Many a brilliant idea has been born over a good meal. That old trope of the scrawled note on the restaurant napkin has given birth to more than a few successes—Southwest Airlines, trickle-down economics and at least two Harry Potter books among them. It serves to reason, then, that the way to creative enlightenment might just be through your stomach. That’s the idea, anyway, behind Tom Dixon’s Coal Office. The London restaurant opened last fall in the British designer’s Kings Cross store; a visit is as much an occasion to fill up as it is to get inspired.
Coal Office isn’t really about the food (though chef Assaf Granit’s midnight shawarma is plenty delicious). It’s about Dixon’s try-it-before-you-buy-it experience. That marble table you’re sitting at? It’s for sale. The Melt pendant light glowing overhead? Go ahead and
put it on your tab. The wine glasses? Walk right out the door with them. Dixon promises all of Coal Office’s bits are for the buying, and he’s not alone. As design takes over every element of our curated lives, the biggest names in architecture and interiors are increasingly taking their clients out to lunch (and dinner and drinks). In New York, Roman and Williams opened Guild, a store that complements its historic-with-a-modern-edge aesthetic with La Mercerie Cafe, a classic French restaurant helmed by Marie-Aude Rose where the ceramic dish on which your lobster salad arrived could be yours for $82. You can also snag the flowers, candle-holder and pretty much everything else right off your table.
For RH, experiential design dining has practically become old hat. The brand started the trend in 2015 with the Chicago 3 Arts Club Café and has recently expanded with new restaurants in New York and Napa Valley, serving up RH burgers and artisanal charcuterie in a breezy-yet-baroque setting. Again, almost everything—from the chandeliers to the seat cushions—is part of the inventory. And if it inspires you enough to put something brilliant down on paper, not to worry—that cloth napkin is up for grabs, too.