Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dining by Design: 10 Beautiful Brasserie Interiors

Have you ever made a reservation at a bar or brasserie just to see the interior design? Me too. Sometimes I don't even notice the food. I'm too busy looking at the font on the menus. Or the serif writing they've used on the vintage gilt mirrors over the bar. Shallow, I know, but I'm sure there are many of us who are more curious about the decor than what's in the cassoulet. It's dining by design.

This subject has come to the table (watch the pun there) because on Sunday my lovely man took me to Bistro Guillaume for my birthday, just so I could see the ballgown light shades that everyone's been talking about for years. While he was tucking into his French poulet I kept saying thing like: "Do you think they're custom-made?" Poor man. It can't have made for an interesting conversation.

So here, as a little 'belated Birthday Post', are my Top 10 Bistro Interiors. Places to go when you need inspiration for your kitchen, your butler's pantry, your outdoor terrace, your own restaurant project or just want a little more design sauciness with your duck parmentier. Oh! The pun(s) we could have! And yes, I swiped the paper menu from under my plate so I could archive that particular shade of green. Not as bad as Diana Vreeland pinching a piece of wall for its pink paint. But almost. {All images via the respective dining establishments' websites. Credit for top image is uncertain, so please notify me if it is yours or you know the source.}

NB These are all casual brasseries and bars. A round-up of beautiful restaurant interiors will come in a later post.

I've said enough about this sexy Melbourne brasserie. I'll let you be the judge of that geranium-green bar and those gorgeous ballgown lampshades. (I did comment that they would be cuter with pairs of Moulin Rouge-style legs and tiny Manolo shoes dangling out of them, but I don't think Mr Guillaume Brahimi would have thought that was quite fitting.) Whiteman Street, Southbank, Melbourne, Australia.  {Images via The Age and}

The staff at John Derian recommended this place. Great find guys. (It's right next door to Derian's Dry Goods store.) New York magazine said it offered one of the best places for brunch in the city. Tall call, but I'll accept it. The menu is fab, but the decor is even more fantastic. (See? I told you green was IN.) 325 Bowery, New York. {Photos by me; please don't copy without a credit or link.}

Still one of the best places for a design perve, even after all these years. Keith McNally: you do it to me every time. I always, always come here whenever I'm in New York. (Tip: Come for brunch; it's easier to get a table.) {Photos by me: that's why they're not great. I think I might have had a G&T or three?} 80 Spring Street, SoHo, New York.

Designed by Gardener & Marks (the 'Gardener' is Lyn Gardener of Empire Vintage and The White House fame), the Local Taphouse incorporates 110-year-old tram seats, framed vintage posters, factory lights, enamel signage and even fish traps. A little piece of Parisian wit and cosiness mixed with a Melbourne sensibility.There's also a Sydney version. 184 Carlisle Street, St Kilda East, Melbourne, Australia.

I've got a soft spot for The European. It's where I first met my lovely man. He was wearing a smart black suit and a crisp white shirt. I'm a sucker for black and white. Throw in The European and I was smitten from the first cheap rosé. The City Wine Shop bar next door (as part of the establishment) is just as elegant, and The Melbourne Supper Club and rooftop bar upstairs are two of the best for a drink in the city. I've known men who have seduced their dates (yes, right down to the, er, final gasp) right on the leather club chairs. That's how dim and sexy it is. (Although I never wanted to know which chairs they were in.) 161 Spring Street, Melbourne, Australia. 

love Comme. I mean, Comme on! (As Leyton would say.) How could you not? It's glamour in a glass! For those not familiar with it, it's the old Mietta's, redressed for a good time. Black, white, sexy as all hell. Just seeing the staircase makes my heart beat faster. 7 Alfred Place, Melbourne, Australia. 

Okay, so it's a hotel bar/breakfast space, rather than a stand-alone brasserie, but look at that design! Don't you just want to rip the entire thing out, fittings and all, and take it home? 7 Piazza Santa Maria Novella, Florence.

Still one of my all-time favourite interiors. Look at that Lutyens Blue! Created by London-based design meister David Collins, it incorporates a white onyx bar and a black crocodile print leather floor. Incredible. If I were single and meeting an incredibly nice man, I'd arrange to meet him here. Or The Connaught Bar in Mayfair. Another gorgeous hideaway. Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London. {Images via The Berkeley}

Designed by star-chitects Hecker Guthrie and inspired by Keith McNally's New York brasseries Pastis and Balthazar, Melbourne's new Millswyn brasserie is a little piece of Sweden, a hint of Shaker simplicity, and a whole lotta understated glamour. It's almost a pared-down Parisian interior: the Left Bank without the cigarette smoke. It feels like it should be on a beach somewhere – St Barts, Sorrento or Shelter Islands. But for a Saturday brunch after a walk/run around the Botanic Gardens, nothing beats it. 131 Domain Road, South Yarra, Melbourne, Australia.

First spotted on Slim Paley's blog, The Sip Shoppe is one part circus stripes and one part whimsy. This is how the owners describe it: "At first we called the room the Cirque, in reference to its 'bigtop' feel and French Quarter/New Orleans roots. As the space took on a mind of its own, we began referring to it as the 'Candystore for Adults'." Space, design, taste and style. I'd make the trek to Napa just to see those stripes. Napa Valley, California.


