Mick Fleetwood, Fleetwood Mac

Mick Fleetwood in Maui, Hawaii 2016 © Daniel Sullivan
Mick Fleetwood in Maui, Hawaii 2016 © Daniel Sullivan

It has been 50 years since Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Peter Green formed Fleetwood Mac. “Is it over yet?” laughs Fleetwood, who sits across from me swilling a hearty glass of wine that matches his red leather boots. It’s 10.30 in the morning.

Fleetwood is jet-lagged. He is over in London to promote the release of Love That Burns: a gargantuan chronicle of his childhood and Fleetwood Mac’s first eight years on the music scene. “We had a really busy day yesterday, but I think I went to bed too soon. It was like a gig – I should have unwound.” Despite being a little spaced out, once he gets going, he is in fine form. He is intimidatingly tall, which contrasts with his gentle nature; the iconic figure exuding the easy-going demeanour – and sartorial nous, with his Liberty print shirt and black velvet waistcoat – of someone who has experienced first-hand the highs and lows of the golden age of rock and roll.

Fleetwood, alongside John McVie, has been a constant in a band that has seen many significant line-up changes. He is often seen as the band’s driving force, pushing the band through the decades. “It’s somewhat fair to say that I’ve been the cheerleader creature that has always said, ‘We’ve got to keep going!’ – even to the point of overdoing it,” says Fleetwood openly. “But hey, this has been my life! John said to me the other day, ‘Fuck! This is what they call a career!’ It has consumed parts of our lives.” Despite the band’s longevity, Fleetwood is clearly still puzzled as to how the band has overcome obstacles that would break most bands. “We’re all over the place. Sometimes we don’t work enough; then we’re all falling in and out of love; and then there’s the sadness of people’s personal journeys. You just think: how are we still here? It’s a miracle.”

Alongside releasing some of the 20th century’s most iconic albums, Fleetwood Mac has sustained due to Fleetwood’s perseverance – while honouring the talented and influential characters that have coloured the band’s past. Love That Burns takes in the years 1967 to 1974 – the period before Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham came into the fold and 1977’s Rumours was yet to be conceived. “It’s fair to say that a lot of people are only really interested in the latter years; but I’m very happy that we were able to do this – and it stands on its own for that very reason. This book is about the foundation that led to you-know-what – which is why it was so important for this to be separate,” he says, noting that this is just volume one of the story.

Fleetwood says that it is his duty to put the spotlight on those players who helped shape the band, but no longer have a voice to tell their story. “It’s important for me to wave the flag. I’m still in the band that was started 50 years ago. I’m really proud of everything about the book and what’s in it – and speaking for people who, in my opinion, have no concept of what they did – like Peter Green and Danny Kirwan. And of course, Bob Welch isn’t here anymore,” says Fleetwood, remembering three of the band’s iconic players. “It’s appropriate that these people and the different incarnations of the band don’t get forgotten.”

It is a rarity that a band can experience obstacles, line-up changes and shifts in musical styles and still survive across decades – a fact that Fleetwood is aware and proud of. “There’s no band that did all that weird shit, frankly. It’s an odd story with that many personnel and musical changes. If you put a few of our records on at the same time, you would wonder if it was the same band. But there was a whole energy that survived those changes,” he says, noting the importance of McVie and himself being at the heart of the band’s work. “The fact that the rhythm section stayed the same has something to do with a connective that still lives and breathes today.”

Alongside Fleetwood and McVie, who have provided the band’s deep, in-the-pocket grooves, Fleetwood Mac has brought the talents of many great musicians to the fore. Alongside guitarists Danny Kirwan, Jeremy Spencer and Bob Welch, who Fleetwood says he has “huge amounts of regard for”, there is a zealous dedication to highlighting the impact founding member and former Bluesbreaker, Peter Green, had on the band. “Peter is my mentor in many, many ways – and a dear friend,” he says. “I just fell in love with Peter and his playing; he was everything to me. That’s fairly evident in the way this book has been put together. Not to diminish Bob Welch and other members that came in and out, but I think it’s appropriate, because Peter is the reason why we are here.”

Green, responsible for penning classics including ‘Albatross’, ‘Black Magic Woman’, ‘Need Your Love So Bad’ and ‘Love That Burns’, from which the book takes its name, is a pioneering blues guitarist that gave the early band a true originality. In 1970, Green’s mental state began to decline – purportedly brought on by an LSD trip. “I basically lost him, and he lost his place in the world in many ways. That was his life, and there was sadness and tragedy to it; but you’ve got to get over that and just say, ‘This happened; but look at this! Look at the music; hear the music; feel the music! And it’s profound.

“Peter’s music speaks for itself, but having the position to be doing this, to be talking about it, is important to me. I love doing it, and he’s certainly not going to do it,” says Fleetwood, breaking into a cackle.

When he’s not cajoling his Mac bandmates into working again, Fleetwood is happy in his home of Hawaii, swapping arena tours with blues jams in beach shacks. “Either way, once I get going it’s all the same, as long as I’m sweatin’,” he says with a grin. “I love to play and I get to play a lot in Hawaii – mainly at my own restaurant.” He must be relieved to be taking it easy after 50 years in studios and on the road; but he tells me that despite the band’s history resembling a “Shakespearean play”, there has never been a dull moment. “I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that everyone takes those journeys… but it has never been boring – never been boring.”

Manish Mehrotra, chef, Indian Accent

Chor Bizarre stood on Albemarle Street for nearly 20 years, attracting spice lovers with Indian dishes steeped in tradition. Now, the restaurant has closed – ending the London run of one of the most well-known purveyors of Indian cuisine.

Chef Manish Mehrotra, Pic Courtesy - Rohit Chawla (4)

But London is not losing a top drawer Indian restaurant. Indian Accent, operated by Old World Hospitality – the hospitality group that counts Chor Bizarre as part of its stable – is moving into the space, and promises to bring an even more stellar offering to seal London’s reputation as a bastion of contemporary Indian cuisine. “We were running this restaurant for almost 20 years,” says Mehrotra, who ran the kitchen between 2006 and 2010. “Now it’s time for a change. Indian Accent has been in Delhi for the last eight and a half years – and last year we opened in New York, which is doing very well. We felt it was time to reinvent Chor Bizarre and get Indian Accent in there.”

