Britain’s first purpose-built Victorian gym has been transformed into a Mittel European-style dining destination in London’s King’s Cross.
The gymnastics building was designed by local architect Edward A Gruning in the 1860s. It’s since been used as offices, retail and most recently an exhibition space.
Allies and Morrison were tasked with stripping the building back to its original structure, work we previewed this spring. Now design studio Conran + Partners has converted the space into a ground-floor Grand Café, with a restaurant and bar on the mezzanine reached by two new steel staircases.
The most significant architectural feature is the vast trussed timber roof design. The firm’s lead designer Tina Norden says that when Conran + Partners became involved, ‘it was not possible to see the beautiful roof from below. The first floor was continuous with only a small cut out and a very basic staircase running in its centre.’
That roof is now the centrepiece of the design, and the original hooks that held gym equipment support lighting.
Conran + Partners have embraced the gymnastics theme, creating a pattern in the new marble flooring that harks back to gymnasiums of bygone times. Meanwhile the gold mesh screens on the mezzanine floor reference Victorian fencing masks.
The menu too reflects the building’s Germanic heritage and includes goulashes and sausage dishes, as well as traditional kaffee und kuchen, served at 4pm.