  1. I am definitely going to have Bistro Guillaume green in my next house and "the candystore for adults" just blew me away I think I might have a thing for stripes!! I rather fancy my new house will be impossible for anyone but me to live in, or visit, as it will contain what I love without a lot of thought as to whether it goes!!!!!!!!!
    Janelle your writing truly makes me giggle and you are not...NOT....supposed to be here, come on I want to read about Chanel!!! write girl write!!! xx

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  3. I have happy memories of drinking at the Supper Club with the ex boy, but did not go as far as the last gasp!
    Melbourne is full of wonderful places to eat and to admire the decor. Just recently had a lovely time there(Australian Open).
    The Blue Bar, The Berkley looks utterly fabulous.
    Now stop procrastinating.

  4. Oh Heide, I am SO envious of your visit to JK Place in Florence! Please tell us all about it when you get back. And take lots of photos! That is one place I've been wanting to stay at for years. Re Stirling, I shall re-email you now. And yes - do delete your comment so your personal details aren't visible. Janelle

  5. Oh, I'm so glad you didn't do the deed at The Supper Club Claire! I'm having trouble believing ANYONE could do a little hanky panky over a pinot in that place without someone noticing... But perhaps I'm naive in the ways of Melbourne dating? Glad you had a lovely time in Melbourne. Cookie is another favourite of mine - gorgeous French colonial interior.

    And yes, I'll get back to writing now. BUT I'M NOT HAPPY LADIES! Writer's reluctance has well and truly set in... Now, where's that DVD of Downton Abbey I got for Christmas...?


  6. Janelle,
    There is a local bistro that we adore. We love the interiors, the food and the owners make us feel right at home.
    Best of luck with your writing and how about celebrating at one of these spots when you are all edited and off to press!
    cheers to that....

  7. Delightful selection. Not sure if I will ever feel quite the same in the supper club though! All of these are deliciously glamorous - which has got to be a good thing!

  8. I stuck my nose into Bistro Guillaume on the way to Spice Temple recently. It wasn't the decor I was interested in though, I was desperate to see if the hunka hunka burning lurve himself was there. The most perfect bit of yumminess on the planet. Sadly there was no sign of His Royal Gorgeousness & my poor SIL who knows him well, had to drag me out before I made a complete idiot of myself, which is probably what I've just done here!!
    Millie xx

  9. That's so funny Millie I didn't even realise Mr Guillaume Brahimi was so gorgeous? Will have to google him. Do you know, I did the same thing with Gordon Ramsay? Who knew he was so good looking in real life?? I was sent to interview him many years ago and because my culinary knowledge is so pathetic I dragged Matt Preston along. Ramsay ended up being startlingly attractive and SO charming away from the cameras, and I think I turned into one of those 60 Minutes reporters who just fawns at their interviewees. Oh, so humiliating!

  10. Comme looks stunning, I would like to sweep down that staircase in a floor length gown.

  11. Another lovely post Janelle - yes you should check out Guillame he is quite yummy and very Gallic! Looking forward to reading the Chanel book, Exx

  12. I dont think its geeky what you do. i do it all the time and if I was in Melbourne I would be visiting all of them for the same reasons. Sometimes its just nice to drink it all in!

  13. I am so glad you are procratinating and spoiling us with your gorgeous posts!! How is it all going though? (the book etc. Many, many happy returns and hope you had a wonderful birthday. Ok, so now I want to go to Bistro Guillaume and The Taphouse. Love love love Comme and it's just round the corner from Mr SE's workplace too. V. convenient ! XX

  14. Hi Amelia / PVE, Thank you for kindly dropping by. We love local bistros too. We love them because they're cosy and CHEAP! My partner, who must be half-Scottish because he hates spending more than $2.45 on a meal, protests if the menu doesn't have prices. And then he mutters things like: "$42 for a rack of lamb? Are we paying for the farmer's mortgage?" We went to France Soir recently and he had to pay $101 for the meal. He was so incensed he didn't leave a tip. Not even $9! (Which means we can never go back again...) So yes - we love cheap 'n' cheerful neighbourhood bistros as much as you do.

  15. Thanks Glamour Drops, Tabitha and E, So lovely to hear from you all.
    Gorgeous bars are SO fab to visit, aren't they? I just shudder at the prices sometimes. Apparently there's a bar in NY that everyone's going to but the price of drinks means the average outlay is likely to be $1500. Just on drinks. In one evening.
    Surely they're serving Chateau Lafite for that?!!

  16. Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for letting me procrastinate. I'm just about to procrastinate some more by visiting your blog! (And many others belonging to the lovely commenters here.) Thanks for the sweet birthday wishes. RR gave me a lovely gift - an original copy of the New Yorker magazine from the day I was born. Plus The Australian newspaper. Very fitting. Do go to Comme; it's gorgeous for an after-work drink at the end of the week.

    PS Have just ducked over to your blog. THANK YOU for the mention. So sweet of you. I'm so glad you went to Karen Wager. She and I have been emailing each other about the Weston Peony Farm. She's lovely, isn't she? And I'm dying to visit the Drill Hall Emporium so will devour your photos now.

    J xxx

  17. Thanks Chateau de Lille, I fear I'm a bit of an interior design geek. Must be because I'm so bad at interior design myself. There's a real art to it. Love your blog by the way. Love anything French. Fashion. Architecture. Gardens. Men. (Oops. Who said that?) Would even happily do the dance with Gerard if he wasn't with the beautiful Carole Bouquet. Janelle

  18. Wow, some of these places are amazing! If you do make the move back to London, I recommend checking out Les Trois Garcons near Shoreditch. While not quite as stylish as these bistros, the interior is wonderfully wild with animal heads on the wall (a giraffe is my favourite!), handbag lampshades, and a bulldog with fairy wings! The food is beautiful, but secondary to the surroundings. xx

  19. Thank you lovely Pink Faerie! I love new recommendations and we hope to go to London for the Chelsea Flower Show this year, so will definitely check it out! Hope the new job is going well. Janelle xx


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