|Project Name||Burnt Ends||Posted in||Restaurants, Design, Interior Design||Location||
01 04/7 Dempsey Road
|Telephone||+65 6224 3933||Completed||2022||Visit Website||burntends.com.sg|
When chef Dave Pynt decided to move his one-Michelin-starred restaurant, Burnt Ends, from its original location in Singapore’s Chinatown to a much larger venue in Dempsey Hill, a verdant enclave outside the city packed with gourmet grocers, art galleries, antique shops, eateries and cafés, he turned to fellow Australian interior designer, Emma Maxwell. Not only is Maxwell a friend, she was also a regular at the original restaurant from the time of its opening in 2013 and therefore intimately familiar with Pynt’s modern approach to wood-fired barbecue. “Emma’s one-liner design pitch to me was ‘Fire, skulls and AC/DC’, and that pretty much sold me!” says the heavy-metal-loving, iconoclastic Pynt. True to her pitch, Maxwell transformed a mid-century colonial military barracks – once a nutmeg plantation, Dempsey was sold to the British Forces in 1860 to accommodate an influx of British troops – into an immersive, dark-lit and moody space inspired by the foundational components of barbecue, namely fire, wood and metal.
A primal palette of charred wood, rust and lava stone conveys the transformative quality of fire and heat, the bedrock of Pynt’s cooking techniques, while a treasure trove of imaginative design elements that have been customized down to the smallest details, including skull-shaped upholstery buttons and door handles in reference to the restaurant’ logo, further immerse patrons into the chef’s fast-and-furious culinary philosophy. Comprising a dining area, private dining room, and bar and wine-tasting room, each with its own distinct ambience, plus a separate bakery that churns out offerings like doughnuts, focaccia and scones, Burnt Ends’ new address attests as much to Pynt’s passion for his craft as to Maxwell’s story-based approach to interior design.
Maxwell’s attention to detail and craftsmanship is evident from the moment you step into the restaurant through the heavy front door which features a thick bronze-cast handle shaped like a tree branch where the first stanza of T.S. Eliot’s Preludes is engraved on - “The winter evening settles down/ With smell of steaks in passageways./ Six o’clock./ The burnt-out ends of smoky days.” Once inside, the main dining room is anchored by the custom 3-tonne wood-burning ovens that loom behind the long slab of Indonesian Suar wood that functions as a dining counter. “The ovens are the heart of the entire restaurant, a constant primordial burning fire of 1,000 degrees,” says Maxwell. “Everything, from the food to the interior design, comes from them.” The open kitchens’ industrial-style ovens, stainless steel equipment and black stone surfaces are complemented by the dining room’s earthy palette where weathered teak planks rescued from an old bridge in Surabaya line the floors, beaten copper panels clad the building’s pillars and vegetable-dyed leather sheathes the teak-framed dining chairs and curved booths.
Accessed through a teak door whose handle is a polished metal skull, the large private dining room is conceived to represent the mysterious “lair of a lair of a carnivorous beast”. Enveloped by contrasting panels of petrified wood and timber charred in the tradition of Japanese Shou Sugi Ban, the space centres on a 14-seater, six-metre-long dining table of petrified black wood above which hangs a tubular light installation made of 5,000 black lava stones which took six months to make and one-and-a-half weeks to install. “Since we finished this space”, Maxwell says, “the colours have all changed and darkened. That’s the transformative, shape-shifting quality I was after”.
Casting aside the dark hues, stark aesthetic and moody ambience of the dining rooms, the bar and wine tasting room is a lighter, considerably more whimsical space. Conceived in collaboration with her high school best friend and theatre designer Marc McIntyre as a tribute to the old Cairo Museum and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, the tasting room is furnished with reproduction 19th-century scientific cabinets and fin-de-siècle glass-topped display cases stocked with old locks, compasses, glass pipettes and anatomy charts. Just as packed is the wallpaper which is populated by fantastical creatures drawn by Dutch artist Jan Leven and tall cabinets encasing the columns packed with an eccentric collection of jars, seashells, hand model, drain pipes, a miniature bust of Venus de Milo, as well as antique bottles of all shapes and sizes.
Maxwell’s imaginative take on Burnt Ends extends to the wine cellar, which is illuminated by elongated copper submarine lamps on pulleys, the washroom, where the sinks have been carved out of 10-million-year-old petrified wood, and the adjacent bakery, a bijou volume with double-height raftered ceilings, polygonal floor and wall tiles and a minimalist L-shaped counter made of unpolished, distressed concrete. Having expanded its offering during the Covid-19 lockdowns, the Burnt Ends Bakery now has its own dedicated area, including a space for pastry-related research and development that encapsulates Pynt’s visionary ethos.