12,000 Francs was the cash prize offered by Napoleon Bonaparte for the creation of a durable food preservation method for his army in 1795. Designed by Emma Maxwell in her signature layered worldly, and eclectic style, 12,000 Francs is a contemporary French restaurant, specialising in, in-house preserved dishes in Elgin Street, Hong Kong.
The interior is a playful blend of Napoleonic period references and sharp contemporary context. As guests walk through the threshold, they are wept from the chaotic and bustling neon lit streets of Hong Kong, and submerged into a seductive and evocative “other” world. The space is woven with Napoleonic narrative including the iconic Napoleonic bee, which was synonymous with his reign. Chosen by Napoleon himself, the bees virtues of collective organisation and industry were values that he hoped would by people though-out the French empire . The bee became one of the most prominent icon of of the French Revolution and they are strongly associated with the inspiration for the design of the the pre-eminent Fleur de Lis.
At the entrance, a long communal sommelier table greets the guest as they arrive. A large bronze cast bespoke designed Pig sits prominently at the centre of the table. He holds 6 bottles of chilled “wine in swine”. Its a playful nudge to the character Napoleon the pig from George Orwell’s Animal farm. Maxwell also designed the stools around the sommelier table.
As the guests venture through the space, dense clusters of hand blown, honey coloured glass Bee Hive pendant lighting float evocatively above them. The ceiling, treated with hand pressed brass metal in a bee wing pattern, and ensures the space is blanketed a soft, comforting amber coloured glow.
The rich narrative of the space is further articulated with Kerrie Brown, “Broken Green” wallpaper.
The pattern resonates with the memory of a 300 year old French Chateaus when the Napoleonic empire saturated Europes psyche. Brown, who designed for motion pictures, drew on her inspiration from designing films such as Don’t be Afraid of the Dark (Guillermo del Toro), Mao’s Last Dancer (Bruce Beresford), Babe for which she was nominated for an Academy Award (George Miller), The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion the Witch & the Wardrobe & Prince Caspian (Andrew Adamson). The wallpaper appears to sit like delicate layers of a patterned midian on the wall, as if one just opened the door to a long ago abandoned building. The heavy, rich maximalist pattern of the wallpaper is accentuated by the sharp narrative of monochromatic contemporary honey comb tiles.
The whole space is pulled into a central focus by the “hearth”, a wood fired oven. Set within the open kitchen, it enables the chef to survey his empire and directly interact with his diners. The space is after all a theatre for the chef and his diners.
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