M RESTAURANT THREADNEEDLE WALK
The first thing that strikes you when you walk into M Restaurant on Threadneedle Walk, is how big the space is, yet how intimate it feels! This brand new 12,000 square foot London eatery was a collaboration between a veteran restaurateur and his interior designer. Martin Williams’ vision was to create an establishment that would appeal to a broad spectrum of gastronomes and offer the best cuts of meat as well as the finest ‘raw’ cuisine. Coupled with this, the interiors had to emulate a sleek and sophisticated ambiance that would feel intimate yet familiar; in his words ‘a boutique hotel without any rooms’ or a ‘private members club with no members’.
In order to achieve this, Williams wanted a design team that did not specialise in commercial work; but one that would have a different take on how the scheme would evolve, while being able to synthesize the qualities of a residential interior with the necessary attributes of a restaurant. Enter René Dekker Design, a boutique practice specialising in global high end interior projects. The studio, barely two and half years old, was already making a name for itself with a string of stunning projects to their credit, and after their first interview, the die was cast. Once a brief was given, the studio provided the initial presentation, setting the tone for what has now become a breath-taking blend of subtle textures and bold shades with provocative art and thrilling features.
The entire project took sixteen weeks from start to finish, no small feat when you consider the size of the space. The design team had a short window of opportunity when they were first engaged, to come up with a rationalised and considered scheme regardless of the space. Williams had not yet found the ideal location but needed a concept that could be developed and rolled out no matter where the restaurant might be situated; and after much negotiation, the City site was agreed. From then on, there was an ambitious programme from when the builders, Hannah Contracts, started on site, to the official opening eight weeks later; and with a strong will and determination by all involved, the date was achieved. While also previously having operated as a restaurant, there was nevertheless a lot to accomplish in order to realise the dream. Apart from the kitchen, which would remain in its current location, the rest of the interiors would need to be completely stripped out. The staircase (a double semi-circle design) which didn’t function properly due to its location had to be removed and re-fitted as a single option in a central position to draw in the patrons up to the destination cocktail bar on the mezzanine floor. The bar was relocated from the back wall to the right hand side and a private members ‘Den’ was added. All traces of the original brass handrails had to be replaced with bronze to suit the new scheme, and the lighting design needed some serious work. The plan also needed to include a generous number of couverts, on which the client placed a great deal of emphasis; so the luxury interior design team at René Dekker produced several layouts incorporating loose as well as banquette seating. It took quite a few attempts to achieve the desired figure, especially after the client decided he wanted to add more private dining rooms and a coat check on the lower ground floor, which completely impacted on the floor space. A large hole was created in the far corner of the Grill side to fit a new staircase which could take the clientele down to two further private dining rooms, a small meeting room and a generous coat check.
On the ground floor the space is divided into two main areas by the clever use of bespoke designed, bronze screens, emblazoned with the subtle but ubiquitous M logo. To the left is ‘M Grill’, which serves some of the finest cuts of beef in Europe including Kobe 10 ++. The scheme is a fusion of many elements, most notably the strong teal fabrics on the banquette seating mixed with subtle wool tweeds on the chocolate brown arm chairs which create a sumptuous, yet simple ambience. Everywhere you look, René Dekker Design have added exciting textural elements leaving no surface unadorned, such as the faux eel skin wall paper by Elitis, which decks the walls in the banquette niche. Next to the aging room (a fabulous glass fronted meat curing chamber), a feature wall has been decorated in a specialist finish by renowned London based specialist decorators, DKT, that resembles distressed timber, skilfully incorporating large flecks of gold leaf for added glamour. The client wanted a scheme that was unique and exciting but that would still be self-deprecating, and this is evident in the selection of art as seen in one of the many Miles Adridge photos that adorn the restaurant. Hanging squarely in the middle of this gorgeously finished wall is a seductive shot of a glamorous model sitting at a table in front of a large plate of steak tartar. The scale has also been carefully contemplated considering the double volume ceiling height on the ground floor. It was essential to ensure the space delivered an intimate atmosphere, so the team created niches for the banquette seating and brought the decorative lighting down to just above the tables.
