Oliver Peyton @ Royal Academy of Arts, London

Oliver Peyton @ Royal Academy of Arts, London

Interior design practice, Design Research Studio, under the direction of British designer Tom Dixon have recently completed the interior for the new Oliver Peyton restaurant at the Royal Academy of Arts, in London.

Oliver Peyton’s mission to breathe new gastronomic life into some of our most auspicious cultural institutions shows no sign of slowing down –  the project  opened on the 19th January, 2011 and coincided with the latest show, Modern British Sculpture, giving you more than one reason to head down to head down to Piccadilly.

Located beneath the galleries of the Royal Academy of Arts, The Restaurant ( originally designed by Norman Shaw in 1885 ) the space features celebrated murals by Fred Appleyard, Harold Speed, Gilbert Spencer and Leonard Rosoman ) has been lavishly designed by Tom Dixon and shows off dramatic sculptures and murals from the Academy’s own collection.

The refurbishment references the long and illustrious history of the Royal Academy with materials chosen to complement the existing fabric of the Regency building including marble, brass and velvet. The 2690 sq ft refurbishment features the new Tom Dixon Scoop upholstered chair and brass Etch shade as well as several more discreetly placed Tom Dixon products like the Glass Bead and Base Lights.

To extend the gallery experience for diners, Design Research Studio have designed a dramatic free-standing unit in the centre of the space. Consisting of a number of glass cubes, the structure houses an extraordinary selection of sculptures and busts dating back to 1897. The pieces belong to the Royal Academy of Arts permanent collection but have long been stored out of public view.

The dining area is divided into different zones, with each area inspired by the work of a different Royal Academy great such as Turner and Sir John Soane. The decor features an impressive glass installation housing sculptures from the Royal Academy’s permanent collection that have not been in the public view, and selected to complement the design. A striking bar made from handmade brick and lava stone from Mount Etna occupies the full length of one wall and also serves as a counter at which guests can have a quick lunch, tea or a glass of wine.

Head chef Andrea Zuccolo’s menu really shines. Inspired by the best of modern French, Spanish and Italian cuisines, Andrea’s dishes combine innovative techniques with delectably fresh ingredients sourced directly from some of Britain’s most passionate producers.

Be sure to check out our wine list too: not only does it showcase the best of Europe’s diverse wine regions, but each bottle features exclusive label artwork from one of the Academy’s esteemed artists. Peyton is working with artists to create bespoke wine labels, and hopes that soon “all the wine available by the glass will be by artists working at the Royal Academy”.

The Peyton & Byrne group is taking over the catering across four different spaces in this artistic doyenne on Piccadilly, with a new restaurant/bar as the focus for foodie proceedings.

The kitchen delivers an all-day menu of British-style tapas, including the likes of game broth with organic barley & root vegetables or Scottish razor clams with chorizo, garlic, parsley & breadcrumbs. Flexibility is the deal, so visitors can drop by for a cake & a cuppa, a glass of wine, afternoon tea or a three-course blow out.

sample menu

The deal is the latest arts venue contract for the group, which also has concession outlets at the National Gallery, the Wallace Collection, the Institute of Contemporary Arts and the Wellcome Collection, all in London. It will see Peyton & Byrneresponsible for creating and managing the four dining spaces at the privately funded institution on Piccadilly.

The Restaurant at The Royal Academy is open daily from 10am till 6pm, with dinner served on Fridays and Saturdays until 11pm. Come and join us in the day for a sumptuous breakfast, a decadent lunch or a long and lazy afternoon tea

About Oliver Peyton

Oliver Peyton was born in 1962 in County Mayo, Ireland.

He attended Summerhill College, Sligo where he completed his Leaving Certificate with one honour.

After leaving school Peyton headed to New York, “I spent six or seven months in New York. I got jobs, first of all digging artesian wells, then as a roofer with some very rough, tough guys. I’d get up at five to start at 6am, and these guys would immediately open a six- pack for breakfast.” Perhaps more interestingly, he also worked as a waiter in New York, before returning home in 1979 to start a scholarship at attended Leicester Polytechnic to study Textiles – he left after two years.

OP   > “restaurants should be about having fun”

Peyton’s first venture was in owning two successful nightclubs in the Eighties. Although he made a lot of money from them, he only ever saw them as a means to an end.

In the 1980s he opened two nightclubs – the Can in Brighton ( with DJ Fat Boy Slim )  and Raw in London – ( as well as importing Absolut vodka and Sapporo Beer ) but moved into restaurants in the early 1990s.

