Located next to Shanghai’s Natural History Museum, Oxalis is a new French restaurant that introduces a contemporary touch of the French countryside to the Chinese metropolis. Local design practice Sò Studio has swathed the space in light tones, natural textures and curvaceous forms that bring out a subtle rustic charm despite a thoroughly modern design language. Enhanced by large ceramic murals that create a lush backdrop of herbs, vegetables and fruits, the restaurant’s aesthetic of rustic refinement lusciously reflects the menu’s farm-to-table philosophy and seasonal ingredients.
Helmed by Chef Jonas Noël, the restaurant takes its name from oxalis or sourgrass, a flowering plant with a long history of culinary use in ancient cultures that was one of the first herbs that Jonas foraged when he started working with legendary Chef Michel Bras in France in 2008. The farm-to-table approach underpins Jonas’ cooking at Oxalis which he identifies as “bistronomy”, a mix between bistro and haute cuisine. Based on seasonal and fresh ingredients, the menu draws from his training in France as well as his five year sojourn in China, creatively appropriating Cantonese cuisine’s lighter and cleaner flavours.
A subdued palette of rattan, light wood and white marble dominate the interiors, imbuing the restaurant with a relaxing ambience enhanced by the floral design of the ceramic murals, while the use of arched motifs throughout the space in both decorative and structural elements reinforces the connection with nature by evoking greenhouse structures and growing stems. Just as diverse is the use of rattan screens, employed as partitions, canopies and decorative cladding, their semi-transparency softly filtering in abundant daylight courtesy of the floor to ceiling glazing. Banquet sitting, Thonet-like chairs and globe light pendants meanwhile imbue the venue with French finesse and a thoroughly bistro vibe. In juxtaposition with the light toned palette of the main dining space, the bar area is decorated with dark green hand-made wall tiles, which along with the mural’s rich foliage behind the 4-metre-long marble counter create a forest-like intimate ambience.
Measuring 12 metres in length and 2 metres in height and stretching in segments from the entrance to the main dining space to the private dining room, the lush ceramic mural was designed for the restaurant by illustrator Wang Zhe. Depicting “Reiki Plants and Animals”, the blooming forest scene is inspired by plants, fruits and vegetables growing in Europe and populated by cute animals and insects like butterflies, squirrels, hedgehogs and kittens, one of which cheekily depicts Chef Noël’s cat. The languorous nature scenes depicted in Zhe’s murals provide a lyrical counterpoint to the hectic back and forth in the open kitchen, lyrically encapsulating the natural cycle of gestation and bloom.