To say that the Indian Accent brand is doing well is an understatement. The Delhi outpost is the only restaurant in India to feature in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017; it was also awarded the San Pellegrino Best Restaurant Award in India by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 for the third consecutive year. The New York opening, though having launched recently, has been garnering acclaim from The Big Apple’s in-the-know foodies. “Our makhan malai – a kind of milk foam which was invented in India during the Mughal era – was one of the top 10 dishes in New York in 2016.”

Mehrotra’s pedigree, and the praise heaped on both sites, suggests that Indian Accent London will be equally as impressive. But with a bevy of tongue-tantalisingly good Indian restaurants in the area, including Jamavar, Gymkhana, Chutney Mary and Benares, does he feel the pressure? “The pressure is always there, because I’ve tried all of these restaurants. They are fantastic restaurants,” concedes the chef. “Regional cooking, and especially home cooking, are huge influences on my dishes. There are very traditional dishes that people never used to put on a restaurant menu – but these feature on my menu – with my twist to it. I think these are quite different to what other Indian restaurants are doing.”

His mission is to bring a more boundary-pushing form of Indian cookery to London – in which he puts the spotlight on the myriad down-home dishes cooked throughout India’s vast regions, but prepared to exacting standards from unexpected angles. “I want to take Indian food forward. India is such a large country and people outside of it don’t know much about Indian food,” explains Mehrotra. “We have food for every palette in the world – unfortunately we are famous only for curries. We have so much more to offer to the world.” He says that compared to other global cities, London is a lot more experienced when it comes to Indian food. “The London market is quite evolved in terms of Indian flavours, if you compare it with New York, Paris or Berlin; people know about Indian dishes, but there is still more to offer.” He says that people are becoming more educated about Indian food, and it’s down to him and his contemporaries to articulate the true spirit of Indian cuisine. “People are travelling to India, and Indian chefs are now doing things outside of the country, so the public are becoming better educated. Whether it’s Gaggan in Bangkok, Atul at Benares, Floyd Cardoz in New York, or at Gymkhana or Jamavar; we all have the same goal of trying to tell people about real Indian food. We want to get more respect for Indian food.”

According to Mehrotra, this increased knowledge of Indian food allows him to serve dishes exactly as per his vision – undiluted for foreign markets. “I wanted to tell the world that you don’t have to change anything. I really want to showcase the type of flavours I work with in Delhi; I do the same in New York and I’ll do the same in London,” insists the chef. “If you see an average Indian eating at home, they don’t eat spicy food; India is a land of spices, but India is not a land of chillies. Chilli only came into our cuisine about 250 or 300 years back. My dishes are more of this home flavour profile.

“That is a misconception about Indian cuisine – the same way we Indians have the misconception that people in the West can’t handle chillies and spices. But it’s not true! I was surprised when diners in New York were comfortable with the level of spice in what we do. I didn’t have to do anything different from what we were cooking in New Delhi, and it was fine with everyone!”

doda barfi treacle tart, vanilla bean ice cream

Mehrotra and his team are currently not looking further than London. “At the moment, we have no further plans for expansion of Indian Accent. We started in India, and now we have a presence in New York and London – two of the great foodie cities. Perhaps, if it becomes very lucrative, then we might think of doing something,” he says, laughing, “but for now, it will be Delhi, New York and London only.”

Alain Ducasse, chef

ADAD_20-07-16- Alain Ducasse & Jean-Philippe Blondet ®pmonetta-8032

Ostensibly, I am sat in the plush promenade of The Dorchester to interview Alain Ducasse about the 10th anniversary of his three-Michelin starred restaurant at the hotel – a milestone that assures the restaurant’s reputation as an institution on London’s dining scene. But it soon becomes apparent that Ducasse is keen to speak about something else entirely.

The influential French-born, Monégasque chef tells me that he has a new vision – not only for his restaurants, but for the wider culture of food and drink. Ducasse says that he is embracing sustainability in a grand way.

“We need to rethink the way we feed ourselves. The planet is able to feed everyone, but we have to rebalance how we consume. People who are overfed have to think about the way they consume, to allow people who are underfed to access resources. This is very important to me.”

In 2014, Ducasse took a quantum leap forward at his three-Michelin starred gastronomic temple at the Plaza Athenée, Paris, introducing a new style of cooking he calls ‘cuisine de naturalité’ – which eschews meat and dairy and puts the emphasis on locally-sourced ingredients.

This was a radical move for such a respected restaurant, particularly in Paris – a city that’s food culture is centred around animal produce. “The idea is to focus on vegetables, grains and fish. The codes for haute cuisine can be seen as produce like foie gras; but we wanted to show that we could do haute cuisine without focusing on meat.

“What we produce at the Plaza Athenée is still beautiful – the level of excellence is very high,” says the chef matter-of-factly, “But it’s key to have less protein, less fat, and also less sugar. We are creating a cuisine that is healthier for us as guests, but is also more sustainable and better for the planet,” he says. “That is my new vision.”

ADPA-Petit epeautre de haute provence a la truffe noire racines kumquats-(c)pmonetta (2)

Removing meat and dairy from the menu was already a bold move, but Ducasse didn’t stop there; he has also installed further initiatives in the kitchen to ensure that the restaurant is as sustainable as possible. “We make sure that we use every bit of produce. Less waste is key. For instance, we use the roots of endives to make stock. We use the leaves from other vegetables to make condiments. We try and use everything – my aim is to no longer have bins in the kitchen,” says the chef, who participated in Dan Barber’s acclaimed wastED pop-up at Selfridges that put the spotlight on the importance of reducing food waste.

Jean-Philippe Blondet, head chef at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, explains further. “In restaurants, you see that all the produce is the same size – but we don’t care. If a carrot is a strange shape, it doesn’t matter. If the beetroot is big, we don’t mind. It’s natural.

