Located in a converted 18th century arsenal in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv Food Market is a bustling, modern culinary venue where some of the city’s best restaurants meet under the same roof. Left abandoned for many years, the decrepit centuries-old building has been thoroughly renovated by interior architects balbek bureau who have married its original industrial character with a contemporary aesthetic of elegant sophistication. Unfolding on two levels, the 2,000-square-metre food hall is centred on a communal dining area, with food counters lining the perimeter, above which a mezzanine floor features additional dining tables, a show kitchen used for master classes or presentations, and an eye-catching bar showcasing a grandiose wine and liquor display.
Founded by Odessa-based restaurateur Alex Cooper and Kyiv-based restaurateur Mikhail Beilin, Kyiv Food Market brings together more than 20 restaurants and bars under one roof, conceived as Cooper says as a social place where, in contrast to typical eateries, “people can walk around with glasses, share food and talk with strangers”. To this end, the dining area at the centre of the atrium-like hall consists of tightly packed communal tables and bar counters that encourage socializing and mingling. Swathed in natural light courtesy of the large skylights, the central dining zone has been conceived as a true public space, while on the mezzanine level, more widely spaced tables offer more intimacy.
The renovation of the 200 year old derelict building took over a year to complete and involved the restoration of the historic façade to its original state (the Market’s name in discrete lettering being the only modern addition), replacing the glass windows, some of which had been built over, and the complete reconstruction of the roof. The restored roof and brickwork structures, the latter painted with a specially developed paint that accurately reproduces the shade of the original walls, attest to the designers’ preservation efforts.
Stretching along the hall’s length on both sides of the dining area, the food stations form two continuous counters, each restaurant occupying a three metre zone. Uniformly clad in dark grey tiles, the stations are discretely marked by their name on an illuminated sign running above the counters, underneath which their menu is displayed in true street-food style. At the far end of the hall, an impressive wine and liquor display that extends from the ground floor to the mezzanine level undoubtedly forms the Market’s focal point with hundreds of bottles comprising a colourful installation that pops out amid the industrial surroundings.
The industrial vibe of the heritage architecture is complemented by metallic chairs, steel sheet frames for counters and racks, and corrugated metal wall cladding on the mezzanine level. The use of marble and brass on the other hand add a sense of luxuriance and sophistication as do the elegantly designed solid ash tables and expansive chandeliers hovering over the mezzanine level which take the form of bespoke lightweight prismatic structures featuring illuminated acrylic tubes.
The full extent of the renovated hall can be observed from the third-floor platform which also functions as a DJ station, an indication of the founders’ intent to extend the Market’s opening hours well into the night.