Hai Ba Trung, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
El Gaucho is a premier international restaurant specializing in authentic Argentinian cuisine and superior steaks. Gema, an architecture and interior design firm with extensive experience in Vietnam, was commissioned to re-imagine completely the new four-floor flagship location with a capacity of 300 seats, located in the heart of the central business district still redolent of French architectural influences.
Partly set back from the street, the entrance provides a few choice seats on an elevated veranda, all the better to observe the incessant traffic. There is a warm and attractive glow emanating from the place clad in exposed brickwork, with period incandescent light bulbs artfully suspended above the bar. The ground floor is a long space inviting discovery, but guests are first presented with the raison d’être of El Gaucho: an enticing butcher cabinet showcasing the most alluring cuts of meat. And behind, the semi-open kitchen bristles with activity with delicious aromas wafting around the hand-made charcoal grill that Gema – Architecture and Interior Design, with its ample knowledge of restaurant design, has positioned as a central focal point.
While the concrete floor integrates classical touches, the bar space is treated in warm tones creating a congenial atmosphere and soars endlessly above the room, presenting row upon row of tempting bottles. There is a feeling of abundance and Gema with its sizeable bar design experience makes it all work effortlessly. Cigar displays directly on the counter-top and eye-level refrigerators stacked with fine wines discreetly maximize sales with seductive offerings. The original building envelope has been preserved and bare industrial ceilings hint at the simplicity and authenticity of the project. It is Gema – Architecture and Interior Design’s great achievement to integrate seamlessly all those disparate elements in an coherent and inviting space.
This impression of permanence is even more evident in the stairwells, where the origins of the building as a merchant house are clearly visible. Unique iridescent metallic panels cover the landing walls, bringing rich detail to every level of the project. El Gaucho optimizes a narrow space over multiple floors, offering convivial spaces perfect for large groups around communal tables, ideal for exclusive events. Gema’s interior design skills manage to preserve a few secluded areas for more intimate dining. Vintage pictures, alluding to a pioneering past enliven the walls and establish continuity.
There is a strict attention to detail, with each element carefully crafted, from the shelves to the wine displays.
El Gaucho combines functionality, elegance and homeliness and its uninterrupted popularity long after opening attests to this success. Gema – Architecture and Interior Design’s prowess has seamlessly integrated the project in a dense urban environment while preserving trace elements of its colonial French architecture and has been commissioned by El Gaucho to design numerous other successful locations for the restaurant chain.