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CIRCA:
Do you have any memories of Piccadilly Circus?

ALVARO BARRINGTON:
When I was first settling into grad school I went with my close friend Amy Heron to Brasserie Zedel after seeing shows in mayfair.

"Brasserie Zédel was once part of The Regent Palace Hotel, which was designed in the Beaux Arts style and opened in 1915.

In the early 1930s, Oliver Percy Bernard OBE MC (1881 – 1939), an English architect and scenic, graphic and industrial designer, was commissioned to redesign some of the Beaux Arts interiors.

Bernard is generally recognised as one of the key figures in the creation of the art deco style, and the interiors he designed in the basement of The Regent Palace Hotel were quite astonishing: the “incredibly mannered” ‘Chez Cup Bar’ under the entrance rotunda was created in 1934 out of the former billiard room, and is now the Crazy Coqs Cabaret & Bar, which has been immaculately recreated from the original architectural drawings. The hallway of tobacco-coloured travertine is retained in today’s foyer, and most impressive of all is Dick’s Bar (now Bar Américain), an extraordinary survival with its broad, horizontal stripes of stained birch veneers and jazz age columns.

After the Second World War, the hotel fell on hard times and gradually declined in reputation until, in 2004, the Crown Estate decided to redevelop the building as part of its long-term strategy to upgrade Regent Street. Initial proposals caused concern amongst conservation societies, worried about the potential loss of the historic interiors.

Dixon Jones were selected as architects by the Crown Estate, precisely because of their expertise in the adaptation of historic buildings, and they worked with Donald Insall Associates to restore the building’s significant 1930s art deco bars and restaurants.

According to Architecture Today Magazine, the interiors of Brasserie Zédel are “probably the best and most authentic series of 1930s interiors in this country”.