“What we are looking for is the best produce – the most fresh and organic we can find in the UK. We use everything we buy and put everything we get on the plate, just in a different way.”

“Today, we believe that big portions are synonymous with quality, which is not the case,” says Ducasse. “Big portions normally mean waste, which is a shame.” As well as using every bit of produce that comes into the restaurant to minimise waste, Ducasse’s restaurants also source ingredients as locally as possible, from trusted suppliers that share the same ethos. “In Paris, we work locally and with the seasons; the vegetables are grown in Versailles, a few kilometres away, and they are delivered with an electric car. It’s an economy of proximity.

“The key is to work with produce that is harvested when it’s at the perfect maturity, at their best.” He says that finding the right supplier has long been integral to his work; but the changing food culture has allowed him to embrace the idea more fully. “Sourcing has always been at the heart of what I do. Behind each ingredient is a man or woman who is the link between the produce and us. They allow us to have knowledge of these ingredients as well.

“There is a farmer in the countryside outside of Beijing who produces organic vegetables,” says Ducasse, noting that his sourcing philosophy extends throughout his global stable of restaurants. “It’s remarkable the work he is doing there – everything I tasted was to perfection. He decided to grow everything organically, with the idea of sustainability. He has 47 tunnels, but he doesn’t heat them which leads to less pollution.”

Ducasse believes that it’s only a matter of time until a more empathetic treatment of the environment is the zeitgeist. “People everywhere have realised that it’s now a necessity to go in that direction – to be able to feed everyone as well as preserve and protect the planet. It’s important to see these men and women standing for these ideas and facing big companies that are producing massively, and it’s important for us to support this work.”

The tricky part is to have a lasting influence on the culture, in order to create a better environment for ours and future generations. Ducasse sees the world’s finest restaurants, such as Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athenée (number 13 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants) and his spot at The Dorchester as arbiters of change. “It is key for me and restaurants like ours to highlight these issues and create awareness. Haute gastronomy is a way to share this knowledge. That’s how I can access the media and really spread the message.

“Much like haute couture with fashion, haute cuisine is necessary for the evolution of the industry. Haute couture will influence prêt-à-porter, like haute cuisine will influence the rest of the food industry,” he says, stating that daring moves from restaurants towards sustainability will have an impact on the wider food culture. “It starts in Paris at the Plaza Athenée, but the influence goes on to other restaurants – to London as well, where we have started to take on elements of naturalité.”

Plaza-Athenee-Alain-Ducasse-au-Plaza-Athenee-(c)-Pierre-Monetta-2

Ducasse’s business empire includes 26 restaurants that currently hold 18 Michelin stars; a Parisian cookery school; training and consultancy and Alain Ducasse Edition, his own publishing company. Through these, Ducasse is dedicated to passing down his expertise. “The main motivation for me is this transmission of knowledge. That’s how I see the evolution. It’s key for me to share my knowledge – of course with the guests – but also throughout the industry; the chefs, this generation and a future generation. It goes through the restaurants, the cooking schools that we have for amateurs as well as professionals, and the publishing house,” he says. Ducasse has recently published a book on these issues of sustainability, Manger Est Un Acte Citoyen – literally, ‘eating is a citizen act’ – so far only available in French.

Ducasse tells me that thanks to good timing on his part, his company’s work puts him at the dawn of a new era in the way we appreciate food. “Innovation is key; but the important thing is not to be too far ahead. You have to anticipate, but you have to find the right time to create these trends. Ultimately, this issue is incredibly important now – and it will be in the coming years.”

As featured in Mayfair Times’ November 17 edition.

Justine Waddell, actress, founder of Kino Klassika

Justine Waddell is a recognisable face to many. Having previously starred in acclaimed period dramas including Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Great Expectations, Justine has in more recent times become a champion of Russian cinema, and is the founder and a trustee of Kino Klassika – the foundation that aims to put the spotlight on Russian-language filmmaking.

(c) Alexander Kissel, Justine Waddell wearing Rubies from Fabergé_s Three Colours of Love

It was while working with Oscar-nominated actor Ralph Fiennes that Justine first became interested in Russian culture. “I kind of have a long and unexpected connection with Russia,” she says, settling into a seat at Little House’s packed bar. “I had done a Chekhov play called Ivanov at the Almeida with Ralph, who was a massive star – The English Patient had just come out. We then toured that play to Moscow, which was a really special experience. It was wonderful to be doing Chekhov there.”

Some years after, Justine was approached about starring in a Russian sci-fi film called Target. “The script read like a great big flamboyant novel. It’s also loosely based on Anna Karenina, which is my favourite novel. Anna is an iconic woman in literature. How could I turn it down?”

Not even the fact that she couldn’t speak Russian put Justine off the project. “I said, ‘I’d love to do it, but I don’t speak Russian…’ And they went, in that typically Russian way: ‘Don’t worry, we’ll teach you.’ I was very English about it and said, ‘Oh, alright, very nice!’”

She says that while learning another language was difficult – particularly one as complex as Russian – it helped her develop an affinity for the country. “It was hard, but it was invigorating. I genuinely fell down the rabbit hole.”

With Kino Klassika, Justine aims to showcase Russian cinema – often state-sponsored – as art. “We try to create a space where people can experience films not as entertainment, not as propaganda, but simply as pieces as art.” She says that the work of Russia’s greatest filmmakers is worthy of being appreciated in such a way. “What’s really interesting is that the Hollywood studio system became about entertainment – and early post-Revolution Russian filmmaking was very much about innovation, experiment and what the medium could do and how it could educate. I think that’s what marked Russian filmmaking from the beginning, and really makes it worthwhile to try and share.”

