Hanging with the supers: The incredible art of The Audley


There are few addresses in Mayfair, let alone on the majestic Mount Street, where the interior is rumoured to be worth more than the bricks and mortar itself. And even fewer that, despite this fact, could fool you into thinking that they’re just a laidback local pub.

Cue the Audley – public house on the ground floor, glorious restaurant on the first, and themed private rooms as you make your way up – where Artfarm (the company behind The Roth Bar & Grill at Hauser & Wirth Somerset and The Fife Arms in Braemar) has let the Warhols, Freuds, Picassos, and Matisses run riot along its custom curated walls.

The ground floor pub has been restored to its original listed glory – pints have been pulled here since Edwardian times – while very much retaining an authentic atmosphere (though Barbara Windsor vibes this ain’t: it’s still Mayfair, darling). And while from the outside a simple sign declaring ‘sausages’ beckoned, once inside, it’s impossible for your eyes not to immediately be drawn upwards to a specially commissioned ceiling by British artist Phyllida Barlow. An exuberant collaged mosaic of hand-painted paper in a range of hot colours, it is inspired by the curvature of the pub windows, which contrast brilliantly with the dark wood interior of the bar.

Other notable artworks within the pub include Martin Creed’s Work No. 671 Friends (2007); Rodney Graham’s A Glass of Beer (2005) and two works by Don McCullin: Hessel Street, Jewish District, East End, London (c. 1962) and Bradford couple having tea (c. 1970). A genius juxtaposition best admired over a beef and dripping sandwich or piping hot sausage roll.

Other pieces include framed photos of Winston Churchill, who briefly lived above the cigar shop at 105 Mount Street, original James Gillray caricatures and James Ogilvy strip maps, plus framed cartoons from social satirist George Cruikshank.

As I make my way upstairs, I’m slowed by a good 20 minutes of rubbernecking. I am particularly drawn to the clusters of hand-written recipes – from chorizo quesadillas and apple crumble to a ‘pesto for papa’ – collated by friends, family, chefs, and artists from around the world to create a private cookbook for co-owner Iwan Wirth. I also can’t help but touch an ornate ceramic sink filled with what appear to be real mangos and am amazed to find it isn’t a basin masquerading as a fruit bowl but the very clever and tactile Wash Before Eating (2018) by Subodh Gupta.

We have Paris-based design and architecture studio Laplace, headed by Luis Laplace and Christophe Comoy, to thank for the magic Artfarm has created within the walls of this historic building. “The celebration of London, art and gastronomy are key to understanding the concept behind the Audley,” says Laplace, when we catch up after my visit. “Using the much-loved Zürich-based kronenhalle as a reference, we set out to design a contemporary interpretation, which was both a challenge and a privilege.

“By collectively sharing our language and universe with the artists involved, we have created coherent spaces in which art and design flow naturally, avoiding the pitfalls of obsolete artistic or aesthetic statements.”

mount street restaurant

Born and educated in Buenos Aires, and having worked internationally from New York to London, Laplace’s signature style is somehow both audacious and classic, setting the perfect stage from which the work of these extraordinary artists and artisans can shine. He specialises in projects that synthesise artworks with their surrounding space, taking a sensitive approach to the conservation of existing structures – making the Audley a dream undertaking.

Even the ground beneath our feet in the restaurant has been commissioned by American artist Rashid Johnson. Titled Broken Floor (2022), it’s hard not to feel guilty walking over the dazzling mosaic of different marbles. “It’s my favourite room in the building,” says Laplace, “because it was the most complex one to create… it has taken time and patience.” The walls are almost frivolously filled with contrasting and clashing pieces, the likes of which would never normally be neighbours in a standard gallery setting, all fantastically slung side-by-side like posters in a teenager’s bedroom.

Even those who know little about art will recognise hero works by Lucian Freud, such as Self Portrait: Reflection (1996), A Plate of Prawns (1958) and Child Portrait (1962). There’s also Andy Warhol’s Lobster (1982); an Henri Matisse, Éperlans (Smelts) (1920); and a Frank Auerbach, Primrose Hill, Summer (1968), thrown in for good measure. All these are hung alongside totally disparate works from the likes of Georgio Morandi (Natura morta (1946)) and Keith Tyson (Still Life with White Carbs (2022)).

