This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 edition of The High End magazine. For more information about The High End, click here.
Some designer labels have successfully expanded their style to include branded restaurants.
By Samantha Myers
Photo courtesy Burberry
In recent years, high-end fashion houses have begun expanding their brands into fashionable food ventures, ranging from fine dining locales to cultivated cafes and refined bars.
One of the most notable fashion designers to establish contemporary food businesses as a direct extension of a signature brand is famed American designer Ralph Lauren. In 1999, Lauren opened his first restaurant, RL, adjacent to the world’s largest Polo store in Chicago. Similar to his fashion ideology, the restaurant focused on American classics — but traded in its collared Polo shirts, cashmere sweaters and neckties for steaks, seafood, chops and sandwiches.
RL, along with his subsequent restaurants, The Polo Bar in New York and Ralph’s on Boulevard Saint Germain in Paris, all have found ways to embody aspects of his iconic style.
Lauren’s newest venture is Ralph’s Coffee & Bar in London, located just next door to his flagship European store — a space that spans over 3 floors of product — on the iconic shopping stretch of Regent Street. The club-like atmosphere offers a decor that fits the designer’s equestrian aesthetic, and utilizes materials such as leather, brass and dark wood paneling.
“Ralph’s Coffee & Bar is a natural extension of the heritage of Polo and will add yet another dimension to the worlds we create,” said Lauren of the bar’s opening in January 2017. “I’ve always imagined our stores as a place for customers to experience a world. [This location] will add to that experience by offering a warm, friendly place to sit cozily with friends and family to sip a cup of our distinctive coffee or toast a special moment with one of our unique cocktails.”
Ralph’s Coffee & Bar
Photo courtesy Ralph Lauren
173 Regent Street
Mayfair, London W1B 4JQ
Jonathan Hatchman, food editor for The London Economic, believes Ralph’s Coffee & Bar meets its intent and holds up the Ralph Lauren image. “The bar completely epitomizes everything expected from Ralph Lauren: from the equestrian and polo themed accents, brass-topped bar, saddle leather seats and a palette of rich browns and bottle green,” he says.
While the menu follows suit with American classics, it has also embraced European elements. The bar sells three signature cocktails specifically created for the London location: Regent Street Sour, Ralph’s Winter Punch and Ralph’s Evening Roast.
During his visit, Hatchman indulged in the bar’s beverages and complementary snacks — especially the “ludicrously delicious” breaded and deep-fried olives. “I particularly enjoyed ‘The Chairman’ — a rye whiskey cocktail with an absinthe rinse, both typical Sazerac components and one of my favorite cocktails,” he says. “The bar’s take on an ‘Old Fashioned’ was good, too, served in a huge polo-etched glass, made with woody Eagle Rare bourbon.”
Photo courtesy Burberry
Thomas’s at Burberry Regent Street
5 Vigo Street
London W1S 3HA
A few minutes down Regent Street, another famed fashion brand has quite literally broadened its label into a culinary eatery. Known for its iconic trench coats and classic trademark tartan plaid, British luxury fashion house Burberry is also giving its clientele an equally posh spot to dine as their clothes have given them to wear.
Named for its founder, Thomas Burberry, Thomas’s is described as an “all-day dining destination” within the company’s flagship London store. This particular location offers a special gift area, as well as in-store monogramming services so that leather accessories and luxury goods can be embellished with one’s initials.
With a menu ranging from lobster to finger sandwiches and English cakes, Thomas’s is a sophisticated cafe for both a shopping break or a social meal. What’s better than concluding a Burberry shopping spree with a fine cup of tea and a locally sourced lunch?
“All of the produce is sourced from British small farms and artisan suppliers, while the decor is quite simple with marble-topped tables, dark-wood chairs and plenty of natural light that floods the room,” says Hatchman. “Inside, the cafe is, essentially, a continuation of the store, with friendly, unthreatened service, as expected from a high-end retail space.”
“Thomas’s is very much an extension of the store,” says Hatchman. “It would appeal most to central London shoppers — either customers of Burberry, or surrounding Regent Street shops.”
Hatchman visited the store-cafe for Breakfast at Burberry. “For me, the quality of carefully selected produce really stood out,” he says. “In terms of food, the full English breakfast is a million miles from the greasy spoon classic, but it’s a fair, refined version that doesn’t skimp on quality or on the meat. I remember the black pudding being particularly delicious.”
Yet, aside from the cafe’s quite literal connection with its store, the restaurant refrained from becoming a physical manifestation of its iconic Burberry clothes. “Thomas’s is very much an extension of the store,” says Hatchman. “It would appeal most to central London shoppers — either customers of Burberry, or surrounding Regent Street shops.”
Rather than extend its brand, Burberry has extended its store’s space into the realm of nourishment. “I wouldn’t say that the cafe is a complete embodiment of the brand’s style,” he says. “But — like Burberry — the cafe is staunchly British and proud.”
Photo courtesy Burberry
Armani / Ristorante 5th Avenue
While Ralph Lauren and Burberry have effectively incorporated restaurants into their brand’s empire, others have been unsuccessful, with their restaurants disappearing quickly after the initial buzz diminished. Take Marc Jacobs Café in Milan or Cavalli Miami Restaurant & Lounge.
Armani, however, has not had a problem.
Across the sea, immersed in the heart of Manhattan overlooking New York’s own shopping stretch — 5th Avenue — is Armani/Ristorante, one of the slew of restaurants bearing the name of the Italian mega-designer. You don’t have to travel far to find a Giorgio Armani restaurant venture — Armani Restaurants have been steadily popping up across the Americas, Europe and Asia for years, and now have over a dozen locations.
Photo courtesy Giorgio Armani
717 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10175
This particular Armani restaurant can be found on the third level of the Armani/5th Avenue store. Designed by Fuksas, the heart of the building is the sculptural steel staircase that leads customers to and from Armani-curated shopping and dining. The restaurant incorporates an Italian-inspired trendy style through a commanding backdrop of black and white, sleek curves and straight lines and furbished LED lights that give it the edge it needs.
Armani/Ristorante is structured in true Italian fashion — antipasti, primi piatti, secondi, and also offers breakfast and lunch, most likely for visitors to its bustling store.
Although epitomizing Armani’s sleek, hard-edged style, Armani restaurants are beyond a re-creation of his style in restaurant format. In fact, his locations have bolstered into culinary expeditions and have seen partnerships with some of the world’s top chefs, such as Milan’s Armani/Nobu, where he created a restaurant with celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa. The polished restaurant is unmistakably Armani, yet has a warm Japanese influence in both the design details and of course, the food.
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