Passion Points: Food/Wine
Sir Terence Conran’s newest venture may be a long way from central London but that’s not going to stop foodies and design lovers from flocking to it. In fact, artists and celebrities not afraid to share a table with strangers already are. Located in a vast Victorian warehouse, the Boundary will eventually contain all of the elements of a club, i.e. guest rooms, multiple restaurants and a community of regulars, only without member restrictions. Two weeks ago, the first phase opened: the Albion Café—already nicknamed “the Caf” by insiders—and the sexy subterranean Boundary restaurant.
This past Saturday a line snaked around the block with people waiting to get in the Albion to dine on hearty food like shepherd’s pie at communal tables or a counter. (The stools have tractor seats, so you can feel as earthy as a rural farmer—at least in your rump.) At one end of the street-level café is a country-style market (shelves stocked with British staples like Oat Biscuits and jars of duck fat), and running the length of the dining room is an open kitchen where cooks can be seen baking bread or stirring soup. With rows of long, honey-colored wooden tables, the dining room manages to merge echoes of a country kitchen and of a school cafeteria. The neighborhood teems with artists, advertising and design folk, many of whom dress as they did in university days so there’s a rumpled, intellectual charm to the crowd. Of course, Keira Knightley added glamour when she pulled up a chair, even if she was suitably dressed down.
The home-spun warmth that suffuses the place comes, in part, from touches such as the mismatched water pitchers and antique blue and white china platters that reveal the care that went into the enterprise’s creation. The project, the legendary designer’s first since selling a stake of Conran Restaurants to D&D in 2004, has been a labor of love for Sir Terence and his wife Vicki. She scoured antiques markets for cast-off kitchen treasures, including the bone-handled flatware, some of which has already been knicked. Every table and all of the wooden shelving were manufactured at a workshop on the Conran’s estate in West Berkshire.
If the Albion revels in a rural country ethos, the Boundary Restaurant reflects the more sophisticated urban side of the Conran’s aesthetic. The cavernous brick-walled space has been hotted up with red and purple velvet chairs and a mix of contemporary art and treasured objects. A cabinet of design curiosities from Sir Terence’s home hangs in the bar. Much of the art that adorns the private and public spaces comes from their private collection. Sir Terence is a provost of the Royal College of Art, and quite a few pieces were bought at R.C.A. shows. Works to look out for: “Light is Love” by Chris Levine and pieces by graffiti artist Blek le Rat. There’s even an artist in residence, whose Chagallesque mural will keep the building’s seven-storey stairwell eternally swarming with colorful characters.
When the twelve guest rooms open this spring, they will pay homage to the owners’ favorite designers and design movements, including Andrée Putman, le Corbusier and Charles and Ray Eames. On the floor above will be five suites. The four duplexes will be quintessential Conran spaces, designed by the Conrans, Priscialla Carluccio and Polly Dickens, creative director of the Conran Shop. The fifth one, designed by their close friend David Tang, will include furniture and flourishes hand picked by him from China.
The Boundary Rooftop, with an open fireplace and grill restaurant, too, will feature great design. Its views encompass Lord Norman Foster’s Gherkin as well as the historic buildings and spires of East London.
Albion Cafe is open daily from 8 a.m. to midnight. The Boundary Restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner. Guest rooms and the Boundary Rooftop will open this spring. Rooms will begin at under 200 pounds per night; suites from under 300 pounds.
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