A menu isn't just a list of dishes. Much like a design portfolio, it's an important piece of marketing material. As the saying goes, the first bite is with the eye, and therefore a menu design says a lot about a restaurant, creating an initial impression before the customer has even seen any of the food or drink on offer. Here are 21 brilliant examples of restaurants that got it right...
01. The Clifford Pier, Singapore
Foreign Policy drew upon the legacy of The Clifford Pier as a bustling port in 1930s Singapore, for a colourful branding project including this thoughtfully illustrated menu. Stylishly retro and accented with visual elements including ginger flower motifs, classic postage stamps and architectural elements, it perfectly evokes the atmosphere of pre-war Singapore.
02. Toko, Dubai
Toko, located in downtown Dubai, attempts to push the boundaries of Japanese cuisine with its own bold interpretations, playing the shapes and flavours of food, and its visual identity by Brighthead Studio aims to reflect this. Combining two strands of Japanese culture – traditional painting techniques and modern subculture – Brighthead created an identity and menu inspired by the technique of marbling, but using vivid colours and spot UV to bring everything to life.
03. El Kapan, Varna
Situated at the central beach in Varna, Bulgaria, El Kapan is a lively restaurant aimed at young people and offering a fun combination of seafood and barbecue – or fish and shish, as the restaurant's logo, designed by Marka Collective, attests. Marka Collective came up with a comprehensive vision for the entire El Kapan brand, including a gorgeous menu design marked out by fantastically bolod and colourful food photography.
04. Vera, Saragoza
Based in Zaragoza (Spain), the team at printing craft workshop El Calotipo are responsible for these beautiful, thick wooden menu designs for cafe Vera. The white lettering is printed manually on an in-house press, the prices are then printed on stickers so they can easily be updated.
05. Cellarmaker Brewing Co, San Francisco
This brilliant menu design by Gamut for the Cellarmaking Brewing Company is so clever it's almost intoxicating. Not only does it provide you with details on what beverages are on offer, it also serves as a helpful reminder of what you've already sampled. And seeing as there are many to choose from, you may just need that helping hand after a few! Genius.
06. Sano Juice, Barcelona
It's hard not to love the vibrant and ultra-minimalistic nature of this menu design for Spanish juice chain Sano, created by Marina Soto. Using gorgeous gradients of colour on one side of the menu, the flip side is just as appealing, featuring mono-weight illustrations and a rounded sans serif type. Just lovely.
07. RAGU Cafe, Novosibirsk
A team of Russian based designers were responsible for the entire identity of the RAGU Cafe but it was the menus that really caught our attention. Using minimal, yet colour-packed photographs, customers can actually see what their food will look like before ordering it. We don't know why more restaurants don't do it!
08. The Pelican, Singapore
This illustrated menu delight comes from Singapore-based design agency Foreign Policy. They explain, "The graphic of mixing human characters interacting with sea-inspired animals is inspired by the dual functions of the Pelican restaurant & bar. As the evening progresses, The Pelican transforms from a dining space to a groovy bar to club and wine deep into the night."
09. Hubbly Bubbly, Orlando
Florida based designer Mark Unger created this fun and adorable menu design for a new falafel restaurant in Orlando. Using bright colours for every page, the child-like aesthetics are perfect for a small and local business.
10. Montero, Mexico
Mexican based agency Anagrama are well-known for thier excellent branding. For the Montero restuarant, they explain "the project was developed inside an edification from the colonial period considered national patrimony. Our job as brand developers was to create a personality where we could glorify traditional kitchen values making the most of regional raw materials."
11. Holly Burger, Spain
Designed by Manuel Astorga and Rodrigo Aguade, they explain "The idea was to create a real american-style brand with a fresh mix of style references. Our first inspiration came from various vintage, hand-drawn American typographies present in old shop windows and a banana leaf wallpaper that had been originally designed in 1942 by decorator Don Loper for the Beverly Hills hotel in Los Angeles."
Next page: 10 more inspiring menu designs...