The latest season, which centred on the centenary of the Russian Revolution, has just wrapped up – culminating with a screening of one of the most ambitious films in Russia’s history, October, the masterpiece by Sergei Eisenstein – accompanied by a live orchestral score courtesy of the London Symphony Orchestra. “It’s the film that got Eisenstein into trouble. It’s a deeply experimental film – very satirical and biting. It’s very caustic. October is a sophisticated film and it’s really pushing what film and editing can do; but that moment of experimenting disappeared with that film,” says Justine, noting that October was the first film accused of formalism by Stalin. “I think that’s what we were marking when we screened it at the Barbican with the LSO.”

Justine tells me there are two reasons why Russian cinema hasn’t become as prominent as filmmaking from other regions. “Firstly, there’s the difficulty of language – Russian is a different alphabet, it’s not a Romantic language. Also, there’s the legacy of the Cold War. We forget that 30 years ago, the world was split into two quite distinct regions of the world. That definitely impacted on the way that cinema was allowed and constructed to travel,” she says, noting that films by some of Russia’s greatest still found their way across the globe. “What’s interesting about cinema is that you can never put it in a box. Especially now. That’s what’s so exciting about new technology and all of the things we’re going to be able to do with new technology to get at content that was impossible to reach before.”

Kino Klassika aims to continue to bring Russian-language cinema to the rest of the world with a diverse programme of screenings, exhibitions and publications. “Kino Klassika is beginning to travel,” says Justine. “We have a Dziga Vertov programme at the Centre Pompidou in December with Antonio Somaini, who is a great European film and cultural historian – we’re really excited about collaborating on that; Thames & Hudson have also published a remarkable book by Naum Kleiman, the world’s leading Eisenstein scholar, which is a book of the director’s drawings. We connected the publisher with the author to make that book happen, which took three or four years. Martin Scorsese has written the forward to that, so that will be a big deal.

“Next summer, we have a collaboration with the Russian film journal, Séance; Lenfilm (the famous Russian film production company); and Catriona Kelly, Professor of Russian at Oxford University, called Nevaland – a pun on the River Neva – which is about the history of St Petersburg on film. It will be the first time that we’re working in Russia.”

Ultimately, the goal is to keep the standard of programming high to continue to attract those otherwise unfamiliar with Russian film. “What’s important for us is to continue the level of curatorial excellence that has been achieved so far. It’s very exciting.”

As featured in Mayfair Times’ November 17 edition.

Travel feature, Milan

Fondazione Prada - Bar Luce 3

Milan, though boasting a hefty reputation as a bastion of art and design in Europe, is often overlooked as a destination for a weekend break. The city is often claimed to be gritty and unpolished; but while Milan has a more industrial feel than some other Italian cities – which in itself is no bad thing – it proudly stands as the one of the most culturally fascinating cities in the azure isle.

Milan is a city of aesthetes. From the worlds of fashion (it’s a bonafide sartorial hub); design, in which it is an international pioneer, particularly for furniture; and art, where the city showcases a new generation of artists as well as revering the Italian masters such as Caravaggio and Verdi and global names displayed in the many excellent art galleries dotted around the city; Milan is a powerhouse when it comes to the art of making things look good.

Where to sleep

Senato Hotel Milano is a boutique hotel that has been making waves in the design world, being shortlisted for a Wallpaper* Best Urban Hotels award. Milan-based architect, Alessandro Bianchi, has overseen the whole hotel – from the structure to the furnishings – and created a bold but refined interior. Largely set in monochrome, offset with the use of warmer tones provided by brass, velvet and wood, the former five-story neo-classical private residence is the definition of chic – the ideal spot from which to explore Milan’s unparalleled style scenes.

The quiet garden, where guests can take breakfast, is typical of Milan’s hidden palazzos; while the unusual black marble square shallowly covered with water – a reference to the Naviglio Grande canal which once flowed through this stretch of the city before being confined to the south side of the city centre, which is home to tucked away artist studios.

A perfect bolthole for a city break, the rooms are pleasingly minimal, with crisp white sheets and walls contrasted against gold accents like the gingko biloba leaf lamp and thoughtfully-chosen furniture pieces in deep emerald.

What to see

From Senato Hotel, perched on the edge of the trendy Brera district, it’s a cinch to see some of the best cultural sites Milan offers. Your first stop should be the famous Triennale di Milano, a leisurely walk across town and into the picturesque Parco Sempione, adjacent to the 15th century Sforza Castle. The museum puts the spotlight on Italian and world design, such as the current pop-inspired exhibition studying design for children, running until February 2018, which features giant, cartoon sculptures that put adults back into the shoes of kids; alongside contemporary art from a variety of mediums.

Another must visit is Fondazione Prada, the architectural space-come-gallery that sees artists including Louise Bourgeois and Robert Gober redefine the Instagram-worthy gold townhouse, set in the centre of the former distillery, with thought-provoking installations. Running until January 2018 is an immersive and haunting virtual reality installation from four-time Academy Award-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu. Booking for big name exhibitions like this are necessary. Stop for coffee at the Wes Anderson-designed Bar Luce – the director’s whimsical pastiche on Milan’s traditional cafés.

Where to eat

As Milan is a city of aesthetes, it’s no surprise that the artistic approach to design extends further than the walls of its museums and galleries.

For a lunchtime bite with visual clout, book yourself into Spazio Milano, housed on the top floor of the Mercato del Duomo, opposite the stunning Milan Cathedral – the largest church in Italy and the third largest in the world. With views overlooking the intricate detailing of its many Gothic spires, Spazio is a striking spot to devour bowls of expertly-made pasta, prepared by trainees from three Michelin-starred chef Niko Romito’s cookery school. But the architectural eye-candy isn’t just outside; the sun-soaked white room, softened with rustic wooden tables and chairs and brought to life by a central ficus tree and hip Italians enjoying leisurely lunches is a joy in itself.

One of the most interesting marriages of food and design can be found at the restaurant Carlo e Camilla in Segheria, housed in a former sawmill in the city’s happening Navigli district. Headed up by chef Luca Pedata under the direction of Carlo Cracco, one of Milan’s most prominent cooks, the restaurant consists of communal tables in a stripped, industrial space, softened by the use of vintage plates, intelligent lighting and a buzzy, warm atmosphere. The very best seasonal ingredients and knowing winks to Italy’s culinary heritage dominate, with an adventurous menu offering diners a taste of modern Milan. The cocktail bar, housed in an open warehouse within the same complex, sees bartender Filippo Sisti mix forward-thinking drinks that make use of cooking techniques, to achieve concoctions you may or may not remember the next morning.