Still on the ground floor but to the right of the entrance is M Raw, which specialises in exactly that, Ceviche, Tartar, Sushi and Tiradito. To emulate the simple, unfussy menu, the scheme has been paired back to an almost eastern Zen style with minimal details and a simple palette. Soft light grey fabric, bleached oak and a stunning stone bar in Bianco Eclipsia are subtly mixed with a soft, almost umber, red fabric to give the feeling of calm. Above the bar and mirrored on the Grill side, is a captivating piece of double height joinery, which cleverly incorporates the waiters station in with the wine display and an alluring abstract Koi artwork. Although not instantly noticeable, the floor is laid with concrete effect tiles that have a subtle lace embossed pattern, which, coupled with the unexpected, dropped decorative lighting, pull all of the design elements together seamlessly.
In the centre of the restaurant is the new beguiling staircase, enticing you up to the destination bar where cocktails are the order of the day. Here, the team at René Dekker Design conceived a laid back atmosphere conducive to quaffing at its finest. A less dramatic colour scheme was derived from the original downstairs shades while adding touches of gold and bronze to create a ‘lounge’ atmosphere. A digital fireplace, complete with surround and faux fire, sits comfortably on the shiny polished plaster wall, while the area is scattered with low comfortable seating upholstered in tempting fabrics. This assures a cosy and relaxing evening while you sip exotic beverages and catch up with colleagues. To the left is the wine tasting bar set into a curved wall adorned with a bespoke printed wall covering depicting diverse elements of the wine trade. A softly aged print showing vine leaves, beetles, vineyard vistas and bunches of grapes all pieced together into one dreamy vintners menagerie. Here, connoisseurs can sample some of the finest wines available, ranging from a taster glass of Argentinian sauvignon Blanc for as little as £1.30 to a taster glass of Petrus for £135.00. It is only now that you are closer to the ceiling that the faux concrete shuttering becomes evident. This fabulous wall covering from Tektura (who incidentally provided most of the wall coverings in the project), successfully mimics the original ‘Industrial Chic’ theme first presented to the client. Combined with the concrete effect tiles, this is a skilful understated trick which subtly keeps the entire scheme coherent.
Over to the left on the mezzanine is the first of three private dining rooms. Like a promontory, only partly partitioned by the screens, an intimate party of 20 can wine and dine in privacy, but still feel like they are part of the wider atmosphere. The scheme is rich and textured, resembling a contemporary gentlemen’s club. It has a rich chocolate brown timber floor, dark painted panelling to dado height, and yet a different faux eel skin covering the walls at high level. Avoiding the clichéd type of lighting usually associated with this sort of tempo, the interior designers chose simple, modern spherical shades, made up of metallic linear filigree, exposing the light bulbs. The comfortable arm chairs have a two-tone upholstery in grey and salmon bouclé, and the theme is completed with appropriate accessories including a stunning ox skull.
The Den is yet another design Bon Bouche, tucked away behind a secret door on the wine bar wall. Here, an elite membership can recline in relative privacy and watch sports on a giant flat screen TV, play games on the X-box, play foosball or perhaps dabble in a spot of back gammon or poker. Running along the same theme as the gentlemen’s club, there are modern arm chairs paired with stylish yet simple drum tables. The walls appear to be covered in origami folded paper, yet on closer inspection, are actually flat printed masterpieces by French house Elitis. On the other wall there are back-lit glass fronted lockers, where members can leave their favourite tipple secured till the next time they occupy the space.
The other private dining rooms and coat check are apportioned over the lower ground floor. Set far away from the main ground floor restaurant, and unlike the mezzanine private dining room, diners have complete privacy. Both rooms are luxuriously appointed making use of dark teal velvet on the upholstery, contemporary lanterns above the tables, and giant Miles Aldridge artworks, all set within luxe bronze clad walls.
Although the design team operated under a tight timescale, the resulting design showcases the skill and collaboration that is evident in all the work commissioned to René Dekker Design. The great attention to detail is apparent from the moment you enter the restaurant, as the inviting interior lures you to discover the palette of colours and textures which envelop the surroundings.