Design studio AfroditiKrassa looks to Japan for Gordon Ramsay’s latest London restaurant, Lucky Cat
British classics, great bricks of steak, elevated comfort food and the occasional sojourn into French fine dining – at this stage in Gordon Ramsay’s prolific career as chef and restaurateur, it seemed his weapons of choice were determinedly figured out. But Ramsay’s latest venture in Mayfair, Lucky Cat, sees a new cuisine join the gastronomic arsenal: Japanese.
In its menu Lucky Cat is both novel and familiar, and the same can be said of the restaurant itself. It is unmistakeably Japanese and yet design studio AfroditiKrassa’s take on traditional hallmarks is as fresh as the sashimi. Its previous projects – the likes of Dishoom and Suvlaki – have each showcased a knack for original storytelling and an ability to sidestep clichés, so it’s little wonder the practice was given free rein to flesh out the concept and develop a vision for the Lucky Cat brand and interiors.
‘It is a complete departure and I think that’s why we were brought in,’ explains founder and creative director, Afroditi Krassa. ‘The team at Gordon Ramsay Restaurants wanted to challenge themselves as well as the category. They wanted a design-led experience that would open up a new world of opportunities for the future.’
Eager to avoid anything that felt inauthentically broad in inspiration, Krassa homed in on the jazz bars and kissa (cafés) of 1930s Tokyo. ‘We wanted an unexpected reference,’ she says. ‘Everyone associates Japanese restaurants with very strict, linear designs, but when researching we came across these jazz bars and realised that there was this naughty, mysterious world that existed in Tokyo. They were almost a meeting between a gentlemen’s club and an illegal dive bar.’
Everyone associates Japanese restaurants with very strict, linear designs, but when researching we came across these jazz bars and realised that there was this naughty, mysterious world that existed in Tokyo. They were almost a meeting between a gentlemen’s club and an illegal dive bar
It’s this mood, more than the minutiae, that Lucky Cat embodies – cinematic in feel and laden with atmosphere. That’s not to say it isn’t detail rich, of course. A Victorian technique for tile making was revived for the cat relief slates that line counters, while the bar front is realised in brass, hand-cast ‘bamboo’. Lighting throughout is bespoke and 300 paint- splattered lucky cats grace the bar wall. Heavy, specially commissioned gold cat chopstick
holders are a signature flourish and are apparently already being spirited away in pockets and handbags by light-fingered diners. Not something to be encouraged, but an indication perhaps that these witty elements are tapping into the zeitgeist.
‘AfroditiKrassa understood our vision from the start,’ says Ramsay. ‘The attention to detail and passion for perfection is what has made this such a successful partnership.’