Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stunning Savoir Faire

It is no secret that I like Art Deco, Architecture and good cuisine. I have always been impressed by the grand dining salons that graced the great ocean liners of the period between World Wars I & II, not only by the their stunning design, but also for the reputations they had for being some of the best restaurants of the world. It was said that more seagulls followed the French Liners than any other ships, just for the scraps that were thrown overboard.

I have always longed to dine in such spaces that take us back to another era. In Montreal we have Eaton’s 9th floor restaurant, which is sadly off limits to the public, just waiting for someone with the imagination and funds to turn it into something truly spectacular. See http://david-toms.blogspot.com/search/label/Eatons

While visiting Australia in March this year, the opportunity to dine in such a space escaped me as I just ran out of time. Neil Perry of Rockpool fame opened his new Rockpool Bar and Grill in the City Mutual Building in Hunter Street Sydney.

The City Mutual Building is an incredibly fine example of Art Deco Architecture in Sydney, considered one of the finest in the country, and the transformation of the interior into the Rockpool is nothing short of fabulous.

The space is pure elegance and Art Deco fabulosity, framed under two-story marble columns with stained glass windows, all trimmed in dark wood panelling. This space recalls the almost shrine like atmosphere that reigned in the dining salons of the Normandie and Ile de France. The space is also a thrilling mix of art-deco savoir faire with sleek understated modernism, enhanced by the sculptural display of thousands of Reidel glasses.

One of the highlights definitely has to be the ceiling in the main space and the bas relief which copies the sculpture from the entrance of the building of a couple sheltering themselves from the ashes of Pompeii. (Rather apt as City Mutual was in the Insurance business).

I know next time I am home in Australia I am making a bee line to this temple of cuisine, to savour my surroundings over a good glass of wine.


  1. I'm an art deco lover too...great images.

  2. What's not to like about Art Deco design and good food. I love the photo of the exterior of the building looking up.

  3. I don't know why but there is something special about dining in a space with excessive height. I think it must be the opulence that exudes in such places.

  4. What breathtaking Art Deco architecture. Reminds me of Rockefeller Center in New York. Much of the beauty of these interiors comes from the fine materials...bronze, marble, engraved glass etcetera, used in a very simple and refined way. It does indeed recall Eaton's College Street, The George V in Paris, and the great 1930s ocean liners. Interesting article and photos.

  5. P.S. Wanted to mention a Toronto architectural gem I discovered today. If you have a chance, you must visit the 1961 chapel of St. Joseph's Morrow Park on Bayview. It has to be the most exquisite modern church in Toronto and an outstanding example of mid century modern. Sadly, the Sisters of St. Joseph have sold the property and in the near future it will be closed. See it while you can.

  6. Just beautiful!
    It really must seem like being on a great ocean liner, doesn't it?

  7. Thanks for the comments all. It truly looks stunning and can't wait for next trip home to Australia, just to experience the ambiance!

    Mr SWF. I will definitely have to check it out. Sounds wonderful.


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