Harrison designs Aztec-inspired interiors for Poco Loco restaurant in Dubai

Taking inspiration from Ancient Aztec and Incan Art Works, Latin American Restaurant Poco Loco in Dubai offers both vibrant coloured and industrial looking interiors.

Latin American restaurant Poco Loco by chef Neil Witney is one of the latest additions to the sea-facing strip of The Beach opposite JBR. The two-storey 880m2 venture, including a terraced area with sea view, has playful and vibrant interiors designed by UK hospitality design consultancy Harrison. The firm has recently established an office in Dubai with several food and beverage projects already under its belt.

Three massive suspension lamps, composed of golden aluminium rods, illuminate a long wooden bench.

Three massive suspension lamps, composed of golden aluminium rods, illuminate a long wooden bench.

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Inspired by ancient Aztec and Incan art, bold prints and graffiti artworks exclusively designed for Poco Loco reflect both fun and modern Latin sensibility. With rustic wooden tables and benches, comfortable booths and chairs and brightly coloured ceramic tiles that cover the walls, the interior combines traditional crafts with a contemporary industrial aesthetic.

Jon Bentley, director at Harrison, explains that the client’s brief was to create a concept that would complement the broad range of offers along The Beach.

Graffiti on the walls draws inspiration from the ancient Aztec art.

Graffiti on the walls draws inspiration from the ancient Aztec art.

“The site is split across a ground and first-floor level and the premise was to drive dining on both levels but on the upper level introduce a cigar lounge feel,” says Bentley. “The result of which meant that the ground floor had a more family-friendly personality and the upper-level caters for the more serious, grown-up crowd. Following early collaboration we were asked to pitch the proposal at the mid to higher end of the market and we did this through careful consideration of materials, lighting and layout.”

The venue serves Latin American-inspired dishes and drinks, from its founder and head chef Witney’s travels across South America. Witney has worked on various London concepts including E&O, Eight Over Eight and Bodega Negra.

Brightly coloured ceramic tiles that cover the walls.

Brightly coloured ceramic tiles that cover the walls.

“I met Neil in London on a couple of separate occasions,” continues Bentley. “He operates well-known restaurants in Soho and is renowned for his invention with his dishes and I could see this manifest itself in the restaurant spaces. Our remit was to capture this passion but create space that sat well within the immediate locality and more broadly the city of Dubai. Understanding the subtle but very important distinctions came out from discussions with the Meraas development team and their understanding and instinctive knowledge of the local marketplace.”

Continuing the inspiration behind the colours and bright outlook are the playful graphics, with designs highly influenced by South American art, featuring animals from the region, Aztec and Incan imagery as well as a collection of graffiti in bold red, black and white.

Lighting is important  part of the overall design.

Lighting is important part of the overall design.

“The general colour palette is broad, bright and vivid as a nod to the South American culture and their love of vibrant colours. We chose to calibrate it with natural materials, dark stained and exotic for this concept, and created a play on highly polished metals with raw concrete.”

Three massive suspension lamps, composed of golden aluminium rods and in succession, greet the visitors upon entering the restaurant, illuminating a long wooden bench that leads to the back-end of the first floor.

Metal staircase adds to the overall industrial look.

Metal staircase adds to the overall industrial look.

“Swinging benches on the first-floor level to overlook the forthcoming largest wheel in the world was at the forefront of planning a unique element to the strip. The ground floor is graced with huge Foscarini light fittings to inject a real style gravitas to the level and there are unique hand paintings on brick and Aztec style branded details to the walls,” says the designer.

Scattered around the dining bench are smaller seating arrangements complete with rustic wooden tables and chairs dressed in colourful textiles reminiscent of the inspired region.

Comfortable benches and wooden furniture are dressed with colourful textiles.

Comfortable benches and wooden furniture are dressed with colourful textiles.

The open plan industrial restaurant also features vaulted ceilings and wood-panelled floors. Other ceiling lights include industrial pendant lamps hanging over the dining tables as well as vintage factory lamps that are bundled together and hung using ropes.

Industrial details include the metal staircase that leads to the second floor, with bright coloured ceramic tiles as a backdrop. This mix of traditional crafts and industrial detailing truly establishes Poco Loco’s design aesthetic.

The open-plan restaurant features vaulted ceilings.

The open-plan restaurant features vaulted ceilings.

Besides Poco Loco, Harrison’s recent openings in the region include Bentley Bistro & Bar on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi, Eat Greek restaurants at the Mall of the Emirates and on Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) in Dubai and Bikes N Bites, which is located in Box Park.

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