Senato Hotel Milano, Via Senato 22

Triennale di Milano, Viale Alemagna 6

Fondazione Prada, Largo Isarco 2

Spazio Milano, Il Mercato del Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Carlo e Camilla in Segheria, Via Giuseppe Meda 24

 

As featured in Mayfair Times’ October 17 edition.

Q&A: Martyn Nail, executive chef, Claridge’s

Dolce Gabbana Xmas Tree, 2013, Claridges

As Mayfair institution Claridge’s launches its very first cookbook, we chat with executive chef Martyn Nail about capturing the hotel’s heritage while embracing the future – and why it was such a long time coming.

When did the idea for the book come about? 

M: It was probably three or four years ago. Meredith was a guest in the foyer and I was walking through. She asked if she could have a copy of my book. I said that we didn’t have one, and she said, “Well I’d love the recipe for your chicken pie.” I said that I would dig it out. Then she bumped into our general manager and mentioned the idea of a book. She connected with me and the subject went from there. We thought about it and put some things together – then various people were saying, ‘come on – where is it?’ So in the latter part of last year, we realised that we needed to stop talking about it and that there was quite a lot of work to do.

But where do you start when the hotel is 189 years old? Some of these things have been here forever – the chicken pie for instance. As I said as a little headnote in the book, a previous chef in the 1950s tried to take it off the menu, and he was told it was him or the chicken pie. It’s still here – it’s something that’s just stuck with the place. Some have become favourites, like the lobster risotto, and some are of the moment, like the dessert trolley.

In a way, the business of the hotel has gone like London has. It was a quiet little tea room; a busy restaurant – it’s always been a busy restaurant; but over the past 10 years its grown and grown and grown in popularity.

Why was this the time to bring out a cookbook for Claridge’s?

M: I think it was probably overdue. There are so many aspects to Claridge’s. It’s not just pictures of food; there are incredible details from around the hotel we wanted to capture. We were going to caption all these details, but actually, part of the fun is to say, ‘where is that?’ There’s so much detail and so much history… If walls could talk! We came across all these old menus for one-off events, which we printed in the book. It’s fantastic that, for one, they are still here; and second, that once you think about what was behind them, who went and why it was here, it tells you even more about how special Claridge’s is.

How did you decide which recipes made the cut?

M: It was a bit like picking your favourite child! The book is structured by the time of day, because the hotel is always open. It literally is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You’ve got recipes for scrambled egg, some little recipes for biscuits – as after all, it would be lovely for someone to come in and say, “I’ve done those biscuits and they were exactly the same as you do them.” All the recipes were tested, which was really important, because the scale of our recipes didn’t work when we cut them down; we realised that actually, it’s not that simple. It was necessary. Then you go to things like our croissant recipe, some of the pastries – and they can be very layered, very laboursome. You go, ‘Looks lovely’ and move on. But in a way, when you come to one of the finest hotels in the world, I think that’s absolutely what you would expect. It has to be.

What are you favourite recipes or stories in the book?

M: The chicken pie is timeless. Lobster risotto is very popular – it’s lovely to see it framed in history. We do soufflés for events for 12 to 200 – no-one really does that, so we’ve got a soufflé in there because we do it so well. You’ve got to be pretty mad and confident to do that. We’ve also mentioned a few of our guests as well – families we welcome back, and now their children, their grandchildren and great grandchildren. They’re part of the place. One sadly passed away recently; he came here on his 5th birthday. He was with us earlier this year, and he was 97. What a life! To have been coming to Claridge’s for 92 years of your life. That is very special.

Who is this book for?

M: Of course, the first answer that came to my head was ‘everybody’ – it’s a must have! But I think it goes into so many different categories. Firstly it’s a cookbook; secondly, it’s Claridge’s – so it elevates it into another world. But it’s also about luxury, style, deco – and it’s also just a beautiful coffee table book.

When did you first get into food?

M: I grew up in Winchester, Hampshire. My grandmother was a great cook. They had an association with Highclere Castle, and their grandparents were from that area and they helped out there; so they were sort of in service. My father just threw that out a while ago when Downton Abbey was on! But I would sit on the draining board and peel plums – probably eat two and stone one. She would make roast chicken; lemon meringue pie; rice pudding with the skin on top. And I just enjoyed it. I thought I’d be a vet, but I wasn’t going to do years of ‘all that’. So then I went to catering college. It was enjoying it early on – falling in a bowl of cake mix and enjoying it on that domestic level that got me hooked.

Claridge’s: The Cookbook is published by Mitchell Beazley.

As featured in Mayfair Times’ October 17 edition.

The growing Chinese market in London

Bond Street

The landscape of luxury in Mayfair and the West End is continually shifting. The area is seeing communities from across the globe visit and often settle in London to capitalise on the city’s reputation as one of the best luxury destinations in the world; as of last year, London was the most sought-after city for luxury brands looking to open retail stores. It is the Chinese market that displays most vigour for London’s luxury market.

Kyle Monk, head of insight at the New West End Company (NWEC) – the organisation that supports and protects the West End’s business contingent – says that the Chinese market has been leading the way for some time. “We saw at first a trickle, then a torrent of Chinese tourists all over the world. It became apparent very quickly that they had a taste for luxury goods,” recalls Monk. “A lot of retailers globally – whether in Mayfair or Paris – saw this influx of Chinese tourists. We have a view of the top ten nationalities by spend, throughout Europe. China has been at the top for quite a while.”

There are numerous reasons as to why. Chinese travellers are ready to splurge on luxury brand names and visits to European flagship stores – but it is not only the super-rich that are looking to spend; the burgeoning middle classes are increasingly taking their money into Europe, and snapping up labels that may lend a sense of status, particularly in a country that understands the significance of top quality, globally recognised brands. China’s luxury taxes and issues with counterfeit goods also drive Chinese nationals to spend their money outside of their country.

