Architecture Design Luxury People Restaurants

Hide Restaurant London + Ollie Dabbous

Number 85 Piccadilly

Bookended by the Fox Club and the former In and Out Club (a shroud of scaffolding is due to be removed imminently to unveil the capital’s most hotly anticipated new hotel), Number 85 Piccadilly was also once a club. Sir Robert Taylor’s late 18th century New Grafton House was transformed into the Turf Club by John Norton in 1875. Loosely Italianate, a twin canted bay façade faced Green Park although the entrance was off Clarges Street. A recessed arch enjoyed parallel curvature with the fanlight over the doorway. A semicircle in a semicircle. The Turf Club was renowned for having 16 ducal members at one time. It was demolished in 1966.

The replacement building could have hardly been more different to its ornate predecessor. A disruptive 10 storey office block – bands of ribbon glazing interrupted by precast concrete panels – takes no architectural prisoners, no neighbourly nod, no design deference. It is what it is. Or rather it was what it was. The elevations at ground and mezzanine level, if not quite softened, have been innovatively refined. Design consultancy Lustedgreen has opened up the solid infilled areas between the structural bays and installed large format seamless glazing. Bronze fascia panels have been introduced between the two floors. The material is inspired by the Ritz Hotel along Piccadilly. The pattern is derived from the plane tree bark of Green Park. A rigidly controlled palette energises the robustness of the materiality both old and new.

All these external changes heralded the arrival of Hide, a restaurant celebrating the brilliance of young chef Ollie Dabbous. After five years running his hugely successful eponymous restaurant in Fitzrovia, Yevgeny Chichvarkin and Tatiana Fokina persuaded Ollie to head up their new venture. The Russian power pair also own Hedonism, a top end wine shop in Mayfair. The restaurant is spread over three floors – basement, ground and mezzanine – linked by a whirl of a wood staircase. The external reliance on materiality continues indoors. Rustic chic is the look with plenty of wood. Even the pen that comes with the bill is on brand. Wood. Brown dome pendant lights set in larger glass domes resemble broken eggshells. Semi-spheres in semi-spheres. Cast bronze filigree sun shades on the mezzanine windows are decorated with a leaf skeletal design. The ground floor is slightly sunken, giving guests a good view of passing Louboutins.

Ollie is full of energy, bounding up from the kitchen where he’s hard at it. “So good to see you again! I’m glad you came now as we’re really getting established! Hide is doing brilliantly!” If guests don’t fancy anything on the wood backed wine list, an order can be placed with Hedonism. Just 12 minutes later, a bottle of their finest – 6,500 wines and spirits to choose from – will arrive on guests’ tables. Brunch is soft shell crab tempura with Thai basil and green peppercorns. The crab, perched on a pebble, has been deconstructed then reconstructed. Kohlrabi, ripe pear, elderflower vinegar and perilla lies somewhere between liquid and solid. Cornish mackerel tartare and iced eucalyptus arrives steaming. It’s a shock to the senses to discover it’s a cold dish. Canelés cooked in beeswax, twisting textures, complete a wild and wonderful brunch.

Architecture People Restaurants

Danson House + Danson Stables + Danson Park London

Danson Abbey

This Palladian style villa may have originated as a bolthole from London but there’s nothing provincial about it. While suburbia has crept round Danson Park over the last two and a half centuries, miraculously the house, stables and park have survived virtually intact. Now owned by Bexley Council, a registry office makes for a decent unobtrusive use for the historic building. And lunch in the courtyard of Danson Stables is a winning combination of good food and architecture.

Serendipity – and a £4.5 million restoration by Historic England – has saved Danson for the next two and a half centuries. In 1995 the house was falling to pieces. Jump a decade and the Queen is cutting the ribbon. “It’s smaller than I thought,” Her Majesty observes upon her arrival. Understandable – there are optical illusions at play. Two fenestration tricks make the building appear larger than it is: (internally) not expressing the architraves and (externally) shrinking window sizes on the upper floor.

“Very Miss Jane Austen!” declares John O’Connell, climbing the serene sweep of steps to the entrance door. Unusually there are two large panes of glass in the beautifully aged mahogany door. Good for catching northern light but also an 18th century display of wealth. The walls are equally blessed by the patina of age. Portland stone given a lime wash has a mellowed texture and, set high up on a ridge, the house turns golden yellow in the sun. If you’ve got it flaunt it. And Sir John Boyd had it. Before he lost it.

Freshly beknighted with a 19 year old bride to serenade, the 40 something client commissioned Sir Robert Taylor to design him a home worthy of his station in life. The 1st Baronet Boyd owned Caribbean sugar plantations and was Vice Chairman of the British East India Company. “It really is a most skilful plan,” observes John O’Connell, and as Ireland’s leading conservation architect, he should know. “With the summer sun Danson House could be a villa along the Brenta Canal!” A double blow of the American and French Revolutions wrecked Sir John’s businesses. He died in debt in 1800. His son chopped off the wings, reclaiming the building materials for stables designed by George Dance. Five years later, the house was sold.

The entrance hall, in Palladian terms, is really a closed loggia so relatively simple with a plain marble floor. Opulence follows. Why employ one starchitect when you can get two? Sir John Boyd got Sir William Chambers to jazz up Sir Robert Taylor’s design, adding fireplaces and doors and other decorative touches. A rare cycle of Georgian allegorical wall paintings by the French artist Charles Pavillon stimulate after dinner conversation in the dining room.

A Victorian daughter of the manor, Sarah Johnston, helpfully painted watercolours of the interiors. Historic England used her paintings as inspiration for the carpets. A painting by George Barret hanging in the Chinoserie wallpapered octagonal Ladies’ Sitting Room illustrates the house with its wings. Incidentally, an exhibition of this Irish born artist is planned for the newly reopened National Gallery of Ireland.

The plaster roundels in the Gentlemen’s Music Room cum Library were found in cupboards. Imprints on the walls for the surrounding swags allowed them to be accurately reinstalled. That ingenious layout – interlocking rectangles and polygons around a dream of an oval stairwell – adapts well. Modern services are tucked into servants’ corridors wedged between the reception room shapes. The butler’s pantry contains a lift.

The landscape has erroneously been attributed to Capability Brown. Where hasn’t? It’s like every church carving must be Grinling Gibbons. Capability may have visited Danson, but the setting is the work of his associate, Nathaniel Richmond. Danson House (tour) and Danson Stables (lunch) and Danson Park (stroll). “It really is a place apart and invokes the Veneto,” John O’Connell lyrically waxes. Danson with the stars. The day is so singular, a true joy.