Walk up to the second floor of Galeries Lafayette Champs-Elysées in the French capital and you’ll soon stumble upon a glorious setting of Mediterranean bliss where summer reigns all year long. This is Oursin, a restaurant by fashion designer Simon Porte Jacquemus and hospitality group Caviar Kaspia that opened last September. CovetED Magazine will let you know all about this amazing restaurant in the heart of the amazing French capital.
Whitewashed walls, colourful ceramics and rattan furnishings help channel sunny climes inside this Parisian restaurant, designed by the eponymous owner of cult French fashion label Jacquemus.
The restaurant is set on the second level of the BIG-designed Galeries Lafayette department store on the Champs-Élysées, a major avenue in Paris lined with luxury boutiques and eateries.
Born and raised in Provence in the south of France, the Mediterranean countryside is a constant source of inspiration for Jacquemus, as attested by Café Citron, the designer’s first restaurant for Galeries Lafayette Champs-Elysées located on the first floor. But whereas the latter has the outdoorsy feel of a Provençal village, Oursin has a more intimate vibe. Featuring undulating whitewashed walls playfully punctured by sculpted alcoves adorned with an eclectic collection of colourful Picasso-esque vases, bowls and other decorative objects that Jacquemus handpicked in flea markets or pried from his own personal collection, space transports guests into a rural courtyard in the South of France, to the property of some artist and gourmand perhaps, where art meets gastronomy.
Oursin’s sculpted, whitewashed interior undoubtedly evokes the vernacular architecture of Southern Europe. It also, however, draws inspiration from French architect Jacques Couelle whose sculptural, a grotto-like house in Provence Jacquemus has vacationed in, and multidisciplinary artist and South of France native Valentine Schlegel whose work combines organic abstraction with modernist simplicity. A vine tree climbing all the way to the ceiling at the centre of the room and the abundance of sunlight flooding through large windows reminiscent of Cezanne’s Aix-en-Provence studio, further imprint the sense of the Mediterranean summer as do the handmade wooden rattan chairs and the sand-coloured serpentine banquette seating.
The restaurant’s artisanal bona fides are not just limited to the handmade furniture and pottery filling the alcoves around the dining area as it’s also embodied in the decorative plates that greet guests when they are seated. Each of the 45 plates that Athenian ceramist Daphne Leon has hand-sculpted and hand-painted is unique, uncannily featuring a different dish or produce from the Mediterranean, from crab claws, scallops and sea urchins, which the restaurant takes its name from, to asparagus, aubergines and peaches, the latter delectably “served” pitted and sliced.
Playfully tiptoeing between naturalism and expressionism, Leon’s vibrantly coloured and glazed ceramic dishes are the product of a spontaneous process. Although colours and glazes were thoroughly tested in advance, she sculpted “everything in the moment which is very interesting because you don’t really know what the outcome will be until you open the kiln”, Leon says. “I didn’t want them to look real or perfect” she explains, as her aim was to add a funny note to the dining experience.
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