LONDON — It’s 12:30 p.m. at Sketch, restaurateur Mourad Mazouz’s latest business adventure, and staff in the restaurant upstairs are serving pigeon-and-chocolate hors d’oeuvres while the managers downstairs drink cups of espresso and adjust the inflatable furniture around a sunken bar straight out of “Star Wars.”
This story first appeared in the December 6, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The ground floor patisserie is almost open for business, and no one is paying much attention yet to artist George Chakravarthi’s take on The Last Supper, complete with female apostles dressed in saris, which is projected on a wall in the ground floor art gallery-cum-restaurant.
On Monday, Mazouz — known as Momo — will cut the ribbon on Sketch, his 27,000-square-foot space on Conduit Street that houses two restaurants, two bars, a brasserie, an art gallery and a patisserie. Mazouz, who spent more than $17 million on the project, admits he’s taking a risk .
“I didn’t want to build some super, multifloor complex, I just wanted to do one building with a few businesses inside. There’s really no link between them,” said Mazouz over a glass of mint tea and a North African tobacco pipe at his nearby restaurant Momo, which opened in 1997 and has been one of London’s hottest hangouts since.
“And I’m not expecting everyone to love each part of it. That’s the point. You use it the way you want to, depending on what kind of mood you’re in, and what time of day it is,” he adds.
In the arcaded entrance to Sketch, housed in a late 18th Century building that formerly was the headquarters of Christian Dior in the U.K., there are “skin” chairs designed by Jurgen Bey from the Droog design group in Holland that look as if they’re growing out of the wall. The dark, shiny bathrooms are festooned with crystal baroque crosses and the central staircase is covered in what looks like runny puddles of caramel and chocolate.
The Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnier is in charge of the restaurant upstairs, where a meal will cost about $150, excluding wine. Gabhan O’Keefe, decorator to stars and socialites like Sao Schlumberger, has given the dining room a decadent Art Deco feel with some Cleopatra-like influences in the form of giant painted urns and sexy chaise lounges. Patchwork velvet walls, hanging taffeta lanterns, small mirrors and luscious citrus colors set the room ablaze.
“I wanted to introduce a sense of fun, intimacy and glamour. The dining room is there to flatter people, to make them look fabulous, whether they’re dining there or not,” said O’Keefe of his first commercial project.
Downstairs in the brasserie, the feeling is more Seventies —and the prices are more palatable, with a grilled brill and marinated chicken breast with a pumpkin veloute coming in at about $15.
The central gallery is an art space by day and a restaurant by night. The East Bar, as it’s known, is sunken, while the floor above it is one giant bathroom covered in freestanding white pods. Open the pod door and there’s the toilet.
The patisserie, which like the brasserie is overseen by Gagnier and his mostly French staff, will serve breakfast and lunch. Ever the Frenchman, Mazouz promises to display the pastries like jewels under the glass counter.
If it all sounds complicated, it’s not supposed to be. Mazouz said his goal is simple: He wants London’s homebodies to start going out on the town again.
“I got to thinking, how do people live today? Why do we go out? I want all of those people in their late 20s who are married with kids who stay home all the time to feel like they can go out, and not make a big production out of it.”