Swiss artists Ewan and Manuela Wirth of contemporary art gallery Hauser & Wirth are no strangers to ambitious hospitality projects. Through Artfarm, the hospitality company they launched in 2014, they take care of the Manuela Restaurant in Los Angeles, the Roth Bar & Grill in Somerset and the Fife Arms in Scotland, a hotel housing more than 14,000 masterpieces and artwork including Picasso and Freud. In August, the purchase of Groucho Club in Soho was also announced.
But last month saw the launch of their first project in London, The Audley, on the corner of Mount Street and South Audley Street in Mayfair. Even by their standards, it’s a “crazy project,” says Ewan, that gives them a place to entertain near their Savile Row. Gallery and an impending major space on South Audley Street (scheduled to open in 2024).
The building was erected in 1888 and designed by Thomas Ferretti, the man responsible for the exterior of the pavilion at Lords Cricket Ground, and formerly a hotel, then a pub with rooms for staff. Now includes The Audley Public House on the ground floor, Mount St all day long Resturant on the first floor and four stunning private dining spaces on the upper floors, with around 200 artworks displayed throughout.
The street level pub is the most faithful to the original. The tiled entrance has been renovated as well as the dark wood paneling inside. There are low stools, dark blue/gray rugs and black panels behind the bar. “‘What did they do?’ It would be the best compliment,” Ewan says of the traditional scheme. Although you should miss one major intervention: a boldly colored work by a British artist Phylida Barloww consist of hand painted paper, cut and assembled on the ceiling.
The 64-cover restaurant on the top floor is home to another prolific installation: the Palladian marble floor by American artist Rashid Johnson. Ewan and Manuela apparently enjoyed collecting pieces for the walls. Many of them have to do with food, including Lucian Freud shrimp platterHenri Matisse Éperlans (Fish-in-law), Andy Warhol crab And in the stairwell, the picture with ten pictures Ohne Titel (Wurstserie) by Fischli & Weiss. This 1979 piece is especially close to artists’ hearts as the work of Swiss artists and Cantata of Sausage is what drives Ioan and Manuela crazy. “We’re from St Gallen, home of the famous veal sausage called St Gallen bratwurst,” Manuela says. “It grows when you roast it,” adds Ewan.
Private dining spaces are designed on the second, third and fourth floors as well. The Swiss Room is home to paintings by Ferdinand Hodler and old Willy Guhl chairs. In the Italian room, Ewan said, “We should have had de Chirico.” Subsequently no Moses (1974), among other works. The highlight of The Scottish Room, which features a 26-seat banqueting table under a massive antler chandelier, is a 1740 painting by Bonnie Prince Charlie by Italian court artist Domenico Dubra. The games room upstairs, which consists of a lounge and bar, is dominated by smut. This includes a ceiling work by Ang Smith to reinterpret tentacle erotica (I had to look at that), vaginal studies by Ida Appleberg and something like a sausage by Robert Mapplethorpe.
The food, overseen by chef Jimmy Sheers, who previously worked under Gordon Ramsay, Chris Galvin and Wolfgang Puck, pays tribute to classic British dishes. Among those in the pub are the London rabbet, a dish of Welsh rabbet using London Pride and served on sourdough that you can pick up like canapé; and the London Particular, a hearty soup of peas and bacon whose name derives from the London mist, or “pea soup”. And, of course, there are sausages too, including St. Gallen sausage with mustard in a bread roll, just the way some Swiss fair-makers like.
The restaurant’s most elevated menu offers entrées such as Arnold Bennett’s omelette, mock turtle croquette and refined smoked eel with potato salad, followed by Pimlico’s Pigeon Squib, foie gras and mushrooms with smoked bacon sauce) and a delicious lobster pie for two. Desserts include peach-melba soufflé and raspberry (molded in the shape of a bunny).
“finally [our artists] You have a house in London. “They’ll always have a table here,” says Ewan. But will they have to pay (as they don’t at a Los Angeles restaurant)? “number!” Manuela says. “We’ll see,” says Ewan, almost simultaneously. Among the broader public, the hope is that people will come for the art. But will they leave with art, too? I mainly think of Paul McCarthy-inspired jugs of salt and pepper as a sex toy Tree. “I’ve stolen ashtrays all my life,” admits Ewan. “But we trust people. [At the Fife Arms] We only had one £5 print disappear from the toilet on opening day.” Besides, the glass towers are so heavy, it would be like putting an anvil in a pocket. theaudleypublichouse.com
This article has been corrected – the palladiana floor was originally described as a mosaic