Tricker’s, Northampton

Northampton is less than an hour’s journey from London, but the urban sprawl quickly gives way to bucolic vistas of rolling, verdant fields. Indeed, it is the town’s location that has helped make it the spiritual home of shoemaking worldwide; materials necessary for the process are within easy reach of Northampton’s factories. “You might be sitting in a typical middle England town here, but two or three minutes outside of Northampton in any direction, you have the most stunning countryside,” says Martin Mason, managing director of Tricker’s, the oldest shoemaker in the area. He says that the nearby oak forests were essential for taking bark to be used for tanning leather. Agriculture has always had a strong presence here, and with leather being a by-product of the meat industry, this was also in abundance. The town’s location on the Grand Union Canal also offered logistical ease for transporting goods to hubs like London and Manchester.

Tricker’s started making shoes as early as 1829. For the majority of its existence, Tricker’s has made the country boots and shoes of choice for monied landowners and successful farmers – as well as the army. “At the turn of the century, Tricker’s created a genuine waterproof solution for boots and shoes – the ‘reverse split welt’.” This revolutionary advancement in the shoemaking industry allowed the landed gentry to tramp through wet, straw-ridden cowsheds and leave with dry feet. Mason says that for the early part of the 20th century, Tricker’s was frequently advertising in Farmer’s Weekly.

The company’s shoes were considered expensive – but the quality craftsmanship that went into every pair appealed to those with money to spend. “It was an investment purchase,” says Mason. “The gentry tended to buy something of very high quality, keep it for a long time and repair it. That’s exactly what still happens today with Tricker’s shoes.” Mason and the team are proud to repair customers’ old shoes – production director Barry Jones says that this way, “the customer gets his money’s worth.” About 40 repairs are completed in the factory’s bespoke room each week.

By the 1970s, Tricker’s’ clientele began to expand and evolve, as the Japanese market started to show interest. “The Japanese took it back and wore the boots and shoes on the streets of Tokyo,” says Mason; by transporting Tricker’s from Britain’s fields to “the most urban environment in the world”, the Japanese made it into a “desirable item that is still there today.” Japan is still one of the biggest international markets for Tricker’s – the boots and shoes being embraced for their functionality and quintessentially British look. “The Japanese are incredibly discerning,” says Mason. “They will find the very best pieces and they want to buy that. Tricker’s is a must-have item if you’re Japanese.” He says that the brand is stocked in every major department store in Tokyo, as well as smaller independents such as BEAMS.

Tricker’s does not target a specific demographic, and Mason says that it transcends ages and industries. “We still have people coming into our shop whose father and grandfather bought Tricker’s, and they wouldn’t wear anything else. It’s the shoe of choice at Eton – we know that from friends of ours; but Tricker’s is also widely embraced by what I would call ‘creative media’ types in London.” Despite the increased interest in the brand, Mason does not want Tricker’s to be perceived as ‘trendy’. “We don’t want Tricker’s to become too popular – we certainly don’t want it to be fashionable.”

The “vast majority of sales” come from the brogue shoe and the country boot. The boot – a British style classic – was introduced in 1840, and was a crude version of what customers can try on today. It is still made from a last that was created in 1937, just before the brand opened its Jermyn Street flagship (after relocating from another site on the street). The store remains almost identical to how it looked on opening; even the pre-war cabinetry is made from Northampton oak, and retains scratches from where the store windows were blown out during the war.

The refined Jermyn Street store is a different beast to Tricker’s’ Dickensian factory, where each room buzzes with the sound of machinery. Up steep stairs, hides are cut, stitches are punched into leather, and materials are manipulated to achieve the brand’s signature look. Towards the bottom of the factory, the uppers finally make contact with Tricker’s’ heavy duty soles; a woman works a machine filling soles with cork, while a man artfully buffs away any rough edges. Everything is considered, to the minutest detail. “You can do a pair in a day, but that’s not proper shoemaking,” says Jones. “Because we make a quality product, we don’t do it the quickest way – we do it the belt and braces way.”

The key reasons for the respect and cachet Tricker’s enjoys are varied. Firstly, craftsmanship is considered the most important aspect of the business, rather than sales. Each shoe goes through around 250 processes before it is ready to leave the factory and enter stores – either at the brand’s premises on Jermyn Street; online retailers like Mr Porter; or in London’s department stores. Of the core collection, Tricker’s sells around 900 shoes a week.