The problem has been that London has experienced consistently lower numbers of Chinese visitors than cities like Paris.

Seeing the disparity between Chinese visitor numbers and spend in European stores compared to London, the NWEC, alongside Global Blue, Walpole, MacArthur Glen and London First, founded the UK China Visa Alliance (UKCVA) in 2012. Tourism bodies stated that the key barrier to Chinese visitors coming to the UK was the visa application system, which required Chinese nationals to apply for a separate visa to visit the UK, as the UK is not part of the Schengen area. Many Chinese travellers undertake multi-country European tours, and many of the tour operators were simply leaving the UK out, due to the convoluted visa application process. Simply put, the UK government was shooting itself in the foot when it came to capitalising on Chinese interest. In 2014, the UN World Tourism Association highlighted the Chinese as being the world’s highest spenders, but the UK was effectively minimising the number of visitors from the country.

The UKCVA campaigned, putting across to government the importance of loosening the system. “We said to government that they were trying to solve the wrong problem. They were tinkering at the edges – making the forms slightly easier and things like that,” says Paul Barnes, campaign manager for the UKCVA. “They were making marginal changes to the system that would only bring marginal changes to the numbers. We want significant changes to the numbers.”

The solution was to create a one-stop shop, where Chinese nationals could apply for a Schengen and UK visa at the same place and time. Initiatives have now been implemented; it was announced that if you fill in a Schengen form, the government would accept that as a UK form, which halves the paperwork. The government also introduced a visa application centre sharing pilot with Belgium, which meant that Chinese nationals could go to the Belgian or British Embassy and apply for a Schengen visa, and get a UK visa simultaneously. The pilot has been extended to all British Embassies, consulates and visa application centres around China, and the UKCVA is now pushing the government to approach nations that attract significant numbers of Chinese tourists – France, Germany and Italy.

Perhaps most importantly, the UKCVA is pressuring government to increase the length of the visitor visa for Chinese nationals. It is hoped that a 10-year multiple entry visa will be introduced, but in the interim, a two-year visa comes as standard for those applying.

In 2012, when the campaign started, there were some 200,000 UK visas issued to Chinese nationals. Now, numbers approach half a million. It is clear that these initiatives are allowing for an increase in Chinese tourists, looking to experience London’s unique history – and, of course, to shop.

Brands are becoming keenly aware of the growing Chinese market, and the impact its spend can have on their economies – as are the landlords in shopping hotspots such as Bond Street, Regent Street and Oxford Street. As brands become savvier about London’s standing as a destination for Chinese visitors with cash to splash, so the demand from brands to open retail units here increases. “The luxury brands know that the Chinese visitors are high spenders; the more we can demonstrate that we are getting a good number of Chinese people coming, it adds to the attraction of London as a place to open your flagship store, or to expand,” says Barnes. “Brands are looking for the best place to invest, and part of the mix from London’s attraction is a growing and healthy number of high spending Chinese visitors.” The fact that there are numerous likeminded brands in a relatively small area also attracts brands, as well as Chinese customers. “The more luxury brands that you have in one area, the more attractive it is to visit”, says Tony Gaziano of bespoke and benchmade shoemaker Gaziano & Girling. “When they come, they don’t want to look at one tailor or shoemaker – they want to look at multiples. It’s the variety and multitude of businesses that is bringing Chinese consumers in, not just one.”

Marie Hickey, Savills, says that it is the brands themselves, rather than the developers and landlords, that are targeting these areas for their interest from Chinese visitors. “I think there has definitely been an increase in what I call ultra-luxury brands on Bond Street in particular, and that’s generated a bit of an overflow into some of the neighbouring pitches like Dover Street and Albemarle Street, and also Mount Street,” she explains. “But it’s not so much a case of the developers and investors actively doing this; if anything, the change in that retail profile in Mayfair has actually been driven by the brands themselves, and the fact that they want to be in London and Mayfair, because they know it’s a massive market that has got an increasing appeal to quite a wide range of high spending visitors.” Kyle Monk at NWEC says that he has recognised “a shift towards luxury across the West End” – though he says it is not just luxury brands that see the benefit of Chinese tourism. “Much like the Middle East, the Chinese are still very much a luxury consumer, but you’ll see just as many Middle Eastern shoppers in Primark these days as you will anywhere else.”

There is seemingly no end to the growth of London’s luxury industry. Barnes explains that if visitor number can continue to increase, the UK, and particularly the luxury economy, will benefit. “At the moment, one per cent of the Chinese population take an overseas holiday a year. In the UK, it’s about 30 to 35 per cent. Just imagine if and when China gets to the same level as the UK. 35 per cent of 1.4 billion… if we’re getting nearly half a million Chinese visitors when only one per cent travels, then if it doubles to two per cent travelling, then we will get a million visitors. The market is potentially huge.” Monk agrees. “I don’t see the Chinese going away as a segment. Some come and go – Russia went from being the second most valuable to dropping out of the top 20. Tourism from that country dried up completely. But I think our relationship is strong with China; I can only see them becoming more important in the coming years.”

As featured in Mayfair Times’ October 17 edition.

Review: Pure Salt, Mallorca

12-Pure Salt Port Adriano Terrazas G&T 2

The sun-drenched island of Mallorca is the largest of the ever-popular Balearic archipelago. Along with Ibiza and Menorca, the second and third largest islands in the region, Mallorca has developed a reputation as a destination for partygoers getting sozzled on cheap sangria.

While there are certain strips on the island that attract those looking for a wild time, that reputation is rapidly being shaken off, thanks to the jaw-dropping natural beauty, cultural happenings and growing local food and drink culture that Mallorca offers to those willing to get off the beaten track.

