Entering the broad ground floor of the Sydney Four Seasons Hotel one is greeted with the expected sight of tall ceilings, curving staircase and comfortable seating for the attending guest. Less usual, however, is the swathe of softly lit brass and blond timber occupying the far end of the space, which manages to stand out from its surrounds without dominating them.
This is the The Woods, the latest project from Michael McCann of Dreamtime Design Australia and his second at the hotel after Grain Bar (completed in 2012.)
Immediately noticeable is the emphasis on timber, with floor planking, tables and chairs, display cabinets, wine storage/private dining area and a huge butcher’s block displaying multiple varieties in various stains and textures. The 15-metre bar flanking the entry (by Athol Wright of Country Design Furniture) in roughly hewn salvaged Victorian Redgum and a large communal American oak table assert the centrality of the material in the design and encourage interaction between guests.
Complementing these tawny hues is the luster of brass. Enclosing the restaurant, a semi-transparent ‘wall’ of brass posts, pedestals and mesh sections the venue off from the hotel lobby, while brass mosaic and fixtures throughout the restaurant interrupt the matte timber finishes with burnished highlights.
The restaurant also features some more playful elements, such as the vertical herb wall display. Under each of the live potted herbs and vegetables, a ceramic vegetable “root system” hand-made by Sydney ceramicist Anna Culliton is suspended under the open timber shelving. Further lightening the mood is the ceiling decorated with sketches and recipes by executive chef Hamish Ingham.
Beyond it’s aesthetic appeal, The Woods succeeds in creating different sections with continuous themes but slightly different moods – the bar area with its main counter and Anagre timber and leather dining banquettes is casually elegant, the main dining area animated and inviting, and the private room removed without being isolated. Overall, it makes for a versatile and stimulating environment in which to dine, and a huge improvement on the hotel restaurant mainstay.