Though Tricker’s is dedicated to the craft, finding a new generation of shoemakers to take on the mantle is no easy feat. “It’s not getting easier – it’s a struggle to get people in here,” says Mason, disappointedly. “If you had advertised for a role 30 to 50 years ago, you’d probably get 30 applicants. Now, you might get two.” Since arriving as managing director in 2015, Mason has brought in initiatives to help those interested in shoemaking develop their careers. “I opened a training school when I joined, and we’re very open and keen on developing apprenticeships. But it is getting more difficult; a lot of people don’t want to make things anymore,” says Mason. He thinks that the local councils and the government could do more to ensure that the craft of shoemaking continues to be healthy. “There used to be a fantastic shoemaking training college at Wellingborough that they closed down. Northampton University has some shoemaking, but it’s not what it used to be…”

But Tricker’s refuses to become part of history. In fact, Mason’s appointment was primarily to take the heritage brand into unchartered territory, adapting to newer forms of commerce and marketing. “The family are shoemakers; they’ve always worked in the manufacturing of the shoes. I think they were looking to bring in somebody with experience of working with international brands who could tackle the challenges going forward while respecting the brand.” The biggest change since Mason’s arrival is that Tricker’s now trades online. “Now, it’s not an option for any brand to not have an online presence.” Mason says that he has no interest in opening more retail shops – but is committed to developing Tricker’s’ digital marketing. Despite moving into the future with its business model, ultimately, Tricker’s is dedicated to creating shoes that transcend any particular era. “It’s got to be enduring – it’s not about changing things too much.”

67 Jermyn Street

Tony Gaziano and Dean Girling, Gaziano & Girling

Since launching just over 10 years ago, Gaziano & Girling has become one of the most in demand shoemakers in the world. Its store on Savile Row is testament to the emphasis its two founders, Tony Gaziano and Dean Girling, place on super luxury; surrounded by the world’s most exclusive tailors and brands on the street, Gaziano & Girling has incorporated itself into the world of sartorial finery with aplomb – despite Tony and Dean starting their fledging project only a decade ago, in their home workshops.

Dean and Tony were accomplished shoemakers when they joined forces. Dean was working as a freelance shoemaker, mainly picking up commissions from John Lobb – while Tony was designing for luxury shoe company, Edward Green. “I was an independent shoemaker; Tony asked me to make a bespoke shoe for Edward Green, so we got a bit closer then. We had the same sort of ethos of what we wanted to do in the bespoke industry.” The idea was to take the considered approach and attention to detail found in bespoke, and apply it to manufactured shoes. “We wanted to bring a ready to wear shoe to the market that had a very bespoke aesthetic.”

Alongside 100 per cent bespoke commissions, the brand’s manufactured shoes with a bespoke look are another key part of the Gaziano & Girling business, and it is a formula that has allowed the brand to carve a niche in an otherwise competitive market. “When we started, there was a big divide between London bespoke aesthetic and quality, and Northamptonshire manufacturing – mainly because not many people crossed over between the two worlds,” explains Tony. “We wanted to bring to the market a super luxury manufactured shoe that had all the aesthetics of a bespoke, but without the customer having to go through the process of eight months of fittings to get there.” Tony and Dean began to introduce bespoke materials, such as English oak bark soles, into the manufacturing process – as well as craft skills that were not normally used in Northamptonshire.    

The bench made side of the business has been a significant factor in the company’s growth; but far from neglecting true bespoke, Gaziano & Girling has improved its bespoke offering to make it relative to the manufactured side. “You could probably get some of our manufactured shoes that aesthetically look better and are finished better than a lot of bespoke shoes,” says Tony matter of factly. “At the same time as we became successful doing that, we had to upgrade our bespoke offering, because the gap between the manufacturing and bespoke closed.” With the brand’s ready to wear models fetching around £1,000, and bespoke options reaching upwards of £4,000, it was necessary for the brand to justify the three grand difference.

Dean and Tony went about streamlining their business – bringing everything in house to ensure consistent quality across the brand’s whole output. “We got rid of the traditional old London ways of using outworkers, where you’ve got a variety of different standards of quality and aesthetic. We now have a very small, concentrated bespoke team that are producing shoes that are on the verge of art, rather than just shoes.”

Tony and Dean clearly have confidence in their product; not only has their combined experience given the brand a strong platform on which to build, the scale on which it operates means it can make the very best – whether that’s true bespoke, or bench made models. “Because of how small we are in production on bespoke, we can actually position ourselves to be the best in both fields,” says Tony. “We produce the best manufactured shoes, and at the same time, the best bespoke shoes.”

