Behind Bengal, Part One
You may have heard the buzz about the Old Bengal Warehouse, D&D London’s new restaurant venture, currently taking the City by storm. This, for example. And this. And this. What you may not know about, however, is the building’s fascinating history, and how the Conran team drew on it in creating the identity and interiors for the space.
Here, then, is our behind-the-scenes guide.
In 1771, the British East India Company built their first warehouse on the Thames, stuffing it brim-full with the eclectic spoils of their trade – spices, wines, silks and cigars. The Poet Laureate John Masefield opined that it held “the wealth of the world and London’s power”. That building – the Grade II-listed Old Bengal Warehouse – still stands, a reminder that London’s thriving cosmopolitanism is nothing new.
The Old Bengal Warehouse was plucked from history’s scrapheap by D&D London, who enlisted our help in bringing it back to glory. Together, we’ve created four separate venues – two restaurants, a wine shop, and a bar – that reflect the buildings exotic, mercantile past.
Getting a fish restaurant right means tacking the narrow straits between pretentious and kitsch. We’ve done so by using simple wooden furniture and bold swathes of colour through the space, broken up with some stunning artwork from Hoxton Art Gallery.
The centrepiece is a stunning installation by Tansy Brown-Hovelt, whose work explores the complex relationship between process and materials. For the wall of the Fish Market, she had created an installation of brine-tarnished copper panels that speak of the creaking history in the 18th century wall from which they hang.
The Fish Market is lit with charming copper sea lamps hung from a deep sea green roof. The menu, under the careful steer of head chef Barry Macmillan, offers fresh British fish and shellfish, accompanied by some great British wines.
New Street Grill
What’s more seductive than steak? Nothing, that’s what. New Street Grill revels in the rehabilitated steakhouse image, with weighty leather menus and dark, wood-panelled walls. The space snakes around a beautiful square courtyard, aloof from the hustle of the City. Steak is about getting the basics right, and New Street Grill lives up to the produce: simple but seriously refined.
Again, we worked with Hoxton Art Gallery to commission some impressive new art for the space.
Jacob Dahlstrup Jensen produced graphite drawings of figures from seafaring history: Captain Sir William Hutcheon-Hall, a British naval officer who served in China and Crimea, and Officer Jan Pieterszoon Coen of the Dutch East India Company’s spice fleet.
These are complemented by Natalija Gormalova’s Vanitas-style photographs of the various plunders of the East India Company’s trade: wines, silks, tobacco, pearls and spices.
We’ll take you round the drink side of the Old Bengal Warehouse – the New Street Wine Shop and Old Bengal Bar – very soon.
Edit: part two is now up.
Thanks to Paul Raeside for the photographs