Mizzi Studio, the firm behind the Malta Bus Reborn project where the traditional Maltese bus was reimagined into an electric bus fleet, again drew influence from Maltese Heritage with its first commercial project in Malta.
The new eatery, located in Ħad-Dingli, was designed to celebrate the joy and tradition of eating and drinking, taking cues from the traditional elements of the village itself, including the typical Maltese faċċata, its coloured timber doors; glass antiporta; informal parapet steps; and the mid-century terrazzo tile.
“Ħad-Dingli represents the modest and slow-paced way of life that is so typical of Malta,” Jonathan Mizzi, director at Mizzi Studio said.
“Working within the village’s particular urban fabric was a key inspiration for us. We are very passionate about revitalizing our local heritage in a way that works harmoniously with the functionality of the project.
"With the Malta Bus project, we reimagined a traditional Maltese bus design that was based on the unique characteristics of the iconic bus fleet. Similarly, here we created a statement corner landmark that respects its surroundings and pays tribute to Had-Dingli’s village identity”
Dingli remains one of Malta’s most beloved belvedere destinations, with uninterrupted sea views over the Mediterranean Sea and the islet of Filfla. The team led by Jonathan Mizzi was keen to create a new destination for the village; a recreational landmark that would celebrate its environment whilst injecting it with new life.
With its street-corner site, the design team created a statement grey-pink rendered façade, stylishly bordered by pale pink terrazzo and surrounding emerald green timber door and window frames.
The team was also inspired by the everyday functionality of the faċċata, introducing an in-built, exterior bench along one of the loggia-style apertures, building on the long-standing village traditional of porch-gathering and allowing customers to enjoy a fleeting refreshment outside the eatery.
The restaurant’s bar space recalls the elegance of European Art-Deco bistros. Three slender, tall repeating arches are lit with striking neon accents and calligraphy and rendered in a speckled, pale pink terrazzo. The arches complement the emerald green of the timber fluted bar body and work in parallel with its custom-made terrazzo countertop. Bespoke brass tubular barstools line up along the length of the bar, with velvet upholstery that complements the green timber fluting.
A long seating bench lines the back of the restaurant’s entrance façade, sitting beneath its large window. The long bench is upholstered in a robust green that recalls the Parisian tubing of architect Hector Guimard’s Art Nouveau Metro entrances. The bench is partnered with a series of custom designed and built tables, each having a pink terrazzo top flecked with shards of Guatemala Verde.
Aside from the restaurant’s furniture, the team designed a series of bespoke light fixtures that illuminate, partition, and decorate the entire interior space.
Along the restaurant’s seating wall, double-bowed brass tubes form the bodies of another series of statement lamps, each implicitly dividing the common seating bench, creating rhythmic visual partitions via their arched rods and spherical lampshades.
The team also approached local illustrator and designer Ed Dingli to create original artwork (pictured above) that would hang as an exclusive series within the restaurant's interiors capturing the cultural spirit of ħad-Dingli's typical village life, aligning with Mizzi Studio's central design drive to return to heritage as primary inspiration.
Mizzi Studio’s signature holistic design approach worked effectively to create a cohesive and impactful architectural identity for the new Barbajean eatery. From the façade and lighting fixtures, to signage and furniture, all elements were custom-designed and built specifically for the project, crafting a contemporary bistro vocabulary that is unique to the eatery’s intended ambiance.
“As a studio, we are deeply influenced by nature and how architecture can live in harmony with natural surroundings,” added Jonathan Mizzi “we envisioned Barbajean as a pitstop or end destination that might weave into long walks within the region’s beautiful landscape.
“We wanted to create a restaurant that would stand at the core of a quintessential Maltese village experience, one that would give people an opportunity to stop and reflect on beauty of the natural surroundings and nearby cliffs.
“This project gave us an opportunity to create a new and distinctive design language. We wanted to create something that wholly represented this particular place and its identity – its site, its management, and its overall spirit.”
Chef and owner Jean Pierre Dingli added “Jonathan and his team understood the spirit of Barbajean from our earliest discussions. His team's attention to detail, love of materials and deep interest in craftsmanship matched our own distinct vision for a versatile eatery that would celebrate the beloved rituals of dining out.
“We wanted to create a food destination that provided an elevated experience to diners – a place that would combine the pride of heritage with the excitement of contemporary design. Mizzi Studio completely met that brief."
Fuq l-għatba - Designer Jonathan Mizzi enjoying an ice cream with his daughter outside the eatery