These luxury brands are opening fashion restaurants around the world
As luxury lifestyle suppliers rushed to diversify by opening cafes and restaurants around the world, consider the case of Christian Dior and his book, The Hand-Sewn Kitchen (1972). A haute couture cookbook first conceived in the 1930s when Dior vacationed in the south of France, it was illustrated by the textile impresario himself with the help of the fashion illustrator Italian René Gruau (whose signature drawing style still inspires designers everywhere).
This holy grail of fashion cuisine features the prolific couturier’s favorite poached eggs, fürstenberg, red mullet escabèche and chocolate pompadour with custard. “If cooking is to be considered intelligent work, then the hands must act as dedicated interpreters,” says chef Raymond Thulier quoting Dior in the book’s preface. So what better way for the Maison Dior to honor its founder’s love of good food on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the book’s publication, than by offering the homethe big spenders for a taste of the delights of La Cuisine Cousu-Main?
Fashion and its enduring ties to food have been sung, written about and talked about for centuries. Marie Antoinette’s appetite for sweets was matched only by her supposed fervent fascination with diamonds – or so according to Alexandre Dumas. The Queen’s Necklace. Over the past two decades, however, luxury purveyors have put their money in place by opening esculent own-brand emporiums, from Los Angeles to Tokyo, serving up high art in plates and glasses.
In restaurants where food and fashion meet
If you’re embarking on a journey to visit such temples of indulgence shaped by the creative minds that rule the realm of luxury, the starting point has to be Tokyo – and, assuming one owns a travel machine in time, the favorite year to pass by would be 2004. Almost 20 years ago, when the cast iron chains of social media were just shabby plastic fasteners, fashion brands were not at all interested to expand beyond their then narrow areas of expertise.
Shops had no existential need to compete for traffic with cyber real estate. Yet there was one fashion giant whose precognitive insight led him to prove himself once again as the leading innovator of luxury: Chanel. The restaurant Beige Alain Ducasse Tokyo, created the same year thanks to an artistic collaboration between the fashion house and Ducasse Paris, sits on the 10th floor of the Chanel Ginza building, its raison d’être being in part to encourage customers to spend more time in the building. In 2018, however, the freshly revamped Beige became a way for Chanel to offer its best clientele a new side to retail – think of it as a predecessor to the homePrivate boutiques soon to open for ultra-elite customers, where the top 1% of the 1% are entertained.
Today, Beige is run by Kei Kojima, Ducasse’s former right-hand man for more than a decade, whose extensive training in French haute cuisine and Japanese heritage make him the only imaginable person at the helm of Chanel’s culinary outpost in the land of the rising sun. We’re told that Kojima sources his own vegetables from the fields of Kamakura, where he can feel the passage of time – remember that the ancient Japanese calendar is divided into 24 mini-seasons – and reflect on the philosophy centered on seasonality that Ducasse swears by. “As in a fashion collection, in the kitchen too the meaning of the seasons is very important”, specifies the French chef.
The restaurant is as sophisticated as Coco Chanel’s favorite color, hence its name. “It’s the contemporary French restaurant in Tokyo, a concentrate of design, atmosphere, harmony, know-how, refinement and French taste. It was two years of hard work and brainstorming and a reduction of all the essentials of French haute cuisine. This is the right restaurant for this moment. It must be like that, just for Tokyo. It’s a restaurant, a spirit, a philosophy, unique”, is how Ducasse described it in a 2007 interview with Prestige.
The terrace, which bears the charming name Le Jardin de Tweed, is unsurprisingly a love letter to the material so adored by the founder of the brand. Naturally, the fashion giant could only trust the person who designed all of its boutiques, Peter Marino, to design the restaurant – and the entire building with him.
Two other renowned creations by the American architect – Le Cafe V and Sugalabo V – are in Osaka, both owned by Louis Vuitton and run by chef Yosuke Suga, who worked for Gault Millau Chef of the Century, Joël Robuchon, for 17 years. before starting his own business. Cafe V is an attractive and refined yet playful space, a harmony of bright colors and fascinating shapes. Hanging plants, teal egg-shaped armchairs and sky-blue counter benches are second only to the café’s chocolate counter in their extravagance. Sugalabo V, on the other hand, is what really sums up the brand’s penchant for exclusivity.
