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Solving the fleur-de-lys challenge at Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa Piccadilly

June 2017

Jamie Oliver has opened his second Barbecoa restaurant, in the heart of Piccadilly. The restaurant is accommodated on two floors with seating for 285 diners and a sizable liquor bar. The design style draws on that of the1920s, blended with rustic glamour and luxury. The dining area boasts striking, tiled faience walls, bespoke-manufactured by the tile specialist Craven Dunnill Jackfield, which are focal points of the restaurant.

Martin Brudnizki Design Studio (MBDS) was lead designer for the project, taking it from concept through to completion. The company approached Craven Dunnill Jackfield June 2016, having already been in discussions with two other manufacturers which had expressed doubts over their ability to manufacture the magnificent, three dimensional tiles which were to adorn the top of 13 decorative pillars. Craven Dunnill Jackfield is acclaimed for its ceramic expertise and specialist hand-made tile production and was convinced a solution could be found. Its commitment and significant contribution to the project is acknowledged on the Barbecoa website. “In our opinion, the tiles in the dining room are the real showstopper. They started life as a simple 15cm inspiration image on a moodboard and were reproduced and scaled up to the size they are now by Craven Dunnill Jackfield – the only UK company willing to have a go.”

The building is steeped in history. It dates back to around 1881-83 and when built was officially opened by the then Prince and Princess of Wales. Today, Barbecoa is located on the two floors which were the home of the former Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, which occupied the space up until 1970. Two restaurants were housed in the public gallery: the Princes’ Restaurant and, subsequently, the New Princes’ Hotel and Restaurant. In the early 20th century these were converted to offices and part of the building became the Pigalle Club, where artists including Shirley Bassey and The Beatles performed in its heyday. Work on the design of Barbecoa commenced August 2013 and building started August 2016.

Constructing the restaurant proved to be quite a journey. The discovery of human remains dating back to the mid 1600s and mid 1800s required archaeological investigation and re-homing. In the process of opening up a chimney, a time capsule dating back to 15 January 1925 was discovered. It contained a menu and reservation card for the New Princes’ Hotel & Restaurant, which was subsequently used as inspiration for the interior design of Barbecoa.

The 285 cover dining area is located on the lower ground floor and features a striking 2.8 metres high by 11 metres long faience tiled wall on either side, created in jewel-green and white tiles, interspersed with thirteen imposing, ornately decorated, tiled columns. Each of the columns is crowned with a 500 x 600mm, intricately moulded fleur-de-lys, likewise made in ceramic. This motif is reminiscent of the 1920s, along with other features such as antique mirror detailing, chandeliers, art deco wooden floors and leather and mohair furniture.

Gemma Ball Senior Sales Manager at Craven Dunnill Jackfield reveals it was the fleur-de-lys tiles which proved the biggest challenge, as anticipated. “At 500 x 600mm the size was the largest, hand-made, 3D tile we had ever attempted to produce and manufacturing 13 matching ones was always going to need innovative and exacting skills. Initially, the plan was to manufacture them hollow and therefore lighter for installation. However, this technique was abandoned when trials resulted in sagging and cracking. We had to re-think the manufacture and decided to make them from solid clay. During trials, several changes to the specialist moulds were required, to accommodate the extraordinary size and phenomenal weight. The final mould when filled with the liquid casting slip weighed more than 100kgs and required several people to lift it!” Once biscuit fired, each fleur-de-lys was then dipped in glaze, using specially made glaze trays, and then fired once again to create the vibrantly coloured, crackle finish.

The ultimate weight of each fleur-de-lys had implications for fixing as standard methods would have been insufficient. In consultation with the Contractor Tekne Shopfitters, a solution was arrived at which involved drilling holes in the back of the fired piece, a highly skilled process, and attaching each tile to the wall with mechanical fixings. For each of the thirteen pillars, Jackfield also produced 92 upright and dado tile pieces, which were then fixed together on site. One tile was even custom-made to encase a light fitting. More than 6,000 green and white field tiles were dust pressed in two different sizes and then glazed at Craven Dunnill Jackfield’s second manufacturing facility in Stoke-on-Trent. The alkaline based glaze was specifically created to produce the desired crackle effect, specified colour and vibrant tone.

Craven Dunnill Jackfield has an enviable portfolio of successfully completed, bespoke tile projects to its name. These include period restoration work, such as that for The Palace of Westminster and London Underground, in addition to a growing number of hospitality projects, including venues such as The Blues Bar at Shoreditch and Brixton, Newcastle Theatre, St. George’s Hall in Liverpool and the Crown Bar Liquor Saloon which is a National Trust property.

For further information about Craven Dunnill Jackfield:  T: +44 (0)1952 884124

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