London-based restaurateur Alan Yau’s new Soho restaurant, Babaji applies a contemporary global perspective to traditional Turkish recipes to create an exciting new dining experience. As with Yau’s approach to the menu, Autoban’s design concept for the eatery is inspired by traditional Turkish design, and the materials that have been used within the restaurant showcase Turkey’s artisan culture and almost forgotten craft techniques.
Housed within a late 19th Century historic brick building, the exterior of Babaji is kept simple, blending in with the building façade as well as its lively Soho surroundings. A dominant feature of Babaji’s interior is vivid blue ceramic tiles designed and manufactured by Autoban to cover the entire interior space. The handmade tiles reflect both Turkish style and the dynamism of London’s Soho neighbourhood through their application onto the walls. Traditional Turkish Iznik tiles are also incorporated into the tiled surface, and Iznik patterns are used on soft furnishings.
Autoban designed much of the furniture exclusively for Babaji, with some additional signature pieces from the studio’s existing furniture collection. Although the furniture has a sense of simplicity there is also a richness and attention to detail in each piece, such as the inlaid brass detailing in the wood banquette seating and tabletops. Brass inlays are found in traditional Turkish culture, and Autoban has applied a contemporary dotted design to the Babaji pieces. These inlaid brass patterns have been placed on the back of the banquettes, making this striking design feature visible from the outside of the restaurant.
Babaji sits on three levels. The ground floor includes the large stone Pide oven, allowing diners to see pizzas being freshly baked, with chefs pulling out the long breads from the furnace with their wooden peels. The oven is an innovative interpretation of traditional Turkish pide ovens with a cylinder form, where the hood is hidden underneath the dome. The rest of the ground floor is designed around this all-white oven, which pops out from its blue ceramic tiled background. There is a larger dining area on the first floor and a kitchen and smaller dining area in the basement.