Restaurants

Frédéric Back first met the renowned interior designer and decorator Claude Hinton in 1952, when the theatre and television set decorator Robert Prévost recommended him to design gates for a Montreal restaurant. Their ongoing professional collaboration developed into a warm friendship. It was Hinton's support that helped Back receive an important commission for the stained glass mural in the Place des Arts metro station in Montreal.

Claude Hinton coordinated renovation and interior decoration projects but did not draw. It was thus Frédéric Back who provided him with perspective drawings and construction plans for buildings and even furniture. He was particularly appreciated for his ability to visualize new places to be created and to prepare eloquent sketches to win the clients' approval. He, in turn, was stimulated by the freedom he was given to invent and create things without having to worry about budgets. His collaboration with Claude Hinton ended around 1975 when his intense work in Radio-Canada's animation studio and his dedication to environmental causes left him little time to participate in interior architecture projects.

La Saulaie

In 1965, Claude Hinton was commissioned to build an elegant restaurant on a piece of land that included a brook and a pond overhung by willow trees. It was these trees that gave their name to the future establishment. The land was in Boucherville, across the river from Montreal. All that was on it at the time was an immense concrete slab and a few metal uprights. Frédéric Back did a sketch and plans for a traditional-style building to be erected on the existing foundation. He then did scale drawings of the interior, which was built by an experienced carpenter. It was also Back who designed the stone fireplace and its historical plaque, the sundial and the decorations painted on the kitchen and office doors. He also illustrated the restaurant's menu.

Hélène de Champlain

In the lead-up to the Montreal World's Fair in 1967, rather than putting up a new building for entertaining visiting dignitaries, Mayor Jean Drapeau decided to use the Hélène de Champlain Restaurant on Île-Sainte-Hélène. Claude Hinton, who was president of the Quebec association of interior designers, was given the commission to renovate it. He in turn asked Frédéric Back to come up with ideas for converting this great barn of a restaurant into a place of honour and prestige. Back prepared colour sketches of a luxurious decor with imposing chandeliers, enormous stone fireplaces with carved wooden mantelpieces, rich tapestries and Louis XIII-style furniture. He proposed an indoor gallery to permit people to move from one room to another without disturbing those in the grand central dining room. He also designed interior shutters to visually open up the narrow, deep-set windows and suggested table lamps and a whole series of sideboards, cabinets and stair railings. Practically all of his suggestions were accepted. He was asked to paint a large screen to divide up the restaurant's vast dining room and was given carte blanche for the subject. Since Expo 67, the Hélène de Champlain Restaurant has maintained its elegant cachet and continued to offer superb cuisine.

Roma Antiqua

A former Montreal store converted into a restaurant, La Roma Antiqua opened in 1973. It is built on two floors, with the second floor projecting over the street and an outside terrace. Its interior decoration was designed by Frédéric Back. In addition to murals depicting the ruins of Pompeii, he created decorative elements inspired by the Roman circus games, with the help of metal artist Jo Bergot. He also used a similar theme for illustrating the menus.

La Tour Eiffel

The Italian owner of La Roma Antiqua also owned La Tour Eiffel. Delighted with their work in his other restaurant, he asked the same team to create an Italian decor for La Tour Eiffel. Frédéric Back did a number of painted elements, a fake mantelpiece in relief and a pergola under the stairs. He also illustrated the menu.