Plaza Athenee

Plaza Athenee

An Haute-Cuisine Restaurant & A Fantastical Bar

The bars and restaurants of classic luxury hotels are the focus of attention: places for meeting and for conviviality. The ambience that they generate is an important part of the international profile of these establishments.

To create a brand new look for the bar and restaurant at the Plaza Athénée in Paris, François Delahaye and Alain Ducasse called once again on the talents of the Jouin Manku design studio, entrusting Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku with the interior design of these two spaces. This is the continuation of a long standing relationship – Patrick Jouin had already worked on the bar and restaurant here on three separate occasions (2000, 2001 and 2004), even before his partnership with Sanjit Manku.

In 2000, his audacious, contemporary approach propelled the Plaza Athénée bar into the list of the world’s most fashionable addresses. In the same way, his sleek decor for the Alain Ducasse restaurant, a majestic interpretation of traditional design codes, has proven highly influential.

Plaza Athenee

In 2014 the idea was to push the boundaries even further and propose a totally new vision for these two spaces. Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku conceived a project full of fantasy and wonder, featuring key architectural elements that showcased the savoir-faire of numerous craftspeople.

For the Plaza Athénée, Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku worked in a way similar to the great fashion designers by surrounding themselves with the most talented craftspeople to make every detail of the bar and restaurant a part of the vision.

The ADPA restaurant

With the complete support of Alain Ducasse, Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku imagined a place with a dramatic and remarkable aesthetic that breaks all the standard rules for 3-star restaurants, enhanced by the work of the exceptionally skilled artisans and craftspeople. A big change in this iteration of the restaurant is that now the room will house not only one, but two restaurants: one ambience for breakfast and another for the haute-cuisine restaurant, differentiated by the tableware, the lighting and totally different spatial organisations.

As you enter the restaurant, your attention is drawn to the monumental polished stainless-steel domes on the floor that reflect the thousands of floating crystals of the ceiling chandelier, the only retained element of the restaurant’s former design. These super-scaled and unusual domed shapes form the backrest of banquettes where diners can sit, or screen off groups of tables and chairs. These domes, a witty and elegant twist on the traditional domed plate cover are made by ‘Meilleur Ouvrier de France’- artisans at Matinoxand Le Floc’h.

Plaza Athenee

On the left, a striking timber alcove wraps itself around a single table where diners receive a dedicated service and benefit from greater privacy. The outside of the alcove is in unfinished timber, made of strips of curved oak joined together in a shape somewhat reminiscent of the hull of a fishing boat. This piece of ‘micro-architecture’ gives a simple material – wood – a theatrical presence within the overall decor. At the same time it highlights the overall character of the project, which places itself somewhere between refined simplicity and elegant authenticity. Nestled inside the wood shell is a leather banquette that fills the width of the alcove while the alcove’s inner surface of moulded plaster is finished with a surprising motif: the imprint of the restaurant’s old screens that were decorated with embroidered details of vegetables. Like spirits of the past, their stylised trace remains.

Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku have created four luminous and intriguing screens that are used to structure the restaurant space. Built by Rinck and using the same woven metal fabric Patrick Jouin had used for the restaurant’s curtains during a previous re-fit, the screen’s uppermost section is a polished stainless steel ‘mirror’, whose reflections make the space feel larger.

Plaza Athenee

A thread linking the history of the Plaza Athénée and the new restaurant is Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku’s redesign of the service trolleys. To the existing trolleys – very proper objects and a particularly traditional feature of the gastronomic world – the designers have added a touch of mischievous humour, making them more casual, with white spoked wheels like those on a bicycle. All of the technical parts and the trays have been redesigned in stainless steel while the silver domed plate-cover has been conserved in its original state.

All the items above are clearly visible in the day, but at night the room reveals a secret.  Something reserved especially for the diners of the haute cuisine restaurant of Alain Ducasse. The wall at the end of the restaurant, with its traditional wall sconces and large mirror, begins to open. Cleverly hidden on both sides are full height doors that open to reveal a wooden lined chef’s cabinet of treasures: a display of objects illustrating the history of the art of tableware. Mixing pieces drawn from Alain Ducasse’s personal collection with pieces chosen to represent the most important French manufacturers, such as Christofle and Saint Louis, this treasure chest is a conversation piece and a tour through the history and heights of French savoir-faire. The giant wood cabinet of wonders also adds warmth to the room that is further highlighted with the warm lighting emanating from inside that also complements the light emanating from the screens as well as warm glow of the wood alcove that sits close by. This cabinet of curiosities is only visible to Alain Ducasse at le Plaza Athéné ediners, because in the mornings with the lights extinguished and the doors closed, its contents are hidden behind the central one-way mirrored glass.

