Since 1914, the members of the Prix Goncourt jury have dined and deliberated on the first Tuesday of each month in the same Parisian restaurant: Drouant. The winner of this year’s French literary grand prize was announced on November 4 in the recently reopened 2nd Arrondissement restaurant, redesigned by Italian interior designer and architect Fabrizio Casiraghi, 33. In other words, the place of the institution in the history of France is as well anchored in the past as in the present.
Founded in 1880, Drouant was first transformed from a bar-slash-bistro into a gourmet destination in the late 1920s, in part thanks to French designer Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, who is often referred to as the father of style. French art deco. At the time, Ruhlmann was commissioned to bring the modest restaurant up to date. The restaurant remained in the same family until 1976 when it changed hands a few times before being added to the Gardinier brothers’ historic restaurant portfolio in 2018. Known for having acquired venerable catering establishments and Having modernized them from the past, the brothers were focused on preserving certain existing elements of Drouant while gently waking up this sleeping beauty.
To carry out this enterprise, the brothers called on Casiraghi, whose mandate was threefold. “They wanted a link with Ruhlmann’s design, a benchmark and respect for literature and the Prix Goncourt, and something cozy and comfortable,” Casiraghi told AD PRO during a tour of the recently reopened facility. He proudly points out how the three criteria were met. “First, we found original drawings by Ruhlmann of what he called the Drouant chair,” says Casiraghi. “We made them, according to his drawings, and covered them with a bright yellow fabric by Pierre Frey. Ruhlmann’s original staircase also appears exactly as it was first installed.
Casiraghi has retained all of the original rooms except for the rear ground floor, which it opened with a double height ceiling. The materials are all warm and soft – think walnut woodwork, lacquered walls, and plaster ceilings with patterns of marine life. (A few molds of the original reliefs were also strategically placed throughout.) And to complete the Prix Goncourt connection, Casiraghi hung 18 winning book covers in the back stairwell. A shelf of all the winning books from the first edition also appears in the library on the mezzanine level.
In addition to collaborating with Italian artist Roberto Ruspoli, who painted frescoes on the mezzanine, Casiraghi also worked with the restaurant’s creative director, Franck Durand, on the project. (Durand designed the restaurant’s menu, while the dishes were purchased from Christofle and Bernardaud.)