Since it opened in 1571, London’s Royal Exchange has been a hub for commerce in the heart of the city. Originally designed for trading stocks and later expanded to incorporate retail, it has been rebuilt three times, including the current 1844 version. These rich layers of history were the starting point for Royal Exchange Grind, a chic espresso and cocktail bar housed within the historic building. The project evolves the minimalist design language our studio has developed with entrepreneurs Kaz James and David Abrahamovitch, the founders of Grind & Co., for their other locations in Shoreditch, Soho, Holborn, Covent Gardens and London Bridge.

The building’s imposing neoclassical facade is characterised by arching six-metre-high windows that flood the space with light. The clean lines and elegant materiality of the new interior were designed to accentuate the tenancy’s heritage elements. To develop the interior scheme, we worked with a local heritage architect who guided us through the site’s history. Underfoot, we restored the century-old floorboards, employing the same herringbone pattern in the marble wall tiles that line the space.

In contrast to the other Grind & Co. venues, the marble counter and service area in this fitout read more as a bar than a cafe. The timeless material palette reflects the project’s context – located in a bustling commercial district alongside high-end boutiques, it attracts a sophisticated clientele. A sleek Carrara marble counter is paired with matt brass foot rails and hooks. Behind the bar, bespoke display shelving continues the brass theme, with bedknob-topped rods capturing a certain nostalgia. The service space was designed to enable quick takeaway orders while still offering comfortable dine-in options for those with a little time to linger.

The lightness of the interior fitout is manifested in the furniture choices, too. White three-legged stools with peacock-green upholstery from Danish design house Menu line up along the marble bench that gazes out the windows onto the busy London street scene. Up above, a playful and ironic neon artwork captures the Beatles’ immortal spirit – “Money can’t buy me love.”

“This project presented us with a truly unique site in one of London’s most recognisable architectural treasures. It was so important that our approach and the aesthetic respected the Royal Exchange’s history.”

“In developing the interior for this project, we wanted it to feel more like a bar than a cafe. The materials and colour palette extend this idea of refined, simple elegance, perfect for the area’s affluent clientele.”

“This project is really built on the details – every element from the custom brass-rod display shelving behind the bar to the amazing herringbone timber floor that has lasted over a century has been carefully considered. And the playful irony of the neon artwork ‘Money can’t buy me love’ gives it an underlying sense of fun.”

Biasol: Design Studio

Paul Winch-Furness

Royal Exchange Grind by Biasol | Café interiors

Paul Winch-Furness