The dining chairs, manufactured by Poliform in Italy, have a leg detail like a sledge runner that glides noiselessly in and out from under the table. Soft, padded leather seats have been designed for maximum comfort.

The tables, an important feature of a restaurant meal, are left uncovered. The beautiful materials used to make them are highly tactile and sensual: solid oak for the table top, leather underneath, and stainless steel. The quality of the materials selected by Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku are an equal match for the excellence of the food prepared by Alain Ducasse. The visible grain of the oak, a testament to its age and history, beautifully worked by cabinetmakers Rinck, heralds a new era for the haute-cuisine restaurant, where purity and simplicity are part of each and every refined detail.

The bar

Here Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku have taken an audacious, creative approach. A tension has been set up between the ceiling and the bar to create a singular sensation. This dream-like decor plunges the visitor into a very particular atmosphere that lends itself to emotion and encounters.

The space unfolds beneath a deep, infinite blue – the ceiling disappears behind an informal installation of fabric clouds. The visitor’s gaze is lost in this depth of material without end. As the hours pass, the boundaries between floor, walls and ceiling dissolve in a clever play of lighting developed with Philippe Almon.

Plaza Athenee

The ethereal bar, as if had come from another world, is made from a single outsize block of transparent resin and appears to levitate in the space. Like a reference to the ether, the bar captures swirls of alcoholic vapours in its transparency – a key, enigmatic piece for this space, it adds to the sense of mystery and suggests a space where the rules no longer apply.

Behind this translucent arc, bar staff have a central island in polished stainless steel where they prepare cocktails – there are no bottles arranged behind the bar here, instead carafes designed by Patrick Jouin are set into the island, which is then lit with a glowing ring like shape that hovers above.

Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku set the scene for a space where time is suspended. Far from the established or expected style for a hotel bar, the new bar at the Plaza sets its own scene, enabling clients to enjoy fresh, new experiences, in an astonishing space.

To create this otherworldly experience, every detail has been made to measure, from the carpet, whose rich brown colour and graphic pattern lightens as it nears the bar, to the ceiling and the furniture.

Plaza Athenee

The seats of the sofas and low chairs with their timber legs are highly refined with their saddle-stitched leather and elegant, understated couture silhouette. They are reminiscent of the interiors of the most beautiful cars. As night falls, their dark colour blends into the surroundings in the intimate atmosphere created by the soft glow of the cast glass, disc-shaped lights.

And here other pieces designed by Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku come into play. To enable a variety of configurations for socialising and for privacy, the designer duo has come up with new typologies of furniture – along the wall opposite the bar, mid-height banquettes are punctuated with inset occasional tables. Five screens of different heights made in timber and stitched fabric, wrap around areas of seating and low timber and leather poufs, creating less formal areas than the high seats arranged around the bar. Thanks to these different pieces, Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku mix ambiences and create intimate areas at the heart of the bar space.

Finally, to add a personal touch throughout, Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku have designed three types of glass and a carafe. Made in Murano from blown glass, these containers provide the finishing touches that give the bar, run by Thierry Hernandez, a unique character.

Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku have orchestrated an astonishing space, where the depth of colours, ranging from brown to blue, plunges the visitor into an unreal, timeless environment.


 About  Jouin Manku

Tandem, singular, multicultural, ambitious, neither architects nor designers: Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku invent a trade at the crossroads of industrial production and the long tradition of craftsmanship.

By combining their experience and concordant conceptual/experimental approaches, they recognised the opportunity for a dynamic collaboration that would break down the boundaries between object, interior and structure.

One of the fundamental values of the agency is reinventing itself with each project by working on a unique conception. There are fundamental ideas and design philosophies that inform every project from ceiling height to door handle

A team of 20 individuals, designers, interior designers and architects work together to push back the creation.

Plaza Athenee



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