Jolene, the Eater London award winner for best designed restaurant of 2018, is notable for a number of reasons: It belongs to a small stable of restaurants owned and operated by chef David Gingell and frontman Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim; it quickly became one of the city’s essential bakeries as well as a neat addition to the wine bar scene; and it defied the odds by turning a previously doomed site into an all-day, everyday, hit.
Jolene’s beauty didn’t really come as a surprise. The owners of one of last year’s hottest restaurants have form. Cometto-Lingenheim and Gingell had already given the city two of its prettiest restaurants: Primeur in Canonbury and Westerns Laundry in Holloway. The pair elect a style that finds a niche between chics both industrial-utilitarian and a kind Gallic-pastoral. Cometto-Lingenheim prefers to describe it as “designed by budget restriction” and admits that after the kitchen had been kitted out at Jolene, he was left with £30,000 to play with.
About Jolene, he said that unlike the other two restaurants, they took over a ready-made restaurant in an “ugly new build”, so he had to first turn it into a “concrete box.” He was mindful that — since it would be a bakery — they had to find a sweet spot between quaint-romantic and their own industrial template.
It meant that they reconfigured a space formerly occupied first by Newington Table and later by Dandy — giving it a bigger bar, better bathrooms, and, based on the evidence to date — including becoming popular with a certain type of local millennial celebrity — a much more successful and sustainable business.
Below is a list of where almost everything on the premises is from and where to buy either the real — or next best — thing.
The white paint comes from Farrow & Ball and is one of the luxury brand’s many shades of white. It was painted directly onto breeze blocks. The precise colour remains a closely guarded secret, but keen eyes may or may not be able to locate here.
The lighting is something about which Cometto-Lingenheim cares a great deal. He’s willing to divulge information about both the strip lights on the walls and the globe lights above the bar for the simple reason that he is confident no one else will be able to find the exact ones anywhere, any time soon.
The strip lights, which feature at Westerns Laundry and Primeur, too are known as S14s architectural lights. They are designed for bathrooms, but were originally selected at Primeur because, Cometto-Lingenheim says, “you often get strip lights in a garage and we wanted to echo that character there.”
The version seen in Jolene and its sister sites is an incandescent light — Cometto-Lingenheim has in the region of 300 spares in lock up; they give 2,000 hours of light — which is no longer in production. The next best thing is an LED, available to buy here.
The globe lights above the bar came from an auction house — an opaline, Art Deco light in milk glass. Cometto-Lingenheim says the training to change a light bulb at his restaurant company is not a transferable skill. A similar style light can be found here.
The walls: The peachy coloured wet-look marbled walls are covered in “mud wash” mix of hydrolime (if using, wear gloves), plaster, and paint; the grey finish on the bar also uses hydrolime, combined with plaster, sand, sawdust, and other debris from the building site.
The bench beneath the blackboard, the wooden ‘gypsy split-handle’ rake, and the bunch of wooden kindling — known as hazel pimps resting on the corner of a shelf — came from Jeremy Pitts in East Sussex.
Chairs are not original, but remakes of the Thonet chair — a “bentwood” classic by the 18th — 19th century Austrian-German cabinet maker Michael Thonet.
Curtains are made from French linen and embroidered by chef Rita Paradis, who has her own self-declared “absolutely average. 4/10 tops” brand Stitch Up. Her wares can be found here.
The coat hooks next to the blackboard are known as a Shakers’ peg rail. The Shakers, a group of millenarian English Christians who emigrated to Massachusetts, and “their amazing craftsmanship” is a major source of design inspiration for Cometto-Lingenheim. An imitation peg rail can be bought here; just apply white paint.
The blackboard itself is easy to recreate. Buy a tin of blackboard paint and apply to a piece of plywood. Don’t use MDF.
The aged zinc-topped tables are bespoke. They are deliberately 4cm higher than most restaurant tables and only have one central leg. Cometto-Lingenheim says both considerations were designed to counter the often “awkward choreography” which results from badly designed restaurant furniture.
The pinky-red banquette cushions were designed by The Hackney Draper on Chatsworth Road — made from rejected materials from the fashion industry.
The bamboo pastry tongs were also found on eBay. He admits that he’s now found some nicer ones by a Japanese brand.
The ceramics — jugs, plates, and cups — are by Carmel Eskell in Bristol.
French Duralex glassware is used because sometimes it’s better to buy stuff that won’t break.
Shelving and all other wood was designed and made bespoke. Cometto-Lingenheim says that all the wood in Jolene was bought on eBay for £50. “It was rotting in a garage somewhere — they didn’t want it.”
The sink — known as a “school trough” — was found on eBay. These pieces are not necessarily bought for the restaurant; rather whenever Cometto-Lingenheim sees something he likes, he buys it and then puts it with his stash of S14s lights. If it doesn’t end up in one of his restaurants, he sells it.
The soap is from Emily Griffin at Mahala on Well Street in Hackney.
And last but not least, the potpourri, which lends the entire bathroom area a rich, Tuscan aroma is from Santa Maria Novella — a perfumery attached to the church in Florence. There’s a small store on London’s Piccadilly, too.