Just got back from a fascinating hour or so being shown round the building site of Counter, a new restaurant in London's Vauxhall- on the South Bank, just across the river from Westminster and the Houses of Parliament. It's the current baby of our enterprising friend, Philip Reicherstorfer, former J. P. Morgan banker turned restaurateur and visionary.
I've mentioned Vauxhall in previous posts- it's where we happen to live, and currently, I believe, now Europe's biggest re-generation zone and building site. The new American Embassy is under construction, and near the location of the original 18th century Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens one Mr Damien Hirst is opening a gallery featuring his entire art collection. A mini-Manhattan is planned linking the once edgy streets of Vauxhall to the East with a re-imagined Battersea Power Station complex to the West.
And that's only the half of it. Over 10,000 new residents are expected to live in the previous wastelands and bomb-sites of Nine Elms. That's 18,000 new homes.
You'll find Counter- or what is to become Counter- in one of those Victorian brick railway arches originally constructed by the London & South Western Railway. And it's not a half-hearted enterprise. The space stretches a phenomenal 60 metres, long enough to fit in the entire length of Nelson's Column with room to spare. The slightly Gothic arch at the end creates an almost cathedral like ambience, with the distant rumble of over-head trains echoing into the cavernous space.
I admire Philip's ambition. He knows exactly what he wants. It's going to be dreadfully smart. "Art Deco meets Disco" is the plan. No brick walls à la Joe Allen going on here. Or scrubbed pine floorboards. Or chalked-up blackboards. "Shabby Chic" ain't a popular phrase in these parts.
Instead, the walls are going to be lined with soft antiqued glass, creating a 'Hall of Mirrors, Versailles-ish' vibe. The space will be divided into two restaurants with a bar in the middle and private dining rooms. Orange is the house colour.
Philip examines the re-claimed wooden floor blocks
A darkish slate grey is the colour
The ceilings are being left in their semi-industrial state and are currently being sprayed with gallons and gallons of Farrow & Ball paint in a subtle off-black.
Food will be of the unpretentious comfort variety, covering different regions of the globe, suitable for London's increasingly international population. Sam Adams beer will be available on tap.
Philip has asked me back in a month or two's time, and I'll report back with a progress update. In the meantime, watch this space. Counter plans to open in January 2015.