Maison François – London

With soaring arches and meticulously detailed joinery, this decadent restaurant in St James, London designed by creative director John Whelan of artist collective The Guild of Saint Luke felt prior to his intervention, Maison François looked like one giant concrete cube. The materiality of the space immediately encouraged Whelan to base his interiors scheme around La Fabrica – an abandoned cement factory just outside of Barcelona that Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill transformed into offices for his practice in 1973.
Whelan always try’s to find a creative route that respects the DNA of the building and the client wanted to reference historic brasseries but create a contemporary version – that also reflected in the food.
The exterior of Bofill’s La Fabrica is notably punctuated with soaring arched windows. These have been reinterpreted inside Maison François, which boasts terracotta-coloured stucco walls inset with shallow arch-shaped recesses. Walnut has been used to craft the restaurant’s seating banquettes – their latticed backs are inspired by the pews in Germany’s modernist Maria Heimsuchung church, which Whelan came across in a photography series by Robert Goetzfried.
Chairs have been upholstered in creamy linen to match the colour of the lacquered-wood dining tables. Tubular chandeliers have also been suspended from the ceiling, which has been finished with a faux-cement patina. Mahogany has been used to craft a latticed hood above the open kitchen, where dishes that draw upon traditional French cuisine will be prepared. Food will be served by both chefs and waiters, an attempt by the restaurant to diffuse the typical boundaries between front and back-of-house operations which is something I simply love!
At the centre of the hood is a huge clock that Whelan had made bespoke from patinated nickel and bronze. Weighing half a ton, the grills on the side of the clock are meant to subtly mirror those that feature on the front of vintage Rolls Royce cars, often seen outside the restaurant on the affluent streets of St James. The clock is a classic of historic brasserie design, and can be found around the world from Bouillon Julien in Paris to Fischer’s in London. Which gives La Fabrica an iconic focal point but with its own style.

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