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A cross section of France defines this deliciously decorated Sydney brasserie

Stepping into the space vacated by Toko in the midst of Surry Hill’s dining district, Armorica is perfectly tuned to the changing face of this perennially hip destination.

A cross section of France defines this deliciously decorated Sydney brasserie

With a design led by owner Andrew Becher and his design and construction company Venew Projects, Armorica takes its aesthetic from an archaic name for the area of France stretching from Brittany in the north-west to Paris. European modern in cuisine parlance, the menu is absolutely bistro and rightly so. Selections such as Mafaldine or Campanelle for starters can be followed by steak frites from the Josper grill (a Basque-style open charcoal grill), seafood or pasta, then Crème caramel for the traditionalist or perhaps the Armorica signature chocolate bar. There is, however, always a twist, such as sunrise lime, or Manjimup WA Truffles adding to the complexity of flavours. Moreover, there is an authentic edge to the menu such as the chat potatoes being cooked traditionally in duck fat with thyme.

No stranger to the restaurant world, Becher’s background is impressive, having previously worked for leading restauranteurs including Ian Schrager (Studio 54 founder, hotelier extraordinaire and coiner of the term Boutique Hotel) in London and New York and with Alain Ducasse for the opening of Spoon at the Sanderson Hotel in London. On returning to Australia, Becher has led a portfolio of successful restaurants and venues including Pelicano (Double Bay) and the Roxbury pub (Glebe). His latest are similarly impressive, and include Parlar, Sydney’s best Catalonian restaurant, and Franca Brasserie in Potts Point, which takes a Mediterranean slant on French cuisine.

Venew Projects - Armorica

For Becher, there has never been any equivocation about the design language suited to his restaurants: “I’m always involved heavily with the design. To get the result I want, without having to water down or dilute my vision of the project is paramount.” He also stresses the importance of the teams he works with. In particular, Contempo & Co. is credited with the industrial design and delivery of Becher’s vision for Armorica: “Carl Dolan and Michael Agostini, were incredible, they [Contempo & Co.] are one of the last metal spinners in Sydney, and they were able to create an entirely bespoke interior that is solid timber, solid marble and brass.”

Compounding the bespoke interior, Becher is adamant that all elements should be Australian and is particularly pleased with the rechargeable Neoz table lamps. “They’re the great Australian success story. They’ve gotten global reach into all the high-end restaurants around the world, all made here in Terrey Hills, Sydney,” says Becher, who has used them in all his restaurants.

Related: Jane by Luchetti Krelle, also in Surry Hills

Venew Projects - Armorica

Seating 170 (150 inside and 20 out), the restaurant is separated out along the long thin 500-square-metre footprint as booth and table seating, bar seating and private wine room and dining room to the rear. Booths are solid oak with cherry red studded leather over a good thick padding suited to long lunches. Paired to these are tan leather (with suede back) armchairs of generous portions.

“There’s a lot of masculine elements in the design, obviously the brass gantries, where the 30 millimetre naval brass [60%copper] definitely has that robust feel about it, a frankness that’s masculine, heavy set and bold,” says Becher. Splitting the tables into solid oak for window patrons and Breccia Pernice rose marble with brass rails for the more interior booths (the degustation menus are for four), the weight of each piece is balanced to its counterpart perfectly. New timber floors are again substantial, while the shift from carpet to timber has been countered by acoustic ceiling panels.

Enlivening the whole is a suite of contemporary artworks by American illustrator David Plunkert: “He had done some hospitality projects in the States, which really caught my eye previously. So, I approached David to commission four pieces for Armorica and he was very, very welcoming to the idea,” says Becher. With three original Alexander Calder’s in Parlar, Becher has a particular eye for pairing art to a space and worked with Plunkert to develop both the concepts and appropriate palette.

The result is four bold graphic images that anchor the space and expand the design language exponentially. Moreover, in being commissioned, there was no post-rationalising to the placement. Rather, each piece was designed specifically for their final home. They are also a whole lot of fun with images including a wild woman draped across a bull and an eagle flying off with a fish.

Venew Projects - Armorica

Central to the venue is a nine-metre bar that shifts from solid oak to marble as it expands back to include the open kitchen, where a total of 35 metres of Breccia Pontificia marble has been lathed to match the woodwork: “Euro Marble were able to carve marble (using machine-assisted programming) to deliver the same joinery pattern as the timber, so we picked up that detail,” explains Becher. Beyond the counter are bright walls of pillar box red Spanish tiles that give an instantly European ambiance to the whole and are one of the very few items imported for the project.

Venew Projects - Armorica

The private dining room is reached via a see-through wine room that effectively delineates the public and private dining areas. Functionally realised as a setting of six Breccia Pontificia marble and brass topped tables that can be arranged as a long table for 20, the private dining room is adaptable. “There needs to be the flexibility for a la carte to private dining that can be easily converted,” notes Becher.

Catering to the new era of Surry Hills locals as well as the eastern suburbs foodies, its location on the city fringe gathers CBD diners and more. “Especially around lunchtime, we get a lot of business people coming through,” adds Becher. “So, it’s a mix of people – it’s not targeted around one specific demographic but open to all and we get a really great cross section of society coming through.”  


Jennifer Soo

Venew Projects - Armorica

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