Dinner dates

Miriam Cadji dines at three of London’s hottest eateries and samples the current tastes in interiors


P̩trus РDesign: David Collins

Pétrus is a grown-up restaurant serving serious French food. Formerly located in London’s St James, it is moving house to the Berkeley Hotel (which is due to open on 17 September), where David Collins is responsible for the design.

The venue is named after the (very serious) French wine that some see as the holy grail, although not Collins, who explains, ‘I don’t drink, so it’s entirely wasted on me.’ With celebrity chef Marcus Wareing at the helm, the interior was inspired by the rich cuisine and the ritual of fine dining.

Accordingly, the restaurant is decked out in dramatic shades of burgundy, and with the panelled walls upholstered in maroon velvet, the interior feels a bit like the inside of a jewellery box, or as though it has been immaculately flocked. ‘No doubt some critics will say it looks like a bad 1960s hotel. Others may find it evocative and comforting,’ shrugs Collins.

Such a theatrical approach comes close to set design in its execution – indeed, the panels are not part of the original interior, but were cut to fit, then wrapped in fabric before being installed. The velvet stops at the private dining room, which sits to one side of the interior, and is kitted out with Cruella de Vil black plaster walls and black glass chandeliers.

Although the design steers clear of overt themeing, there are careful clues and references dotted throughout the interior to discover. The metal door handle has been etched with the label from a bottle of the eponymous wine, and the wall lights are reminiscent of silver wine holders. At the far end of the dining area, a giant abacus of plum-coloured and smoked glass spheres is threaded on to tensioned wire, evoking bubbles of wine.

Despite the fact that every element – the furniture, logo, lighting, artwork and even the flooring – has been designed in-house, Collins has gone to some lengths to give the interior a deliberately mismatched feel in order to counteract any notions of generic, conveyor-belt design. Low-level drinks tables alongside the bar appear to be second-hand finds, and there are three different types of chairs to sit on.

The carpet that runs through the whole restaurant is an unusual addition for Collins, who usually prefers hard floors, but concedes that in this instance, it was an appropriate choice that helps to convey a hushed, soft atmosphere. Collins had the carpet design manufactured in Sweden and it features a blurred red geometric pattern. ‘It looks like someone’s already spilt red wine on it,’ he grins.

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