Cadogan Estate

Vardo Restaurant

Cadogan commissioned Nex following an international design contest that sought a distinctive new restaurant building as a focal point for the Duke of York Square.

Expanding the client brief, we looked to add further value by creating a dynamic and sculptural building that enhances its historic surroundings while incorporating new public space and greenery.


2020 FX Design Award
2020 RIBA Awards shortlist
2019 Royal Academy Summer Show
2019 AJ Architecture Tomorrow Highly Commended
2017 New London Architecture Award: Hospitality Project of the Year
2013 First Prize. International Design competition.

Responding to Context

Our point of departure for the design was a Grade II listed wall – originally part of an earlier military asylum on the site but which stood slightly incongruously at the edge of the square. The new building’s spiralling form is defined by a thin off-white concrete wall that curls upwards from the square, conceptually offering a contemporary continuation of the historic wall. 

While the main restaurant space can be seen as a classically-informed colonnade, its form and sense of movement give the restaurant an unmistakably contemporary character.

Glazing Innovation

The curves of the large plate glass windows within the colonnade echo the modernist façade of the Grade II* listed Peter Jones department store nearby, while pioneering technology continues that spirit of glazing experimentation. A bespoke steel frame allows the panels within the three wider openings to be retractable, completely opening up the ground floor space. This allows the restaurant to spill onto the surrounding Duke of York Square during fine weather while the roof continues to provide shade.


Although similar retraction systems have been installed outside the UK, all have used straight panels. This makes the restaurant the first example of a retractable curved glass system worldwide, celebrating a mechanism that is as strikingly simple as a weighted sash window, sliding down gracefully into a basement trench.

"When we launched the design competition for the Duke of York Restaurant, the brief was to create a ‘Chelsea Original’ - a sustainable, dynamic building that reflects our place-making vision. Nex embraced this ethos, creating a design that respects and complements its heritage surroundings, while representing the best in contemporary design.

Throughout the scheme’s development, Nex worked closely with the whole project team to deliver the restaurant, pushing the boundaries of innovation to bring the original vision to life. Now an unmissable contribution to the culinary revival taking place across the area, we’re delighted to welcome this new landmark for the King’s Road."

Hugh Seaborn CEO, Cadogan Estate, London

New Public Realm

At the outermost layer of the building’s spiral, an open staircase leads to a new roof garden above the restaurant. Open freely to the public and accessed independently from the space below, this garden is a meaningful contribution to the neighbourhood where people can sit or spend time among the canopies of surrounding trees, raised from the bustle of the busy square and road below. The roof is finished in wood, while large steel planters follow the spiralling shape of the building to introduce luscious planting, promoting biodiversity and enhancing the environment. 

Raw Materials

Inside, the concrete ribbon culminates in a service core and servery at the heart of the restaurant. The stone patterning revealed in the polished edges of the structural arches can also be seen in the black terrazzo flooring. Stone finishes are complemented by the metal wall panelling and the craftsmanship found in the acoustic ceiling. Ashwood slats are arranged to celebrate the building’s spiral form, adding a sense of movement to the space. Fabric curtains temper bright light from the large glass windows.  

Downstairs, the basement level contains a private dining space, the restaurant kitchen, WCs, and plants – including the trenches for the glazing mechanism where its large steel counterweights are housed.  


Driven by a fabric-first approach to reduce the carbon footprint, the building achieves a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating. Materials with a high green guide rating were sourced responsibly and used wherever possible. The concrete structure has a high thermal mass and insulation values, minimising heat transfer in summer and heat loss in winter.  Similarly, the glazing system has low solar transmission to further decrease heat transfer, with exceptional airtightness levels thanks to a bespoke sealing system.


The public areas are designed to be naturally ventilated throughout the year via the retractable windows. A high-efficiency air source heat pump supplies heating in colder months and cooling in summer, delivered via the ground slab. The basement is ventilated using a high-efficiency heat reclaim ventilation system. Throughout the building, lighting is provided by low-energy fittings. 

Click here to read a further case study on this project. 

"At Duke of York Square, we are introducing a state of the art new building into the historic environment: The restaurant, with its stunning organic spiral form, retractable glass walls and roof garden, uses cutting edge technology and design, yet fits seamlessly into its historic surroundings."

Viscount Chelsea, Chairman, Cadogan Estate, London

Vardo Restaurant
Cadogan Estate
October 2019
London, UK
£5.5 Million
Alan DempseyKeti CarapuliRowan MorriceKwon JungMatt HepburnJulian Raffetseder
James Britain
Structural Engineer: AKTII Environmental Consultant: E+M Tecnica Cost Consultant: Equals & TTPP Lighting: DHA Designs Landscape: Bradley-Hole Schoenaich Landscape Heritage Consultant: Donald Insall Associates Project Manager: Capital & Provincial Environmental Design: Eight Associates Planning: Gerald Eve Contractor: Westgreen Interior Design: Box 9