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Yeah, it seems to be going great. We’ve had lots of lovely busy nights and the lunchtime trade is starting to pick up. But you have to build these businesses – everyone on the outside expects them to be sudden successes.
Not really, because you style a restaurant to your area, and Merchant’s Tavern (pictured, below left) suits Shoreditch. I think as long as you understand what you’re offering with your restaurant, it will work very well.
The idea behind Merchant’s Tavern was to create a fabulous local restaurant that we would use ourselves, that appeals to City people and local people, but with food that will encourage people to come from further afield. We wanted a really relaxed environment with really well-crafted food, and that’s what we’ve done. So far, people like it.
I’ve never really had any kind of plan. Things just happen and you either go with them or you don’t. I get offered quite a lot of things and I probably say no to more things than I say yes to – I only go with things that feel right. For me, it’s not necessarily about the site or the project; it’s about who I’ll be working with.
I think some people have five- or 10-year plans, where they want to have 20 Michelin stars by a certain age. But I think things snowball – one opportunity begets another.
I don’t ever regret having turned something down – I’m quite fatalistic, so I think everything happens for a reason. I think if you really want something to happen then you’ll make it work – you’ll pull out all the stops to get it.
You get some quite obscure offers asking you to advise on this and that. But it doesn’t matter how much money people throw at me – if I don’t want to do it, I won’t do it. I can’t tell you any more about those offers though!
At the moment I’ve been spending a lot of time helping to set up Merchant’s Tavern, and now it’s getting into its stride, I’ll pull away from it a bit – I’ve no intention of cooking there. Likewise, at Café Murano, I’ll help develop the menu and oversee the restaurant, but [head chef] Sam Williams is more than capable of doing that herself. To be honest, where I want to cook is at Murano and Hartnett Holder & Co because my name is attached to both of those restaurants.
I never had any doubts: I’ve seen the site work as Pétrus with Marcus as head chef and I know that it’s a great site. It’s at the right end of St James’s, so it picks up some of the Piccadilly trade, and you’re right next to Fortnum & Mason and The Wolseley; I couldn’t ask for anything more. It was more a question of time: within a month of me seeing the site we’d agreed everything, so we turned it round very quickly.
No, not at all – I was laughing about it with Marcus the other day. I think it’s a great kitchen, it’s lovely and big and and the footfall is great.
It certainly wasn’t anything to do with nostalgia. I’m going back because I know the concept we’re going to do – an easy-going, Italian restaurant – will work. People will be able to pop in for a glass of wine and a plate of pasta, or they can come and have three courses, or just a drink at the bar.
It’s been brilliant so far. I love working with Luke [Holder] – he’s a great head chef, he’s seen a lot and he knows a lot about Italian food, so we learn from each other. It’s nice.
It was more a case of thinking about the restaurant concept and how we wanted it to work within the hotel. We wanted a restaurant that would allow people who were staying at the hotel to eat there every day of their stay if they wanted to, so it’s a long menu. We also wanted a dining room where people could come either in their jeans or dressed up for a big family occasion. Between all of us, we came up with a restaurant we thought would work – and so far it has done.
Nothing at the moment – I’m fine for now. Although I never say never – an opportunity might come up and whatever happens will happen.