His first two major sites, the trendy Atlantic Bar & Grill ( off Piccadilly Circus which opened in 1994  ( closed 2005)) ,  and Coast in Mayfair, which opened in 1995, and took London by storm. Peyton also owned a number of other famous restaurants including ; Air (Manchester closed 2000), Mash (closed 2000); Air (closed 2000); Isola (sold 2004 after being merged with Osteria d’Isola) and the Admiralty restaurant and function rooms at Somerset House.

In 2002 Peyton took over the catering at London’s Somerset House museum and art gallery.

In 2006 Peyton’s company Peyton & Byrne (of which he is Chairman), sold their events catering division Gruppo Events, to listed catering company Compass Group for £3.6m.

After this the company changed direction, opening up a series of restaurants within famous London landmarks including; Inn the Park, located in St. James’s Royal Park (opened 2004); The National Dining Rooms and National Cafe, at The National Gallery; The Wallace Collection; Meals Heals and The ICA Bar & Cafe Institute of Contemporary Arts.

In addition Peyton & Byrne also have cafe/bakery outlets at Heals, The British Library, St Pancras International station and Wellcome Collection.

Peyton & Byrne, is run by his sisters Siobhan and Caitrióna and Marie and in addition to the restaurants, cafes and bakers also has an events division, Peyton Events.

Peyton is a well-known media figure in the UK, via both his work with the BBC and other media and speaking engagements, where he has been known to make controversial claims, such as:

‘Catering colleges are basically a stop-off before you’re sent to prison. They’re a disgrace.’

‘People say you have to sell Coca-Cola. Why do you have to? It’s a disgusting drink and it rots your insides. Smoke and take heroin instead – it’s better for you.’ Horticultural Trade Association’s catering conference in 2007

In late 2008, Peyton published his first cook book, The National Cookbook, in conjunction with the National Gallery (ISBN 9781857094275). The theme is the marriage of food and art, with over 100 modern British recipes alongside many of the National Gallery’s most famous works.

Peyton has an upcoming Irish TV series on RTÉ, called, Recipe For Success, where amateur cooks compete for the opportunity to turn one of their recipes into a product sold by a major Irish supermarket chain Supervalu.

great british menu judges

Since 2006 Peyton’s public profile has risen considerably after his regular appearances as a judge on the BBC’s Great British Menu.

He owns several restaurants throughout London, which, over the years, have been as much applauded for their architectural achievements as their gastronomic standards.

Peyton considers the most common mistake in the restaurant business to be lack of vision, which, he feels, transfers from food to design to everything else.

Peyton says: “I generally begin with a food concept, then start thinking about the design and how to amalgamate those things.” The entire dining experience is essential to Oliver Peyton. With this in mind, he always aims to create a great room, a great atmosphere, and then leaves the customers to enjoy themselves.

Peyton is described by his fellow Great British Menu judge Matthew Fort as the Phineas T Barnum of restaurateurs. “He has a penchant for the spectacular and the idiosyncratic,” said Fort. While he may not be quite the silver-tongued opportunist that Barnum – the 19th-century US entrepreneur behind circuses and freak shows – was, Peyton nevertheless has the Midas touch when it comes to opening food outlets and sports a remarkable ability to spot good opportunities and deliver products with a certain level of panache.

His reinvention from opening out-and-out restaurants, such as Atlantic Bar & Grill, to launching cleverly pitched cafés and eateries within museums and landmarks shows the rewards that can be achieved by the clever restaurateur who spots a hole in the market and creates a product to fill it. A slow colonisation of public spaces will undoubtedly continue from his company Peyton and Byrne.

His restaurants’ strong personalities – peddling honest, seasonal and accessible British cuisine – are slick affairs that seamlessly combine upmarket with midmarket and are neither too generic nor too fancy to alienate the huge numbers who traipse through their landmark locations each year.

Peyton’s participation in the Great British Menu has also made him something of a television personality and has given him further platform to endorse British cooking and ingredients – an interest that inspired his first cookbook, The National Cookbook, which he published in collaboration with the National Gallery in 2009

Jennie Bond presents as 14 British chefs search the country for the best regional produce to create the perfect four-course meal.Each episode on Great British Menu two chefs from a culinary region go head to head, trying to secure a place for their recipes on the Great British Menu. Sourcing the best ingredients from their local area, our chefs each create a starter, a fish course, a meat course and a dessert that they feel epitomises all that’s best about their beloved region.At the end of each episode the two chefs representing the featured region present their dishes to an expert judging panel who decide which chef’s menu goes forward to the national final. In the final episode the nation’s top chefs compete to have their dish chosen for the Great British Menu and the judging panel give their opinion on which they think deserves a place on the final menu.Deciding which 7 Chef s will make it through to National Finals is a trio of the toughest, most opinionated Foodies in Britain:Matthew Fort, Prue Leith & Oliver Peyton.

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