to tell stories through each illustration, which too is inspired by classic Renaissance works of art. However, even they are playful and quirky interpretations of the era.

Social sophistication

Cheeky little nods to Saint’s nature as both an ode to Italy and a jaunt for the trendiest of Johannesburg’s night life personas, delivering little nooks or touchpoints perfect for the most envy-worthy Instagram-able moments.

Saint is a space to see and to be seen at.

Be it the saintly vs sinful take on the Venus de Milo rug (saintly towards the restaurant, sinful towards the bar), which transitions from one space into the other, or elegant touches such as the fresh flowers delivered weekly and the flirty ostrich feather lamps next to the opulent Art Deco inspired floor-to-ceiling cellar – it all creates a backdrop against which frivolity, fun and a little bit of naughtiness come to life.

Trendsetting staff styling

This mindset follows through to the styling of the staff, which for autumn/winter 2021 sees hostesses and managers kitted out in pink high-street blazers that would not look out of place on any of Saint’s regular clientele. The wardrobes are changed seasonally and keep the team looking fresh and on trend as well as having proven to be a regular talking point amongst the clientele when the looks change.

Let the music play

The music, of course, is a detail than cannot be overlooked either and with the help of state-of-the-art Void speakers, it’s perfectly pitched to cater to the audience it is servicing.

While the restaurant may be quieter, the bar could be pumping, and one may even notice some 80s pop when visiting the restrooms. Saint also carefully creates its events to ensure that they always have the most talented local DJs, who each brings their own unique feel to the bar area. They are making sure that with each visit to Saint, one is guaranteed a new experience and a great time.

For more information, visit https://saint.restaurant/.

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