Stateside, Jamie Oliver is known as an adorable British TV chef on a crusade to change the dietary habits of American kids. Back home, he’s also a culinary entrepreneur with a gaggle of Italian restaurants, including the chain of pizza joints called Union Jacks--the most recent of which features a pastiche of retro British culture.
Located in the Central St Gilles building designed by Renzo Piano, the two-story space reflects a marriage of disparate traditions: wood-fired pizza served up to diners in the middle of London. To reconcile the two, the local studio Blacksheep conjured up a feeling of postwar nostalgia using old TV sets (on which customers can watch the cooks at work), vintage-inspired signage, bold graphic prints, and beralware-like plates with a cheeky twist (their undersides read “stop looking at my bottom.”)
Inspired by some of the objects Oliver has collected during his travels, Blacksheep dotted the restaurant with bespoke trinkets, including 1970s-style knit tea cozies that cover the teapots on the outdoor café tables. The countertops are covered in graph-paper print, and the stools are reminiscent of a school science lab. Above the bar and workstation, a mismatched neon sign announces the restaurant name above an old-school diner menu.
The biggest challenge, says Blacksheep, was creating an intimate dining experience in a building where covering the glass walls was strictly verboten. The solution was to construct a partial box set back from the windows with three walls surrounding a central elevator shaft. The combined effect is whimsical without being cloying, a locavore’s version of Chuck E. Cheese.