Comptoir Libanais has partnered with design agency Harrison to open its 20th restaurant at London’s Southbank Centre this spring.

The Lebanese-inspired chain sought to evolve its brand whilst retaining the distinctive, colourful identity of its restaurants.

Intertwining “a considered layout with clever design” was a priority for the Harrison team to ensure a cohesive flow throughout all spaces and attract customers to both levels across all points of the day.

Owing to the new location’s popularity with tourists, the design also incorporates “layers of authenticity and elegance,” with bold but muted walls as well as curated artwork and lighting fixtures. A decorative tiled floor finish runs from the ground floor to the lower ground space, connecting the two together.

With a focus on sustainability, the Harrison team looked to repurpose and upcycle items wherever possible. This included restoring tables left by the space’s previous tenant by cleaning, painting, and applying digital art to the tops. Furniture from previous Comptoir sites has also been reused.

The team has also maintained an open kitchen – a key building block in the Comptoir brand – on the ground floor. The main entrance has a dedicated welcome space with a meet-and-greet, with diners able to get immediate views of the open kitchen and arched lower ground.

A large, centralised tree-like structure with vines, greenery, and lighting is the lower ground floor’s centrepiece.

Four-seater booth tables allow people intimate spaces to dine while bringing them closer to the details in the curated 2D art and photos. Seating at different heights breaks up the spaces, creating different zones for different occasions.

Exposed brick and colourful cladding adorned with climbing ivy gives a wild aesthetic. The outside seating area is framed with plants to add an injection of nature, along with rattan furniture, colourful chairs, bright fabric seating pads, and heated umbrellas to make the space an attractive offer across seasons.

At the same time, the Harrison team faced the challenge of a multi-level space which offered incredible natural light and visibility on the upper floor, but a dark and gloomy lower level which was at risk of being underutilised and not inviting for customers.

Tony Kitous, founder of Comptoir Libanais, commented: “When we appointed Harrison we wanted to embark on a journey of evolution – taking our brand, which has worked hard to serve customers and introduce them to Levan cooking since 2008, and look forward to where we want it to be in the future. It’s about growth and ensuring we stay at the forefront of the restaurant and dining scene. Translated, Comptoir Libanais means ‘Lebanese Counter’ – and we feel Harrison has encapsulated this perfectly in the evolved design. The new Southbank restaurant is a friendly, generous and relaxed space which we feel will truly take people on that journey of our heartland through the décor and our food.”

Emily Betty, design manager and senior interior designer at Harrison, said: “Comptoir Libanais is a truly immersive experience, with a strong base of existing customers who love their restaurants not only for their food, but for making people feel like they’ve stepped into a whole different part of the world. It has a colourful décor which stands out on the high street, coupled with bright flora and displays of adornments inspired by travels to the Middle East and North Africa. We wanted to stay true to the brand while helping it take the natural next step in their evolution. If you look across the high streets, it’s the restaurants which have learnt to evolve in a considered way which have stood the test of time, and this is what we hope to do with the team at Comptoir.

“The new Comptoir Libanais is occupying a large space – with a unit size of 315 sqm. We needed to develop a design which not only flows and feels like one unified space but could take diners from breakfast through to cocktail hour.

“At the same time, functionality in a busy location had to be a priority for the team. We’ve tried to incorporate maximum flexibility with lots of two-seater tables which can be pushed together as needed for larger parties, as well as a large table on the ground floor which can be used for big bookings or as a sharing table. Features such as creating an attractive bar at the back of the lower ground not only allows easy access for their team, but for guests it’s a space which creates a theatre downstairs as bartenders and cocktail masters create delectable drinks while signalling that Comptoir is a day-to-night offer, with bottles in pride of place. Even the simplest of features will have a purpose and likely more than one job to do in this hard-working but beautiful restaurant.”