Hidden away in Le Cafe V, it’s an invitation-only restaurant inspired by Suga’s intimate Tokyo space and is clad in chocolate brown wood with brass accents, and decorated with jewel-toned seating and monochrome rhomboid tiles . Combining the two with the necessary je ne sais quoi LV, objects selected by Tokujin Yoshioka, creator of the brand’s travel accessories. More recently, the home plunged the golden fingers of his culinary arm into this haunt of jet-setters, Saint Tropez, with Mory Sacko at Louis Vuitton, a heavenly place by the sea where African and Japanese influences meet exceptional French gastronomy in a gastronomic menu largely vegetable-based.
Spanning three continents is Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura. The flagship restaurant, located in the Palazzo della Mercanzia in Florence, comprises a main dining room, a hall of mirrors and a private reception room, which together constitute Chef Karime Lopez’s culinary vision. Green nets framing the walls of the main dining room are inscribed with a lyric from Lorenzo de’ Medici’s 15th-century carnival song, “Sette pianeti siam, che l’alte sede lasciam per far del cielo in terra fede” – the archaic Tuscan translates to “We are seven planets, leaving the Holy See to make faith heaven on earth.
However, the religious connotations don’t stop at the disturbing quotes. Beneath the vaulted ceiling, the main dining room houses an intricately carved wooden station resembling a confessional booth, which matches the Florentine furniture and stone slabs depicting ancient crests. The Michelin-starred Osteria’s menu offers elevated reviews of dishes that inform Lopez’s cosmopolitan lifestyle, namely pork buns, burgers, tortellini and purple corn tostadas, as well as more traditional luxury specialties, such as Chianina beef with caviar and truffles and Florentine lamb. with tomatoes and jalapeño.
Across the pond in Beverly Hills, Osteria ditches overbearing Italian influences in favor of Californian sensibilities. Described by Gucci as “an embassy of modern Italian culinary art,” Osteria Beverly Hills is run by chef Mattia Agazzi, who honed his skills at three-Michelin-starred Cerea Brothers in Bergamo. Here, the green motifs of Osteria Florence are reinterpreted as industrial metal beams, adorning the terrace and potted greenery throughout the interior. There are bursts of red, of course, in the shape of the velvet sofas, and a touch of gold in the embroidery of the plump armchairs. Here, diners can sample Beverly Hills classics, such as cod Milanese and pizza-camouflaged risotto, as well as a beef ribeye with cotechino and salsa verde, aptly named Mini Me.
Other notable places where couture meets cuisine
A lesser-known but no less notable trendy restaurant is Elsa’s Cocktail Bar, named after Italian dressmaker Elsa Schiaparelli, at gallerists Hauser & Wirth’s Fife Arms Hotel near Braemar in Scotland. A prime example of art, fashion and mixology crystallizing in one space, it is intimate, sophisticated and indulgent in the best sense of the word, bringing art deco and high surrealism to the austere Highland wilderness .
The bar’s star cocktail, Shocking Pink – it’s made with black rhubarb liqueur, Aelder (wild elderberry elixir), prosecco and, oddly enough, a Shocking Pink perfume spray created by the house in 1937 – is meant to serve as a visual representation of the designer’s epigram, “In hard times, fashion is always outrageous.” Now, at last, this writer won’t have to swallow Shocking Pink all on his own in hopes of ingesting some of Schiaparelli’s genius.
There are many more, of course. More than six pages could possibly contain. There’s Tiffany & Co, which recently opened Blue Box at Harrod’s, where self-proclaimed Audrey Hepburns is treated to an expertly crafted lead character moment encased in jewels and Tiffany blue velvet. We hear the buttery croissants and egg florentine are worth committing to.
At the Torre de la Fondazione Prada, in Milan, visitors can treat themselves to a four-handed dinner imagined by chef Lorenzo Lunghi in collaboration with a young international chef – a new one every month – and all accompanied by the magnificent works of Thomas Demand, Jeff Koons, Goshka Macuga and John Wesley. Not to mention Ralph’s Coffee at Ocean Terminal and Prince’s Building, with its rich single-origin Colombian coffee and lava cream mooncakes.
It seems that quenching a thirst for couture and, simultaneously, quenching a thirst for haute cuisine can be done from the comfort of a single boutique – “a glamorous life”, as Desiree Armfeldt would say. So why not let the crumbs baptize – and Christian Dior – this brand new dress?
This story first appeared on PrestigeOnline Hong Kong