Hyde Park’s KōL Izakhaya

WORDS Zodwa Kumalo-Valentine PHOTOS Courtesy of Tristan Plessis Studio

Inspired by the Japanese cooking tradition of robata or grilling over charcoal, Hyde Park’s KōL Izakhaya is all about fostering connections around the fire – in a space by Tristan Plessis Studio that features natural materials with luxe, tactile appeal.

The true delight of KōL Izakhaya lies in the seating plan. Located in Hyde Park Corner, the restaurant offers all permutations of seating for diners – whether you’re in a large group or dining solo, you can slide into a cosy booth, book the private dining room or intimate roped-off lounge, or perch on a high stool at the bar or at one of the counters.

Merging two cultures via its name – with KōL being the Japanese interpretation of the kanji symbol for coal, and Izakhaya a portmanteau-play on the informal Japanese food bar, izakaya, and khaya meaning “home” in Zulu – the space brings people together to connect around a fire, the robata.

“It’s a contemporary take on a traditional Japanese izakaya in South Africa,” says the restaurant’s interior architect, Tristan du Plessis of Tristan Plessis Studio. “It focuses on texture and materiality, not just on aesthetic appeal. We wanted the space to be experiential.”

Hyde Park’s KōL Izakhaya

Robatayaki, or robata – an ancient method of cooking over white-hot binchō-tan charcoal – is the focus of the menu and the heart of KōL; everything else that happens here emanates from it. The fireside grill menu is divided into Yakitori (such as chicken hearts and livers), Niku (meat), Umi (ocean) and Yasai (vegetables), and served as one or two pieces per plate – you’ll need to order quite a number of portions, as they are on the small side.

Appetisers, small plates and snack offerings include edamame; crispy, sticky hot wings; dressed Namibian oysters; gyoza; wasabi and shiso croquettes; and more. The sushi menu is wide and features the expected offerings – but those with a more adventurous palate should pull up a chair and engage with the sushi chef at the dedicated bar.

Previously occupied by a bank, the sprawling restaurant also includes a private workspace, a Zen room, a shower room and a luxurious bathroom that features a tray of fragrances from Metropolitain Cosmetics, with which guests are encouraged to refresh themselves.

But perhaps the most striking element of the interior design are the beautiful and luxurious natural finishes used across all the spaces. “Everything had to be natural,” says Tristan, “so we used refined natural products rather than anything inauthentic: charcoal, natural stone, lots of woodwork. The latter is a design cornerstone in Japan that you will see in the restaurant wall panels and the wine display.”

The result is a space that features loads of luxe visual interest as well as plenty of textural appeal. “We chose materials and products based on texture – how they feel within the space rather than just how they look,” says Tristan. “So we used raw cuts of granite and huge, live-edge slabs of solid timber.”

All the layered natural materials also give the space an inviting feel. “An izakaya is meant to be approachable,” says Tristan. “That’s why I wanted to use warm, rustic materials, put together in a semi-high-end finish.”

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