Adam Richards Architects has designed a floating restaurant featuring a rich palette of materials that aims to enliven Paddington Central’s culinary scene with a menu that focuses on fromage.
written by Helen Parton
The Cheese Barge designed by Adam Richards Architects features a distinctive verdigris coloured roof
Feelings of fun and joy in the hospitality sector have been few and far between since the pandemic hit. Fortunately, the Cheese Barge opened in west London just south of Little Venice this spring. Commissioned by developer British Land for its Paddington Central scheme, has been giving diners a unique culinary experience in beautifully designed surroundings, the latter courtesy of Adam Richards Architects with interiors by The Raven Collective.
The Cheese Barge’s interior features materials based on a nautical theme
“The barge creates a festive and sophisticated environment, whilst drawing on the heritage of narrow-boat design and local social history,” says Adam Richards, director of the eponymous practice. One of the first things to notice is the verdigris-coloured patinated metal that has been used for the boat’s curving, sloping roof. On the underside of the roof, the copper colour gathers the light reflected off the water. The use of copper, a material historically associated with electrics, is a nod to local hero Hertha Marks Ayrton, a pioneering female electrical engineer who lived in the area in the 1920s.
Elsewhere, the use of oak creates a feeling of warm and cosiness, while elements such as reclaimed ship passageway wall lights, boat cleats and buoy-like table lamps give a suitably nautical feel as well as a sense of British craftsmanship. The boat itself has a steel framed skeleton clad in steel plates, assembled and welded by hand by a marine fabricator based in the south west of England. The design takes inspiration from James Stirling’s Electa bookshop pavilion in the gardens of the Venice Biennale (Giardini della Biennale), which is itself inspired by nautical design. “It was fun to design a boat based on a building based on a boat!” continues Richards
The Barge has two levels and has capacity for 40 people per sitting
The Cheese Barge has covers of up to 40 people including the dining area at towpath level, where the accessible toilet can also be found, with further seating on the lower level. There is a band of glazing around the sides and the front of the boat, giving diners a connection with the surrounding area.The culinary concept is courtesy of restaurateur Mathew Carver and consists of cheese-focused small plates and sharing dishes.
There are practical elements the designers have incorporated, reflecting the Cheese Barge’s waterside location. The 20 metre barge is where the restaurant itself can be found, maximising space for diners, with the kitchen in a separate smaller boat, the two connected by an external bridge which gives the opportunity for a bit of theatre when the food arrives. The way the roof material is laid out is reminiscent of the tarpaulin covers seen on traditional working canal barges while the design of the smaller vessel takes inspiration from nautical buoys. The terrace on the upper deck has a demountable balustrade which means when the boat passes through the canal systems locks and tunnels.
The Barge’s design takes inspiration from James Stirling’s Electa bookshop pavilion in the gardens of the Venice Biennale
The Cheese Barge is designed to be fully flexible and future proofed for when different operators take it on. The hope is that the Cheese Barge will add to the vibrancy of the Paddington Central campus for both local residents, shoppers and office dwellers as well as local visitors and tourists.
© all photos: Brotherton Lock