It might be cold outside but inside it’s hotting up. Winter is the time that many new restaurants open their doors for the first time. Three of the hottest new designer restaurants in London opening this season include Richard Caring’s Sexy Fish, D&D’s German Gymnasium and Gardinier et Fils’ 110 des Taillevent, the first non-French venture for the iconic Michelin two-starred Parisian brand. Look out too for interior designer David D’Almada reboot of Savile Row institution Sartoria.
A hit with the celebrity crowd and as hard to get into as Chiltern Firehouse last year, Sexy Fish is the latest venture for Richard Caring, who owns The Ivy and Le Caprice among others. The interior is as quirky as the name, featuring renowned designer Martin Brudnizki’s trademark mix of off-beat glamour. Rumour has it the ultra-high-end interior, influenced both by the ocean and mid-century grand cafes, cost in the region of £15 million. Appropriately you descend to the restaurant, down a fabulous Esmeralda onyx marble staircase where the vibrant colour scheme grabs the eye: in the main restaurant the onyx continues, highlighted by coral-coloured leather banquettes and chairs. If you can take your eyes off the floor, you’ll be drawn to the gorgeous linen-panelled ceiling by Michael Roberts, not to mention the delicate, iconic Fish Lamps over the bar, designed by Frank Gehry. A slinky black crocodile, also by Gehry, dominates one wall while a mermaid mural by Damien Hirst dominates the other (look out too for two blue mermaids on the bar). Oak panelled walls and ocean liner-style lights complete the picture. Sexy Fish isn’t just about design: they are proud of their sophisticated Asian/Japanese fusion cooking and foodies can sit overlooking the kitchen at a crackled, glazed strawberry-coloured Pyrolave lava stone bar, extracted from the Nugere crater in Auvergne, France. Downstairs in the Coral Reef Room, the chairs and bar stools are upholstered in aqua-coloured leather and the walls feature ribbed silk fabric. Michael Roberts designed the patterned carpet, and the room is dominated by two vast live coral tanks, all the better for that submarine feeling.
Mesh screens seem to be a theme this year: 110 des Taillevent also features them, dividing its green banquettes. This clubby space on Cavendish Square draws heavily on both the space’s history as a bank (historic financial institution Coutts) and the earthy tones of French vineyards whose offering is such an important part of the Taillevent brand. Like its namesake in Paris, Les 110 des Taillevent is a brasserie and features an extensive list of carefully curated wines (110 to be precise) available by the glass and bottle. The space is dominated by a beautiful bar glowing light through green and brown bottles. French interior guru Pierre-Yves Rochon worked with owners the Gardinier family from the beginning, making sure the space cleaved to its Francophile roots. Rochon’s design reads like a French who’s who: blond wood pedestal tables by Rosello add a light touch while curtains by Phillip Coudray give an intimate feel. The plates are from Bernardaud and the cutlery from Christofle.
Like St. Pancras Station writ in miniature, the German Gym was built in 1861 for (you guessed it) the German Gymnastics Society and was London’s first purpose-built gym. It features a wonderful wooden truss and beam ceiling, some 57ft high – one of only two original timber ceilings in this style left in London – a feature Conran & Partners made much of when they refurbished the restaurant for D&D. Lead designer Tina Norden drew on her German ancestry to create a ‘Mittel-European’ grand café (they’re all the rage) while retaining the building’s unique historic details, such as climbing hooks and Victorian steel columns. Downstairs the brasserie features a fabulous grey marble floor, striped and hooped in an echo of a real gym floor, with the central banquette in black with marble striping. Pink leather chairs surround a marble bar, with walnut panelling adding warmth. A huge Smith of Darby clock references the one in King’s Cross station. Upstairs on the mezzanine level (brand new, as are the statement staircases), grey leather banquettes pick up the marble of the floor below, and specially commissioned artwork by Mary Savva references the building’s historic background. A smart brass bar adds a touch of flair, and mesh screens separating off the private dining room echo the fencing masks worn by athletes competing in the gym.
This is no small undertaking – the restaurant has 447 covers and its multitude of lights have to be changed by a specially trained abseiler – a small price to pay for a historic and original space.
Another D&D London restaurant, Sartoria has long been a Savile Row institution, beloved for its excellent service. It’s had a full facelift this winter – the space has been opened up, the door moved and the fusty curtains removed, showing off the huge picture windows, and it’s fair to say the space is much fresher. Acclaimed interior designer David D’Almada of Sagrada (who also did The Arts Club’s interior) has created an space which offers playful nods to Savile Row’s sartorial history with a riot of different textiles from brocade to felt via velvet and pile, not to mention suede and leather. There’s an art deco vibe with pillars wrapped in diamonded leather and lovely Collier Webb lighting – with many pieces designed by David himself. The long, elegant bar features spider marble from Italy and fabulously fun copper and leather tipsy lights. The leather and walnut Maitre D’ stand separates the less formal lounge (with its huge am/pm sign) and the restaurant. The chairs and banquettes came from craftsmen in Portugal, and David worked with Amelie von Wedel to curate the artwork – do check out the fabulous threaded map of the world in the lovely blue Cellar Room if you can.