Gran Cafe Santander

Madrid, 2021


Creative direction: Sandra Tarruella Interioristas
Responsible: Elsa Noms
Collaborators: Núria Martinez, Ricard Trenchs
Area: 398 m2
Customer: Grupo Cañadio
Photographer: Salva Lopez

The Cantabrian entrepreneurs, Carlos Crespo and Paco Quirós from Grupo Cañadio, commissioned Sandra Tarruella Interioristas to design their new restaurant in Madrid following La Bien Aparecida and La Primera.

After closing the mythical Cafeteria Santander, with 52 years of history and an iconic place in Madrid, they wanted to convert the essence of the old premises into “”the first updated cafeteria in Madrid, now called the Gran Café Santander.

The premises – located in a building with a corner entrance in Plaza Santa Barbara and Sagasta – in Alonso Martinez, seeks to give customers the first impression of the atmosphere found in the old cafe, by keeping some aesthetics winks from the 1970’s, when it first opened.

The L-shaped space opens onto two large stone block facades, with large windows made in ironwork that fold and open to the outside, becoming a sideboard.  All the openings in the facade are designed with full-height glazing to allow maximum light to filter, and are covered with cauldron-colored awnings, as a reference color to the old sign that could not be keep due to new regulations.

In front of these openings, leather banquettes with low backrests were designed to not obstruct views and be able to see the activity on the inside as much as possible. In the front area, the narrowest of the premises, the existing bar was demolished and built again, yet maintaining the location and retro appearance of the previous one. This new bar was designed with rounded ends – very typical of that time – with the top finished in walnut wood and the front in dark green leatherette in combination with some suspended glass and brass lamps. It is a spot where the customers, who sit on the stools here, coexist with the hustle and bustle of the waiters and the display of products on it.

On the rear wall, Sandra Tarruella’s interior design studio, together with Elsa Noms, Núria Martínez and Ricard Trenchs, designed a composition of olive-green handcrafted tiles made exclusively for this project, becoming the focal point from both inside the premises as well as from the street side.

The restaurant was designed in a way so that it can work throughout the day; In the morning, breakfast is  displayed, and the square Formica tables in the banquette area are without a tablecloth during the day, and at night, they are dressed with a tablecloth to give a more intimate and sophisticated ambience.

The materials used, such as floorings and claddings take on great importance and are reminiscent of that period. It was decided to install terrazzo floorings in neutral colors, and the walls were cladded with natural fiber panels in toasted tones and vertical walnut slats, to allow a decoration composition using black and white pictures of the hustle and bustle of the restaurants of the Cañadio group. Also, in one area, some large sconces – designed by Le Corbusier – cast focal light on the oval walnut tables with three large banquettes that are made in rounded shapes and lined in testa di moro leather.

The rear wall of the premises is cladded with vertical walnut battens that run along the existing walls in curved shapes that hide the office door and the wine cellar. These wooden slats become a railing when going downstairs to the basement floor, hence, merging the two floors.

In the central part of the space, an area with round tables for large parties was created, differentiating itself from the rest of the premises through the flooring, by using a mosaic tile rug designed of small pieces of black and white marble. A composition of suspended lamps decorates and reduces the height of this area, with rounded shapes and brass details.

In the old cafeteria, the most recognizable element from the street was a large canopy made of wooden slats and a stainless-steel finish, on which large orange light letters leaned against it. Due to the new regulations, it was impossible to maintain this element and integrate it into the new project, so it was decided to create a narrow walnut cantilevered strip on the interior ceiling, reminiscent of that canopy. The orange letters of the Santander Cafeteria were also carefully restored, since we wanted to prevent this symbol from being lost or forgotten. The letters were relocated and placed on the wall by the stairs that go down to the basement level, where restrooms, a private room, and the kitchen are located.       All the construction and site management were carried out by the Zooco team.

In the private area located on the basement floor, the aim was to create a different ambience from the rest, darker and more intimate. For this reason, the space was designed as a whole box in navy blue, giving texture and breaking homogeneity, with carpet flooring, a wall cladded in matt navy blue Mutina tile, and the rest of the walls and ceiling in the same matching tone.

The kitchen that communicates with the private area through a large window allows guests to see how the cooks work. And If privacy wants to be given to the private area, the space can be closed with a heavy blue velvet curtain matching the walls that surround the room.

A large lamp, in the shape of a mobile-like installation by the Venicem brand, provides touches of brightness and light on the large oval white marble table. Also, comfortable wooden and camel leather chairs surround the table and provide warmth and coziness to the space. A wink is also given to the city of Santander, by designing a model that represents the topography of the city’s coast, hence, bringing light and sophistication to the private area.

In the rest of the spaces, such as the lobby in front of the private area, and the restrooms with a vanity space continue to be inspired by the 1970s in an elegant way. For example, the details of the mirrors with rounded edges, the pouf with tweed-type fabric in shades of brown on the vanity, and the retro-style cylindrical wall lights by Oluce, are nods to that era.

The creative direction of the uniforms was also made, with the use of the typical overalls of that time in navy blue and green tones, as the materials of the bar and the private room, and combining them with a tie and shirt make them more elegant and corporate looking. Also, the graphics made with the Mandaruixa team, that designed – among others – the logo inspired by the prolonged oval shape of the long bar.