Centred around a parlour-like dining space, Shoreditch restaurant Cycene is a space to shut out the world for a few transporting hours
First, there was Hostem, the Shoreditch boutique that was as much about experiencing the soft-minimalism, urban-rustic surroundings as the carefully curated labels within it. Then, founders James and Christie Brown decided to reinvent their site on the corner of Redchurch Street and Chance Street, turning it into Blue Mountain School, a six-storey concept store/cultural hub that was typically genre-defying, with retail and exhibition space and a listening room on the top floor.
Blue Mountain School originally had a restaurant, the Nuno Mendes-helmed Mãos, a single-table, supper-club-style affair. Now, there has been further reinvention with the opening of Cycene (the name comes from the old-English word for “kitchen”). The kitchen area itself has been expanded, and there are separate tables now, seating up to 15, plus a private dining room. Chef Theo Clench is running the show, with a 10-course menu that draws on East Asian and Australasian influences and showcases Clench’s passion for seafood and game.
The design side of these remodelled spaces has been overseen by BMS Studio, Blue Mountain School’s in-house interiors arm. Guests begin in the downstairs bar area with an aperitif, wine or kombucha and a first course of broth and bread, served on salt-glazed tableware made by ceramicist Steve Harrison. The pared-back interiors, including the oak and stainless-steel bar, are designed for decompression from the busy Shoreditch streets outside, focusing the attention on the flavours.
Upstairs in the dining room, there’s a domestic feel: this is an intimate and cosy dining experience that was made for winter nights. The parlour-like space features sawn oak floorboards, rough plasterwork and oak panelling, all invitingly warm and tactile. A banquette upholstered in a wool by Raf Simons for Kvadrat runs around the perimeter, while Christopher Howe Windsor chairs are pulled up to tables with cast-iron bases, formally finished with crisp tablecloths; hanging between two tall windows is a Frank Auerbach charcoal drawing.
The private dining room is known as the hearth room, and sits adjacent to the kitchen, the boundary between the two marked by an antique bread paddle hung above the door. The materials palette switches here, with clay floors and hand-painted tiles on the walls, almost as if it reflects the room’s status as a half-way-house between kitchen and parlour. A porcelain chandelier by Tyler Hays of BDDW hangs above the table in this impressive double-height space, the light supplemented by the glow of candles set in iron candlesticks.
Cycene feels like a place to suspend yourself from your problems for a couple of hours, a place that deliberately sets itself apart from the outside world. There is one tantalising link back to contemporary life in the form of the glazed internal window in the bar that overlooks Blue Mountain School’s retail space, an area referred to as the “archive”, rather than mere shop, with huge rolling storage that justifies the description. This is no doubt an attempt to move away from fashion’s links to transience and towards the idea of pieces built for longevity and an appreciation of craftsmanship – and everything about Cycene’s interiors points to the same ethos.