Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Wolseley Grand Café - London

The Wolseley Grand Café
160 Piccadilly (Green Park, Mayfair); 020 7499 6996
www.thewolseley.com (Tube: Green Park)
Open M-F 7.00a to midnight, Sat 8.00a to midnight and Sun 8.00a-11.00p.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner; morning pastries, afternoon tea and all-day menu of sandwiches, salads, crustacea and plats du jour. Coffee and tea served throughout the day.

Scones served at high tea.

The main dining room exudes an über-masculine atmosphere, tempered by good linen, silverware and impeccable service. Off to the side is a café with a more casual decór. Afternoon tea, served from 3:30-6:30, offers generous stacks of finger sandwiches, scones and pastries accompanied by properly brewed pots of tea.

In 1921, Wolseley Motors Limited commissioned architect William Curtis Green to design a prestigious car showroom in London’s West End. He drew on Venetian and Florentine influences and fashioned an interior of grand pillars, arches and stairways. The Wolseley cars were displayed on the marble floor and cost between £225-£1300.

A Wolseley motorcar radiator badge.

Unfortunately, the cars did not sell well, and by 1926 the company was bankrupt and shortly thereafter absorbed into the automotive group headed by William Morris. The last Wolseley automobile rolled off the assembly line in 1975.

Barclays Bank acquired the building, and the branch opened in 1927. William Curtis Green was once more retained to install offices and a banking counter. He also designed specialized furniture, including a post box and stamp machine, which are on display today. Barclays remained until 1999.

Chris Corbin and Jeremy King secured the site in July 2003 and its restoration and renovation was overseen by David Collins Architects. The Wolseley Grand Café opened in late 2003, and became the most popular restaurant in London, descended upon by celebrities. Its location, next to the Ritz Hotel, doesn't hurt business.