Located at the Hilton Durban in South Africa, Big Easy Winebar & Grill is the flagship location for professional golfer Ernie “Big Easy” Els’s chain of restaurants. Virserius Studio drew design inspiration from Ernie “Big Easy” Els and the vision of what his native South Africa represents to him. Together with Big Easy’s development team and Hilton EMEA design team, the resulting concept is a very beautiful, friendly, and open atmosphere that ensures everyone who visits feels comfortable.
Big Easy includes several unique spaces, all tied together by inviting rustic elements. The warmly pigmented floor screed, wood-beamed ceilings, metal lighting and handcrafted furniture – hard top tables surrounded by chairs covered in butter-soft stretched suede – come together in rich artisanal harmony. Virserius Studio’s signature unique design moments are apparent throughout. The main area comprises the open kitchen and chef’s table, which treats guests to seeing the chef’s work in a casual and welcoming way and showcases South Africa at its world-class best. The bar and lounge include Big Easy vintage wines from Ernie Els’s own vineyard, and a feature wall that highlights stages of his life and professional golf career.
The outdoor dining area includes a lower and upper terrace surrounded by a lush green wall that creates an intimate connection to the immediate surroundings. The lower terrace floor is laid in porcelain made to resemble wood but laid out asymmetrically to give texture and a subtle pattern. The centrepiece and highlight of this communal area is the “braai” where guests can fully immerse themselves in the magic and serenity of the surrounding landscape. A few short steps lead to the upper terrace, where the arrangement of locally-sourced furniture and accents honour South Africa’s rich artistic heritage and abundant natural beauty.
The extensive travels Virserius Studio took with Big Easy’s development team were instrumental to the project’s design concept. It allowed the team to fully immerse themselves and absorb South Africa’s diverse culinary, environmental, and cultural experiences. The design intent for Big Easy was to be genuine about what South Africa is in all its rich and natural beauty and to create spaces that were both sophisticated and approachable. The goal was for patrons to enjoy a superior cultural and sensory experience that they would remember for a long time.