One of the first hotel brands to look to a more discerning clientele is Pure Salt, which operates two adult-only, five-star luxury hotels on the island. Pure Salt Garonda, set on the beachfront of Playa de Palma, is a jewel on this stretch of coastline, offering respite from the beach which sees sun seekers flock to its sandy shore. This property is tailor made for visitors wishing to make the most of Mallorca’s gently undulating coastline, with electric bikes available for guests of all abilities to ride. The most picturesque way to take in the glistening azure Mediterranean, rugged, mountainous landscapes and bustling cafes and bars is to engage the small engine and let the bike do the hard work, cruising along the coast while making the odd pit stop to sample a glass of Mallorca’s surprisingly special wines.

After a leisurely cycle to and from Palma’s famous Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral, The Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, or La Seu, unwind in the chic O Spa, which offers a wide range of treatments including massages and facials, as well as wet rooms, heated pool and jacuzzi and top-of-the-line fitness equipment. With all the activity, satisfy your appetite with dinner at Restaurant Garonda, which offers Mediterranean-inspired fine dining on a chic terrace overlooking the sea.

For an altogether quieter experience, head for the steep hillside spot of Calvià. Perched above the famous Philippe Starke-designed Port Adriano marina, Pure Salt Port Adriano offers an unparalleled location to experience Mallorca’s stunning surroundings. With the superb sea views, the rooms are contemporary but characterful, with loose themes such as Renaissance art dictating the décor. For the most relaxing time, opt for a swim up suite, where guests can slide from their own private terrace straight into their own stretch of private pool – perfect for sipping on cocktails as the sun goes down over the bay.

Nearby sights include the charming region of Binissalem, home to the family-run Finca Biniagual, one of Mallorca’s finest wine estates. Set in spectacular manicured gardens, the miniscule village of Biniagual is practically dedicated to the production of a small selection of naturally-made fine wines, with typical Mallorcan grape varieties harvested from the 33.7-hectare vineyard by hand and taken directly to the on-site winery. The estate also produces some of the finest olive oil available in the Mediterranean; Mallorca itself enjoys a long history of olive oil production, thanks to conquering Arabs that planted the first olive trees in the 13th century.

If the wine tasting has piqued your appetite, try chef Diego Vázquez’s Asian-influenced, Mediterranean dishes at Restaurant Adriana, before post-dinner cocktails accompanied by Balearic beats courtesy of some of the island’s best blissed out DJs.

If your head isn’t too heavy the morning after, start the day with a challenging yet relaxing spot of paddle-boarding. This region of Mallorca is one of the finest paddle-boarding locations in Europe, even hosting legs on the Paddle Surf Euro Tour – and is a scenic way to enjoy the quiet, turquoise bay before wandering along the marina and admiring the blindingly white superyachts reflecting the insistent sun. If water sports aren’t your thing, try your hand at golf; known as one of the best places for the sport, Pure Salt Port Adriano offers golf simulator sessions run by a former ranked professional golfer, before testing your training at one of the 13 nearby courses, which offer striking views of the island.

Rates start from £112 per double room per night at Pure Salt Garonda and from £245 at Pure Salt Port Adriano. For more information on Pure Salt, or to book a stay, visit www.puresalt.com. 

Monarch operates year-round flights to Mallorca from London Gatwick and London Luton with fares, including taxes, starting from £39 one way and £68 return. For further information or to book Monarch flights or Monarch Holidays, visit www.monarch.co.uk

As featured in Mayfair Times’ September 17 edition.

Jean-Georges Vongerichten, chef

For nearly 10 years, The Connaught has been London’s go-to destination for contemporary French gastronomy, with the three Michelin-starred restaurant overseen by Hélène Darroze taking pride of place at Mayfair’s chicest hotel. That reputation is to be solidified with the arrival of another revered French chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

The Connaught - Jean Georges Vongerichten001b

Those old enough to remember Mayfair’s mid-90s dining scene will remember the opening of Vong at The Berkeley, which Vongerichten opened to acclaim after years in Asia and the United States; particularly knowledgeable foodies might also recall 90 Park Lane at The Grosvenor House Hotel, which Vongerichten helped garner a Michelin star in 1985.

But since 2003, and the closure of Vong, Vongerichten has been seldom seen on London’s food scene – instead building a bevy of culinary hotspots across the pond, in his adopted home of New York City.

Vongerichten’s career began at the three-starred Auberge de l’Ill in his home region of Alsace, when his parents took him for his 18th birthday. The as-yet undecided young man asked for a job, immediately taken with the atmosphere in the bustling restaurant. “I didn’t know you could make a living out of food. The service, the ballet of the waiters, the look of the place – and the food…” recalls Vongerichten. “It was the ultimate place. That was it for me.” Vongerichten stayed at the restaurant, training under Paul Haeberlin for three years, quickly moving on from his pot-washing position to each station in the hallowed kitchen.

Launching his career at such an acclaimed restaurant gave the aspiring chef a solid start – learning his trade with the best in the business. Appointments at L’Oasis, under Paul Bocuse and Master Chef Louis Outhier; and the only two-starred restaurant in Germany at the time, Aubergine in Munich, alongside Eckhart Witzigmann. “I never wrote a letter for a job; it was just a phone call and I was there months after.”

After honing his craft in Provence and Munich, Vongerichten received a call from Outhier, who told him that he had landed a gig at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. He wanted Vongerichten to be his chef. “In Alsace, we use a lot of spices: cardamom, cinnamon, cloves – particularly in pastries. I had learnt about all the colonies, that all the spices were coming from Asia. It was my dream to go to Asia one day and follow the spice trail.

“But I was scared. I had never been a sous chef before. I’d never run a kitchen. I was 23. Chef Outhier called me every day for three months, and sooner or later, I said I would give it a shot.”

It was while in Bangkok that Vongerichten began to formulate his own style of cooking. “I’d been cooking for seven years in a professional kitchen, but it was still not my food. I was cooking Outhier’s food. But often, I couldn’t find things like apples. So I started to work with things that I could find – I was doing foie gras with mango. It allowed me to develop something new.” The two years he spent in Bangkok were formative in what would become his general cooking ethos. “I learnt everything about Thai food. I wanted to know everything about this cooking. I began incorporating Thai ingredients into our dishes too.”

