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Restaurant Visit: Mãos at Blue Mountain School, London’s Creative Club of the Moment

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Restaurant Visit: Mãos at Blue Mountain School, London’s Creative Club of the Moment

October 16, 2018

After opening Hostem and The New Road Residence, what’s a visionary creative couple to do? The answer for James Brown and Christie Fels was to establish the Blue Mountain School in London’s Shoreditch, a clubhouse, in their words, “dedicated to nurturing engagements and interactions between diverse practices.” Translation: The six-story brick structure, overhauled by 6a architects, serves as a place for inventive comrades to show their work and for others to browse, buy, and eat. It’s intended to regularly evolve, and currently houses among other things, the Hostem “fashion archive” on the ground floors, a multi-room gallery on the top, plus a perfumery, a listening room, and the London outpost of Tyler Hays’s BDDW.

Brown says his goal was to “create an environment where people can have a dialogue under one roof,” and that is particularly possible at Mãos, the resident restaurant, which has a single table for 16. Right now, it’s the proverbial room where it happens. Come see.

Photography by Johan Dehlin, unless noted, all courtesy of Blue Mountain School and 6a architects.

the school is located on the corner of redchurch street in a building that 6a r 9
Above: The school is located on the corner of Redchurch Street in a building that 6a reinvented, starting with the facade of silver brick and galvanized steel that shimmers in the sun. Diners enter through a private stair on the left, and the restaurant occupies the second floor.

The architects worked in close collaboration with Brown and Fels: “We had intensive weekly design meetings with them for the better part of two years,” Fels tells us. “We project-managed the build ourselves, so we know how every element came together.”

a central oak stair serves as the spine of the building. an oak framed window o 10
Above: A central oak stair serves as the spine of the building. An oak-framed window on the second floor offers a view into the kitchen at Mãos: “During the day, visitors glimpse the chefs preparing the evening service,” explains Owen Watson, the project’s lead architect.
on arrival, diners are served appetizers in the kitchen, which 6a outfitted wit 11
Above: On arrival, diners are served appetizers in the kitchen, which 6a outfitted with bespoke cabinets of Douglas fir topped with stainless steel.

The restaurant is run by Portuguese chef Nuno Mendes, a good friend of Brown’s, and was conceived by the two of them as a place to redefine the traditional dining experience: “Mãos was created with the humble dinner party in mind,” says Brown. “The design was to be domestic,” explains Watson, “but also to work hard for Nuno and his team. There’s an exciting tension between its professional performance and needing to feel at home. Guests chat to the chefs beside the vacuum sealer, blast chiller, and Japanese krono grill.”

handmade azulejo, traditional portuguese tile, line the walls; they&#8\2\17 12
Above: Handmade azulejo, traditional Portuguese tile, line the walls; they’re made by Ratton of Lisbon and incorporate 6a founder Stephanie Macdonald’s sketches of plants and flowers.”The drawings bring a sense of spatial depth and irregularity to the walls,” she says. “The idea was to give the chefs a visual relaxation and extend the narrow garden into the space.” 
 the dining room has raw gypsum plaster walls &#8\2\20;spread roughly by h 13
Above: The dining room has raw gypsum plaster walls “spread roughly by hand, rather than smoothly floated,” specifies Watson. “Unlike the white plaster in the States or mainland Europe, British plaster is naturally pink.”

The communal oak table was designed for the space by 6a and fabricated by Blue Mountain School’s in-house wood shop: “It had to be long to seat 14 guests, but also feel intimate and communal rather than ceremonial,” says Watson. The Comb-back Windsor Chairs are by Christopher Howe and have a surface that’s blackened by charring. The handwoven wall hanging is by Alexis Gautier, the first artist to be shown in the in-house Blue Projects gallery. It’s available via the Hostem Archive, a permanent collection of art, artifacts, and fashion on view in the two lower levels.

the meal—\14 small courses with a portuguese and japanese inflection—is pr 14
Above: The meal—14 small courses with a Portuguese and Japanese inflection—is presented over the course of two and-a-half hours during which guests are encouraged to explore the adjacent wine room and even to wander into the kitchen. The menu is only presented at the very end as a reveal and a souvenir of the night.

Shown here: grilled leak wrapped in kombu with raw cream and sour juices of mooli and cucumber. Photograph by Tomas Jivanda.

blue mountain school&#8\2\17;s roof terrace, home to its listening room, wa 15
Above: Blue Mountain School’s roof terrace, home to its listening room, was designed by Valentin Loellmann. It  includes a bar with patinated copper doors; during the warm months, diners at Mãos come here for drinks. (An exhibition of Valentin Loellmann’s sculptural furniture is currently on view just downstairs at Blue Projects.) Photograph by Jonas Loellmann.

For more details and reservations, go to Mãos.

Go to our London archive for more recommended restaurants—including Rochelle CanteenSpring at Somerset House, and Rawduck in Hackney—and much more.

Thinking of plastering your walls? Go to Remodeling 101: Modern Plaster Walls, 6 Ways.

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