Architects Transforms Jellied-Eel Restaurant into Eyewear Store

The local Studio EBBA Architects has designed a store for the eyewear brand Cubitts that preserves and takes over the original interior of the traditional 1930s restaurant F Cooke on London’s Broadway Market.

The Restaurant, which sold Cockney dishes like jellied eel and cakes and porridge, had been located on East London Street since 1900, but received a modernist update in the 1930s.

EBBA Architects transformed the space into a 145-square-foot Cubitts store, but retained almost all of the original interiors of the Grade II-listed restaurant, which had not been occupied since 2019.

F Cooke’s marble tables have received new Stained birch plywood legs and now contain spectacle matters in a sunny shade to match the original wall tiles.

“The tables are original, but we designed the legs to look like a new feature,” Benni Allan, founder Of EBBA Architects, told Dezeen.

“The table has just been cleaned,” he said. “Imagine how many beautiful cakes were eaten on this table.”

“I think the good thing is that everything under [the tables] had this warm enough treatment to create a beautiful texture and a beautiful Tone, then everything above is much brighter.”

The Studio has also kept the original stained glass windows and the counter where the food was served and transformed it into a point of sale, while a glass repair station fills the window overlooking the street.

Light yellow tiles lined with contrasting sapphire and turquoise tiles adorn the walls. These are the original 1930s interiors and have been cleaned with “a lot of elbow grease,” Allan said.

In the main showroom of the two-storey store, the Studio also kept the mirrors of the restaurant and removed only one of them to create a Showcase and a point of sale.

“All the additions are some kind of annexes or accessories based on the original structure,” Cubitts founder Tom Broughton told Dezeen.

On the ground floor, EBBA Architects carried out other interventions because the room was dark and was not furnished at the same level as the main room upstairs.

“It was really quite dark and dull out there, so the colors from above informed that really bright Orange in the stairwell,” Allan said.

The Studio used tinted plywood to create a sliding wooden screen with a square pattern based on the tiles of the main store, as well as a bright staff room with a “secret door”.

He also added tiled floors with a decorative pattern in a color scheme that refers to that of the restaurant.

“At the top there are these very beautiful and intricate details, so we wanted to reflect that here with these different patterns in the floor,” Allan said.

The ground floor also houses the glasses testing center, located under the street above.

Broughton and Allan tried to keep as many original details of the Restaurant as possible. The tank in which the live eels were once kept before being cooked is located downstairs in an outdoor area and the Restaurant sign is above the front door.

One of the benches where we sat and ate was placed in front of the store. And the Cooke family behind the restaurant chain – which still has two outposts -lent Cubitt some of their original cake pans alongside the bowls serving jellied eels and a photo of founder Bob Cooke.

The Cubitts Broadway Market store is located in an area that has been increasingly mired in the last decade, with many local stores being taken over by chains.

Although some people are nostalgic for the days when the store was a cake and porridge shop, Allan and Broughton said there had also been positive reactions to the renovation

“People were really excited that it stayed the same,” Allan said.

“Someone could come here in a decade or two and put it back in a cake and porridge shop. Even though [the changes] seem targeted, it’s a pretty light touch. If anything, we gave it a new lease of life because it was actually pretty dirty.”

This is also the general tactic for Ellen, Broughton said. When looking for new stores, the brand focuses on finding spaces with existing interiors, with other outposts located in a nineteenth-century townhouse in Belgravia and a Victorian arcade in Leeds.

“Ideally, [the store] already has this existing structure and framework that you can put away and add a little product and a few accessories,” he said.

“And that’s the very beautiful thing, isn’t it? If you can take something that is already beautiful, give it a new life and make it relevant to someone today, that’s really cool.”

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