Vongerichten went on to open a number of restaurants alongside Louis Outhier; first Singapore, then Hong Kong, Japan, Geneva, Portugal and at The Grosvenor House Hotel: Vongerichten’s “first step inside Mayfair”.

But the chef was yet to settle. After six months in Boston, Massachusetts, Vongerichten was sent to New York, to open Lafayette at the Drake hotel. “New York is always a city you want to visit. At the time – 1986 – there was not much going on. The food culture was very behind. There wasn’t a farmer’s market; everything was imported from California or Paris. After five years in Asia, the only place I felt comfortable was Chinatown. It had the only open market with fruit and vegetables.”

Vongerichten began buying his produce in the Chinese district of the city – which immediately saw the chef developing pan-Asian and French cuisines. He credits this as being the beginning of his personal style, a style he developed over the next five years at Lafayette. “I was supposed to be in New York for one year. I never left.”

Soon, he had opened his own restaurant, JoJo’s, with regular Lafayette diner Phil Suarez. The pair have worked together ever since. “He charmed me to death,” says Suarez. “We’re more than friends. We’re tied together at the heart. Never lovers, always friends!” Vongerichten obviously cherishes this working relationship. “I gave him a business plan. He said, ‘How much do you need?’ I said around $250,000. He wrote me a cheque right there. No lawyer, nothing. We shook hands. We’ve never had a fight in 32 years. It’s been a good journey with Phil.” The original Vong followed in 1992. “It was perfect. It was a hit right away.”

So much so, that Vongerichten and Suarez brought the concept to The Berkeley. “It was the perfect move for us to come to London, because London was already used to spicy food. The Asian culture was already here. It was even better received here than in New York.”

His new restaurant in The Connaught marks a change for the chef, as it is his first spot to offer four meals: breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. “I like the challenge,” he says. Vongerichten is aware of his market – particularly having a presence in a hotel. “We have complex dishes for somebody that really wants to try our flavours and our food; and we also have a Simply Cooked section, because a lot of people might want a grilled Dover sole, langoustine or salmon.” For Vongerichten, it’s all about traceability these days. “Today’s food is all about ingredients and sourcing. Being sustainable and organic. That’s the big issue today.”

For now, Vongerichten has no specific plans to increase his presence in London, like in New York. “They offer you this corner to cook; how can you say no? It’s impossible,” says the chef. “I’m just taking it all as it comes. It’s about being consistent, being good in six months and in two years.”

The Connaught, Carlos Place

As featured in Mayfair Times’ September 17 edition.

Review: Lime Wood Hotel, Hampshire

LIME WOOD AUTUMN EXTERNAL 4 Lime Wood -® Amy Murrell 2016-73 copy

Nestled in the heart of the verdant landscapes of the New Forest National Park, Lime Wood is one of the UK’s foremost boutique hotels. With unparalleled architecture, interior design and a truly memorable food and drink offering, Lime Wood is drawing aesthetes and food lovers from across the country to revel in the hotel’s understated luxury – particularly after being named the UK’s third best hotel at the recent The Caterer awards.

You can’t help but admire the Regency country house on arrival, with the white building glowing among the manicured lawns surrounding it. Staff exude the utmost professionalism while remaining friendly and with a sense of informality – the ideal combination when looking for a weekend of pure relaxation. The interiors of the main building, tastefully executed by David Collins, combine antique and bespoke pieces, with carefully chosen artworks adorning the walls across a number of classically-designed rooms restored by Ben Pentreath of Working Group Design. There are a number of external buildings, designed by Charles Morris, that house some of the hotel’s finest suites.

The rooms vary in size and décor – from the cosiest rooms tucked away in the eaves of the main house, overlooking the forest and hotel grounds; to the Forest Hideaway Suites, accessible via a tranquil garden blooming with wildflowers and hanging plants, which are set over two floors – complete with log fires in both the sitting area and the bedroom; and secluded lodges, cottages and cabins ideal for families.

If you want to feel as pampered as possible over the course of your stay, take some time to enjoy the spacious bathrooms stocked with top-quality products; and after, warm yourself by the crackling fire in the comfy bathrobes and slippers hanging on the back of the bathroom door.

A well-stocked pantry featuring both upmarket and more down-home snacks and drinks, as well as a Nespresso machine and superb teas, is useful if you fancy a snack between meals; while complimentary Wi-Fi connects you to the world outside the wilds, and an iPod dock with iPod and a TV and DVD player (films available on request) will keep you or the kids entertained if the rain stops you from enjoying the nearby walks, of which there are many. Most importantly, each room features king sized beds, ensuring a restful sleep.

Perhaps the key reason to visit Lime Wood is the food and drink offering. The bar serves expertly-mixed cocktails before the main show, at Hartnett Holder & Co, which is both stylish and relaxed, thanks to a playful and elegant design by restaurant design hero Martin Brudnikzi. The menus feature seasonal and locally-sourced produce in dishes with a hint of both British and Italian cookery, such as the prettily-presented mushroom salad with girolles, almonds, dandelion and apricots; expertly-made ravioli with smoked ricotta, preserved lemon, peas and pickled samphire; and heartier plates including sea bass served with girolles, tomato, saffron and chives or sweet and sour quail with roasted onions and rosemary vinaigrette. Keep an eye out for the kitchen’s cookery courses and unique pop-up events that take place throughout the year.

If you need to unwind a little more during your stay, head to the Herb House spa – a three-storey temple of relaxation that features 18 treatment rooms; hot pools; workout studios where classes including Zumba and Tai Chi take place; thermal rooms and spaces for manicures and pedicures. Fitness fanatics who like to keep on top of their regime, or those that want to work off the previous evening’s feast, can make use of the gym, which overlooks the myriad colours and contours of the forest. Cool down after with a refreshing dip in the pool.

limewoodhotel.co.uk

As featured in Mayfair Times’ August 17 edition.