I was invited to Beast as part of the Restaurant and Bar Design Awards Talk session last Thursday. This was my first time attending one of these events, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, I needn’t of worried.
Hidden away on Chapel Place near Oxford Street, you could mistake the place as an up-market private gallery. It’s vast doors and unmarked entrance makes it somewhat daunting to enter. The top floor is sparse, filled only with a reception desk, chandelier and an 8ft wooden bear, so intricately carved that it avoids being intimidating.
The basement-based restaurant is equally as impressive. As the lift doors open you are surrounded by dramatically lit tanks housing live King Crabs and fridges full of obscenely large cuts of beef. As we waited for the talk to start, we loitered around the bar and wine cellar area which was a beautifully sophisticated space with minimal lighting and atmospheric décor.
Once seated, Andrew Harwood spoke passionately about the concept behind Beast which was inspired by the communal meals served in rustic huts to the Norwegian fishermen who catch the king crabs. The restaurant is made up on 6 massive tables, each one topped with a thick slab of oak measuring 6 meters in length. Long benches run the length of each table and their scalloped seats create a raw and brutal effect. The whole dining experience felt like a medieval banquet, somewhat theatrical and unfamiliar. The overall effect is softened by rows of flickering rustic candle chandeliers and ornate candelabras dotted along the tables.
I thought it an interesting concept to make a fine-dining restaurant communal. With a menu that is around £85 per head (without wine), you would expect to get your own table. However, as uncomfortable as it initially was, sitting next to a stranger challenges you socially. I found it interesting to see how each individual responded to this unusual dining style.
Overall, I found the experience fascinating and it really is a unique approach to fine dining.