Mühltalhof restaurant and hotel already has its sixth generation working there. It began as a transformer station, beer cellar, and bottling plant. Later it became an inn – and has remained so to this day – but now adorned with culinary awards. Until recently, owner and head chef Philip Rachinger was cooking and creating in his 1964 kitchen. That has ended. The architects from AllesWirdGut explain how the conversion was conducted and the vision behind it.
"Light in architecture is like salt in a dish," is how Nadine Tschinke describes the project. This project is both matter and light for her. The central task in the redesign of the old Mühltalhof was to organise, reduce, and tidy up – and also to preserve and uncover the traces from the past and, where necessary, to give them a contemporary touch. Philip Rachinger's idea was to move the kitchen more into the centre of the restaurant and to make the cooking an experience for the guests.
All three existing dining rooms have had their respective spatial quality and atmosphere bolstered. In the old parlour, guests breathe the air of an inn, while the fully glazed veranda guarantees a place very close to the river Mühl. The newly designed fireside lounge becomes a "chef's table room" and offers a direct view into the kitchen workshop. Visually softening this room and panelling it all around with coal-black wood was the obvious thing to do. The dark coffered ceiling, together with the panelling, delivers ideal acoustics and integrates the ventilation and also the lighting.
The cooking and the food are the main players. The big challenge was to create a contrast between the dark parlour (the auditorium) and the bright kitchen (the stage). To achieve this, the amount of light in the auditorium had to be reduced. The lighting was integrated directly into the joints of the new coffered ceiling by a track system.
A crucial element in the restaurant is the natural stone counter which welcomes the guests and leads them to the fireside lounge. The 20-metre-long piece of furniture runs parallel to the Mühl and guides and accompanies the guests through the day. The Mühl also had a profound influence on the choice of stone. The alpine green picks up the colour and the flow of the Mühl, bringing it inside. To ensure the counter is perceived as a whole, the spots above it were spaced as evenly as possible.
A carrot must look exactly like a carrot. The best light colour for food is usually 3000 Kelvin. This light colour also worked very well for the chosen materials and colours – without the room becoming too cold. The big vision is to make the guests happy every day. With all the increasing demands in the "fine-dining" concept, light in particular plays a key role. Each table thus got its own spotlights to present the food in the perfect light.
Two different types of spotlights were used in the MOVE IT 25 track system: JUST 45 and JUST 32 FOCUS. The former illuminates the fixed furniture: the stone counter, the wall panelling, the fireplace, and all the furniture at the edge of the room. The JUST 32 FOCUS spots were used to stage the bright table tops as well as the food on them. They function like a camera lens – the focus can be adjusted manually and thus the beam angle can be set. The restaurant then becomes like a museum, where the staged food pleases the eye.
Just as for the ingredients in the kitchen, the head chef wanted regional products, materials, and partners. Regarding the lighting concept and interior, he took a look at international Michelin-star restaurants. Noma in Copenhagen was a benchmark for the award-winning chef. This was fitted with bespoke lighting solutions from XAL and so we crossed paths again.