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LAUNCH PAD [ new openings + refits ]

Flora Indica Fantastical Botanical!

venue conceived in the wild imagination of artist and designer Henry Chebaane, has eclectic interiors that almost defy description yet deliver a rich, elegantly layered experience. Te space has been designed as a tribute to


Victorian artists and scientists, particularly the Scottish botanists who travelled deep through the Indian mountains and jungles discovering, labelling and studying thousands of plants new to the public. Many of these plants found their ways back into British nurseries and botanical gardens, such as Edinburgh, Kew and Chelsea as well as becoming part of quintessential British life such as Breakfast tea, Branston pickles and Piccalilli. Te 19th century was a time of extravagant

residential development in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, fuelled by the increasing wealth of entrepreneurs and industrialists. It was also an era of great creativity for surreal and fantastic literature, from Lewis Carroll to H.G. Wells. So in true British eccentric style, Henry

Chebaane has created a unique blend of Kensington residential elegance, Victorian fantasy and postmodernist design, where the 19th century of forged steel, plaster moulding

f Alice and Mowgli had travelled through a wardrobe down a wormhole on Old Brompton Road, chances are they would have ended up today in Flora Indica. Tis all-day British-Indian bar and dining

and pressed tin is juxtaposed with 21st century resins, dramatic light fittings and luxury fabrics. Cool white marbled surfaces and silver

metalwork are offset by warm English oak flooring and panelling. Te seating has been upholstered in fashion-inspired combinations of fine vegetal-dyed Scottish leathers and woollen fabrics from the isles of Bute, Lewis and Harris. Te chairs and tables are all custom-designed, evoking the metalworks used by Victorian engineers such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Walls and shelves are filled with authentic 19th century artefacts evoking adventurous tropical explorations: pith helmets, walking sticks, microscopes, looking glass, apothecary bottles, jars of seeds, and original botanical prints. Te ground floor is a cocktail bar with 30

seats and high ceilings, while the lower ground floor dining room has 70 seats and a second bar suitable for a late night scene. Connecting the two floors is an oak and iron staircase integrated within an immersive art installation, also from Henry Chebaane that he calls a Victorian G.H.O.S.T. Tis is short for “Gintonicum Herbalizer Oscillator Super Transponder” - a fantastical retro-futuristic contraption spreading in all directions, designed in Steampunk style incorporating lighting, reclaimed distillery and industrial parts. It’s an homage embracing and condensing over 160 years of British sciences, technology and literature. From Maxwell and Faraday’s work on electro-magnetism to the time machine of H.G. Wells (published 1895).

It even includes a K6 phone kiosk repurposed as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Tardis of Doctor Who (of which a replica has been outside Earl’s Court station since 1996). Te GHOST installation is manned by a team of several dozen mice who are now “in charge” instead of being the subjects of experimentation. Tey are wearing lab goggles and gas mask, diligently working on botanical distillation and sublimation. Tis iconic piece of urban pop is a collaboration between artists Ron English and Henry Chebaane, debuting as a world premiere in London at Flora Indica. Flora Indica, 242 Old Brompton Road, London SW5. Tel: +44 (0)207 370 4450

GS Magazine 7

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