On a cool summer evening, concertina doors open in front At Nabila’s, a new Lebanese restaurant on Court Street in Brooklyn. Diners, drawn inside by the prepared meals and bustling interior, line up at the counter to order, then descend to a table to await their selections. As expected, the spot, which reconfigured the ground floor of a Queen Anne-style structure built in 1886, quickly became a Cobble Hill hangout area populated by nearby residents, babies and dogs.
Nabila’s is co-owner Mike Farah’s first restaurant. His mother is his namesake; she grew up in Lebanon and currently operates a restaurant business in Washington, D.C. (Farah previously worked in finance before pursuing this project.) To achieve an inviting space, Farah turned to Frederick Tang Architecture (ALE), a ten-person architecture and design studio based in the nearby neighborhood of Gowanus.
FTA’s design is inspired by the colors of Lebanese cuisine and the formal precedents of Middle Eastern architecture. Deep colors – purple, dark green and brown – saturate the space, a movement balanced by the brass light fixtures, white painted ceilings, light Hay chairs and white oak woodwork. Wooden spines and arches carve up the floor plan into zones and niches, respectively, while a glass block wall masks a prep area. Beyond the main room, a beautiful back dining room is imagined as an event space, with an original chandelier restored by FTA. (Bathrooms and additional kitchen space are downstairs.) Curves abound at various scales, from the display shelf to the Caesarstone countertop, to the threaded corners, the fish-scale tile backsplash , scalloped vertical panels and fluted glassware. The restaurant’s matriarchal mission is supported by finishes designed by women. Kelly Wearstler designed the volcanic glass pendants, the floor tiles are by French-Iranian architect India Mahdavi, and the cabins are covered in fabric by Hella Jongerius for Maharam with an apt name: Eden.
Outside, FTA painted the exterior black and added two green awnings. These fabric lampshades feature the name of the restaurant, rendered in handwriting. FTA also managed branding efforts for Nabila’s, including that logo and food packaging.
Farah wanted the restaurant to be in his neighborhood, so the team visited over 20 locations with him before finding the right place. Frederick Tang said FTA was “thrilled when Mike chose this space, as it was an exciting opportunity to design in a prominent corner building with beautiful light and big bones.”
The space and the culinary effort feel united and welcoming. Once seated, savory plates appear: a smoky baba ghanoush, a tender aubergine with pomegranate seeds, a crispy but chewy fattoush and a tasty wedge of vegetarian kibbeh sanieh. With this menu enhanced by the careful design work of FTA, Nabila’s is about to succeed.
248 Court Street Brooklyn, NY 347-689-9504 nabilasbk.com
Design: Frédérick Tang Architecture