Tablecloths are out. Candelabras are in. A look at restaurant tablescape trends
Special dining experiences called Bacchanal Feasts are a calling card of Cultura, a new concept in Asheville, N.C., from chef Jacob Sessoms (also of Table, All Day Darling and The Imperial Life) and Wicked Weed Brewing’s co-founder, Walt Dickinson. Shareable small plates are available a la carte, but the Bacchanal Feasts — and also variations like “The Grand Bacchanal” and “Dine Like a Chef” — are a carefully choreographed selection of dishes meant to be enjoyed communally in large-format, family-style meals.
Crafting each memorable experience relies heavily on how the table looks and functions. This is where on-trend tablescapes come into play, and at Cultura, the intended atmosphere is farmhall-meets-European beer house.
The table takes on a different whimsical look/vibe for experiences like, for example, The Swiss Chalet (fondue in a bread bowl); Bucket of Birds (smoked and fried chicken and quail); The Country Club (steak and lobster on a fancy silver platter); Racks on Racks on Racks (baby back ribs on wood) and the Charleston No. Six, billed as “all the crabs and golden rice.”
Cultura’s austere white tables provide the perfect “blank canvas for the food to really shine,” said Elizabeth Bates, art director of Wicked Weed. The fundamental blankness of each table is flooded with color and creativity when the magic (meal) happens, she said. “It was important for us to bring some color and detail that would make it more unique.”
It’s a balancing act between a table that “tells a story of abundance and encourages our diners’ appreciation of what we are providing” and having too much clutter on a table, Bates has found. Straddling that line with aplomb, elements of Cultura’s meals are served on rustic, simple ceramic (from local shop East Fork Pottery) and wooden platters and the large format dining experiences feature lots of antique sterling silver and service ware.