Tunateca Balfegó is a new gastronomic space that transports diners to a submarine world, inspired by the forms, textures and colours of the skin and meat of the red tuna.
Balfegó is a small town on the Catalan coast noted as a centre of red tuna fishing in the Mediterranean. Although one of the largest international producers of red tuna – highly regarded by the world’s chefs, in particular the Japanese – the name Balfegó is little known. So Balfegó contacted Barcelona-based design studio El Equipo Creativo with a brief to design a gastronomic space that would promote red tuna as a quality product and, at the same time, make the brand known to the general public.
The result is Tunateca Balfegó. Located on Avenida Diagonal, one of Barcelona’s main commercial arteries, it is a space dedicated solely to red tuna. Aside from tasting it in many and varied formats, visitors are also informed about many different aspects of the product, such as the differences between its various sections and cuts.
The interior design is a key element in this branding and communication process, with each zone reflecting a different aspect of the product. The principal area – the Blue Room – transports visitors to the depths of the sea. A five metre high translucant curtain defines the area, turning it into a deep, organic, undulating space. Inside, three large oval stainless steel bars, with dark stone tops, articulate the space and bring to mind large tuna swimming through the sea.
The busiest area is a five-metre long sushi bar where the ‘sushimen’ prepare their creations before seated clients. The tables have wooden tops in various organic forms that resemble different cuts of tuna. They are spread out at different heights in order to make the accommodation as versatile as possible. The dark red interior of the seats, similar to the colour of the tuna, creates an interesting contrast in this deep blue space.
The other principal player is the great school of fish which seem to swim overhead, making diners feel immersed in the sea. This exquisite setting is made possible by organic illumination, with subtle movements and changes in intensity bringing the whole installation to life.
The ceramic pieces that make up the underlying pavement were designed specifically for this project and made by local ceramicists. They are intended to recreate, through their trapezoidal form and irregular colouring, the look and feel of the sea bed.
The name of the Ronqueo Room refers to the traditional, manual dissection of the tuna. The Balfegó family has, for many years, held public ronqueo sessions in different areas of Barcelona. In memory of this, the design called for a reserved area where ronqueos could be held periodically. Here the design had to meet the specific requirements of such an event, including a large work area and ease of cleaning.
It was decided that a ceramic wrapping would convert the room into a clean and aseptic space, while at the same time making reference to another aspect of the red tuna: the skin with its shiny blue and silver scales. El Equipo Creativo designed trapezoidal ceramic pieces in different tones and had them placed on the floor and walls, generating degrading tones which achieve a magical and mysterious atmosphere. Again, these tiles were fabricated locally.
Large dark red boxes once again serve as a colour contrast and connect this room visually with other areas, such as the kitchen and the exterior. The reddish colour of the wooden ceiling, perforated in order to improve the acoustic quality of the room, also offers a warm contrast to the ceramic scales. The shape and placement of the tables afford great flexibility to the room, as, in addition to the ronqueos, the room must be adaptable to other uses and situations from being a public dining room to special events, courses, conferences, etc.
Located on the upper floor are two multi-function rooms which are interconnected and can be used for meetings, small events or more intimate dining. The material nature of this space is inspired by the meat of the tuna. In order to achieve the desired atmosphere, El Equipo Creativo specified a wood with intense reddish hues and very distinctly visible streaks and had it placed on walls, floors and ceiling, once again creating an atmosphere which embraces and transports us to a new place, a very warm and cozy space. The material counterpoint is provided by the golden metallic panels that act as sliding doors, that help achieve the degree of intimacy required in each room. But the real stars of these rooms are the large reddish wooden tables which form the subtle outline of a golden fish bone.
Photography: Adrià Goula
A new post by Joe Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, December 2017.