The writer Thomas Hardy memorably said, “There’s a friendly tie of some sort between music and eating.” I have always thought that this could just as easily read, “There’s a friendly tie of some sort between beauty and eating.” What greater pleasure than eating exquisitely in a dazzling environment?
At the moment, the place that enters my mind in this most sensual of contexts is Casa Cruz in Notting Hill. Put together by Argentinean banker and restaurateur Juan Santa Cruz on the site of a former Antony Worrall-Thompson restaurant, Casa Cruz is a lesson in impeccable homogeneity. Copper – a sizeable natural resource in Argentina – is polished to a stunning gleam and used in horizontal panels in alternation with matte copper over walls and bar.
Accents include an eye-catching stag’s head mounted on one wall, and more delicate panels of Asian-inspired pattern; the seating is a deep, rich green, and the floor has been placed down in a sunburst design which subtly reminds me of South America. This all serves to set off the copper even more; it is so clearly the star of this show, visually that is – and we haven’t come to the food, the other major player, yet!
As a designer, the decision to use one material so prominently is admirable and brave, and it completely pays off in this jewel box of a restaurant. The diner is placed in a strikingly distinctive environment set apart from reality; a voluptuous fantasy in which to luxuriate and innovate. As a design strategy, it is exhilarating and I would love to see how it plays out using other materials and in other spaces – retail, perhaps, or in the home, although this would perhaps need to be carried out in a slightly more ethereal way.
I am quite taken with the design decisions made for the bathroom also. In stark, yet tactile opposition to the copper, transparency and clarity are celebrated in infinity in this mirrored chamber. The last time I visited, a bunch of red blossoms placed by the sink was the perfect punctuation mark. Another contrast to the copper on offer is the heated roof terrace off the upstairs dining room, where you can retreat for a reminder of the outside world if you so desire.
My senses still taking in the luxurious visual and material stimuli, I sit down to eat the wonderful, simple food, perfectly complementing the lush surroundings, as well as the organic and biodynamic wines it is paired with. Fabulous cocktails are also on offer – anything else would be doing an injustice to that spectacular copper bar in the centre of the main room.
As you would expect from an Argentinean restaurant of this calibre, the meat is of the highest quality, and prepared to highlight its natural attributes rather than mask them. The vegetable side dishes are suffused with zest to provide culinary proportion, and the puddings deeply indulgent. The pureed corn and sumptuous flan (in any of the guises on offer) are standouts in my book.
I am already mentally scouring my address book to find delightful companions with whom to enjoy Casa Cruz repeatedly.