Live at Zédel

Reporter: Sandra Giorgetti

Dateline: 28th August, 2016

A theatrical setting

Brasserie Zédel may have opened only in 2012 but its walls tell stories going back more than a hundred years.

Originally the site of the Regent Palace Hotel a stone's throw from London's Piccadilly Circus, Brasserie Zédel forms part of a Crown Estates development known as Quadrant Three that claims to be the most sustainable building in Europe.

Today's interiors are neither contemporary—as might be suggested by that high level of sustainability—nor an echo of their Belle Époque predecessors.

That period is represented in the prints that line the stairs which take you down to the Parisian Brasserie from ZL Café by which you enter.

Under today’s architects, Donald Insall Associates, the refurbishment of the Brasserie area has restored or remade the Art Deco interiors created for the hotel in the 1930s by architect and stage set designer Oliver Percy Bernard.

Theatre ran though London born Bernard's veins. He was the son of a theatre manager father and actress mother, related on his father's side to actor Stanley Holloway, and twice married to performers. (Incidentally, he was father to, amongst others, drinker and journalist Jeffrey Bernard, as immortalised by Keith Waterhouse.)

The young Oliver Percy Bernard went abroad and worked on the Vaudeville scene in the US, but once back in Europe (he survived the sinking of the Lusitania returning home) he settled in the UK.

Over the years, his designs graced the British Empire Exhibition in 1924, the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in 1925 and Beecham's Covent Garden.

For J Lyons and Co, of Corner House fame, he created a number of visually striking spaces for the Strand Palace Hotel and the Cumberland Hotel which they owned along with the Regent Palace.

By today's more minimalist standards, there is something theatrical about Bernard’s revived designs.

With their gold leafed architraves, marble, brassware and mirrors, they must subliminally set the mood for those who have eaten in the Brasserie before going across the landing to Crazy Coqs for postprandial cabaret.

Of the four spaces that make up the Zédel business (there is also classic cocktail bar, Bar Américain) and despite its diminutive size, The Crazy Coqs oozes comfort and appeal.

An intimate, circular room, the curved walls embrace the space as they come round to meet the small stage, their line kinking to take in the shape of the large mirrored bar and banquettes whose fabric is a recreation of their 1930s original design.

Seating up to 80, Crazy Coqs has been the home of a popular traditional cabaret programme under the artistic directorship of writer, critic and director, Ruth Leon. (If you're wondering where you've heard that name before, Leon is the widow of critic, broadcaster and writer Sheridan Morley.)

With Leon’s four year tenure now over, there is a new kid in the block and Live at Zédel is its name.

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