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Fera at Claridges
Tel: +44 (0)20 7437 8487
Designer Guy Oliver of Oliver Laws is no stranger to Claridges. In fact he has been working with the hotel for nearly twenty years having decorated such iconic spaces within the hotel as the French Salon and Drawing Room and all of the gloriously opulent Suites. So taking on the design of Fera, Simon Rogan's new restaurant on the ground floor, must have seemed a little like working at home. The room that formerly housed Gordon Ramsay's restaurant has been transformed into an elegant and fresh space, revealing many original features to celebrate the hotel's Art Deco glamour.
Simon Rogan, of course, is one of Britain's top name chefs having earned himself accolades and stars aplenty with his Lake District ventures, L'Enclume , Rogan & Co and more recently the Pig & Whistle pub. In addition he has opened two restaurants within The Midland Hotel in Manchester; The French by Simon Rogan and Mr. Cooper's House & Garden. He introduced his unique and flavoursome style of cooking to London by taking a short term lease in a building in Marylebone and opening Roganic, closing that restaurant in under two years in the full knowledge that he would soon return to more opulent surroundings at Claridges. Simon's technical approach, combined with his love and understanding of the balances of nature, is inspiring a whole generation of sustainably and environmentally aware young chefs.
In terms of designing a fine dining restaurant for Simon Rogan, Guy Oliver needed to find another balance. A restaurateur who is principally all about sustainability and the country way of life, showcasing food within the opulence of a grand Mayfair hotel. Two diametrically opposed concepts were required to work in harmony . This has been achieved by incorporating references to nature within the design scheme. A tree of white bleached Manzanita branches rises, Phoenix-like, in the centre of the room. The colour scheme is a warm grey, a suitable and unimposing background in which to let the food on every plate shine like a star. Instead of linen tablecloths, which Simon was opposed to, Guy designed and created some exquisite polished walnut dining tables with brass detailing. Coupled with the cool cream leather upholstery of the chairs and banquette seating they add a touch of class and refinement. A subtle ripple effect design has been hand drawn onto one entire wall by renowned American artist, Linn Meyers. Her expressive and detailed work resembles shifting sands or the patterns of swirling water. As Guy Oliver says, "Fera is inspired by the rhythms of nature." Yet 1930's glamour is also ever present in this scheme. To achieve this, Guy Oliver imagined how it would have been during the Art Deco period, researching as much of the hotel's archived material as possible, and created an interior that evokes the decadence and style of the age. Much of this has been realised with the help of an exceptionally well designed and concealed lighting scheme. Lighting Design International backlit several glass features, including the decorative sunburst laylights and the ribbed glass walls to great effect. Spots hidden deep into the ceiling roses light individual tables below to create intimacy and discrete uplighting is used to provide drama to the columns and capitals above. There is a small but stylish holding bar to the corner of the room and on the back wall is a series of framed drawings and photographs of some of the hotel's more famous guests. These are created by Claridges' resident artist, David Downton, and fashion photographer, Ellen Von Unwerth.
What has been achieved here, within a timeframe of less than five months, is quite remarkable. When the restaurant was run by Gordon Ramsay, it was good, very good in fact, but the interior design ignored the heritage of the building. What Guy Oliver has now created is a modern day tribute to a bygone era. It's theatrical. At the front of the restaurant his design leads guests through a series of small arrivals to build up a sense of excitement and anticipation, each one slightly bigger and more dramatic than the last. And the main dining room doesn't disappoint. It's decadent and refined. A handsome space for latter-day Katherine Hepburns and Clark Gables to enjoy. But the real star of the show is Simon Rogan's exceptional cooking which is amongst the very best in Britain today. Perfect food in wonderful surroundings.