The integration of art and design continues throughout: table lamps are inspired by the iconic 1918 Powder Box by late Swiss artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp, while the salt and pepper cruets take their shape from American artist Paul McCarthy’s much-discussed Tree (2014) sculpture (and are the one thing Laplace would take home if he had to pick). Dining chairs by American artist Matthew Day Jackson sit alongside bespoke aniline leather tabletops by Bill Amberg Studio and custom-designed banquette seating by George Smith.

But you haven’t seen anything until you head upstairs to the Curious Rooms – also known as the Swiss, Italian, Scottish and Games rooms, in that order – each available for private hire and each with its own powerful design story to tell.

The Swiss Room, swimming in natural light, is bright and crisp, popping with dark, forest green and pale, sugar-almond pink. The hand-crafted European oak floor, separately stained by artisan Ian Harper, is designed to resemble a Sophie Taeuber-Arp watercolour, while scenic oil paintings include mountainous landscapes in complementary shades by famous Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler. Undoubtedly the most understated and neutral of the rooms, its paired-back elegance speaks volumes.

More is more within the Venetian-inspired Italian Room & Bar: think Carmella Soprano with superb taste. Perceptibly inspired by palazzo interiors, the floors and centrepiece bar feature Italian Verde Api green marble and artwork by Giorgio de Chirico, who founded the scuola metafisica art movement, including personal favourite La Muse (1974). Lavish and plush, the space is cocooned in velvets and come-hither upholstery in warm tones of mustard and wine. For Laplace, it’s the Lucio Fontana artwork that really grabs him here. “I have always been a huge fan.”

Already a favourite with King Charles, (who called to reserve the room before the paint was even dry), the Scottish Room, inspired by the history of the Highlands and sister property the Fife Arms, is anchored by an enormous tangle of antlers suspended from the ceiling. Designed by Laplace and created by Gareth Guy of the McLean Horn Shop in Braemar, its energy is such that it commands the room.

Wood panelled throughout, and framed in an exclusive red, blue and green tartan, regal watercolours take hold of the walls. Pieces include Prince Charles Edward Stewart (‘the Young Pretender’ (1720- 1788) by (Giorgio) Domenico Dupra; The Dee near Balmoral by Alfred de Bréanski Snr; and The Old Bridge o’ Dee nr Braemar by JW Davidson.

the scottish room mount street restaurant

The Scottish Room

The Scottish Room also features an intriguing collection of swords, taxidermy, and other objects – all sourced from the Fife Arms’ collection of Jacobean artefacts and antiques. With seating for just 26 around the bespoke, nine-metre Scottish oak table (featuring 38 unique Jacobite cockades in memory of the Glen Coe massacre of 1692), there’s no room for last-minute spares here.

The Games Room – also known as “the naughty room” according to my guide – is a clandestine enclave with a bar, card table and lounge seating. It’s an intimate and private space, with a comfortable lounge area, a card table, and a private bar with bar seating. As befits a room designed to hang out in late into the night, the decor and atmosphere is dark and subdued, with deep red walls, dark lacquered joinery, dark glass tops, rich carpets, and bewitching golden lighting.

Hand-painted directly onto the circular ceiling of the famed Audley turret (a snug little make-out spot if you’re not too claustrophobic) is an ‘artist intervention’ by Anj Smith, Octopia (2022). Reinterpreting ‘tentacle erotica’, it is too tempting not to touch. A coquettish portrait of a lady bursting out of her bustier – Untitled by Cindy Sherman (1988) – looks out to the main room, setting the tone with a teasing glance. Laplace just wishes there’d been a garden in the mix, too.

Cramming so much into this unsuspecting Mount Street space could have been overwhelming, but it just isn’t. “Absolutely [every artefact] has a story,” says Laplace. “Nothing is by chance.” It also couldn’t feel less like a sterile gallery. This is the perfect setting for this glorious anthology of artwork ‘supers’ to shine – and most importantly, to be enjoyed. Just be careful where you stand with that Aperol…

The Audley, 41-43 Mount Street London, W1K 2RX; theaudleypublichouse.com

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