Gaziano & Girling has been able to embrace both bespoke and bench made in a way that other brands can’t. “Other brands don’t have the facility to do that,” says Tony. “We’re the first factory to open in over 100 years. We have the luxury of having our own in-house bespoke team, as well as our own manufacturing plant, which we have complete control over.” Dean agrees. “We’ve got free reign.”

Maintaining the vision the two set out at the very start is vital to taking the business in the right direction according to Dean and Tony; and the fact that the company’s driving forces are themselves at the very top of their craft means that quality is never sacrificed, and corners are never cut. Dean explains that knowledge of the craft makes all the difference. “There are very few shoe companies where the person at the helm – the MD, or whatever – is an actual craftsman, and can actually design and make a pair of shoes. Gaziano & Girling has still got that.”

Of course, retaining the control and vision for the brand is a factor that Tony and Dean are thinking about as their business grows. “The negative aspects of our growth are the demands of running the business trying to pull Dean and I away from the craft,” says Tony. “That’s not what we want; we want to be floor-based. That’s what we specialise in.” He says that for such experienced shoemakers, it would be a travesty to work solely from the boardroom. “Dean was the top in his field making bespoke shoes. He wants to be able to get involved more in the production to be able to execute things the way that he wants to. But obviously, that can be compromised by the demands of just simply running a business.”

With their experience, Dean and Tony believe that the company is unequalled in its offering – and that working on a relatively small scale has allowed them to reach that pinnacle. “In the beginning, our aim was to compete with Edward Green. Now, though our name is still young, there is no competition. We are a margin above those brands now; and we can be, because we probably produce three quarter’s production less than them,” says Tony.

With a dedication to high luxury, there is no better place for Gaziano & Girling to be than Savile Row. The pair say that residing on the street gives the brand cachet – while attracting customers already shopping on the Row for their suits. “Savile Row is known around the world as the mecca of tailoring,” says Dean. “There are no finer tailors than Savile Row tailors. If somebody comes to the Row for a nice suit, you’d like to think that they would like a nice pair of shoes to complement it.” Tony thinks that while areas like Jermyn Street embody British heritage, Savile Row offers a unique mix of traditional and contemporary options. “We felt that Jermyn Street was getting a little bit tired in the way that it was; and Savile Row was a mix of a little bit more contemporary, with Ozwald Boating and a few others. You have a different kind of client up here; you get billionaires walking around, which I can’t imagine you do on Jermyn Street…”

Gaziano & Girling’s star is in the ascendance; and 10 years into the business, Tony and Dean are more sure of which direction to take the brand than ever before. “We built our business mostly on the wholesale side, because we never had retail,” explains Tony. “Now we’re realising that we don’t need to grow the factory and the numbers they’re producing; we need to exchange those wholesale units for retail. That way we can increase our turnover and profits – and the quality isn’t compromised.” The aim is to open further retail stores globally. “We feel that Asia – particularly Hong Kong and Tokyo – would be good locations for future stores. We have a very big following in the Asian market,” says Dean. He notes that the brand also sees a lot of interest Stateside – and that it would be “a dream to have a standalone store in New York.” For now, Gaziano & Girling’s presence in the Big Apple comprises a showroom on 57th.

It seems that while there is a desire to expand, Tony and Dean are seeking longevity – and are committed to improving the business one well-heeled step at a time. As Tony says, “We just want to take our time and produce a super luxury product.”

39 Savile Row

Ben Tish and Simon Mullins, Salt Yard Group

Behind golden hoardings, the new St James’s Market has quietly risen out of the backwater between Regent Street St James’s and Haymarket. A 210,000 sq ft development of office space, retail and restaurants built around a flash central square, it is set to be a focal point in this district. While it is the local business community that will immediately benefit from the development, the hope is that the square will soon become a destination in its own right.

While the retail offering here expands on The Crown Estate’s vision to make St James’s a style hub, building on the arrival of Dover Street Market on Haymarket, it is the restaurants that are the big draw, and are what will ensure that this stretch of St James’s remains in the conscience of London’s spoilt food lovers.

So far, only a couple of the seven proposed restaurants have launched. Veneta was one of the first, opening in November. It is the fifth restaurant from Salt Yard Group – the hospitality company that helped kickstart London’s move towards egalitarian dining with the launch of its first site, Salt Yard in Fitzrovia. Offering expertly-prepared small plates in an informal space, that restaurant can now, some time later, be seen to have had an impact on the way Londoners now eat. “The small plates thing has obviously been going on for hundreds of years, but it’s really taken off since we started,” says Simon Mullins, founder of the group. “We were certainly one of the very first in London,” agrees executive chef Ben Tish. Simon continues, “Our most important thing is that we’re always serving up great food, with staff who know what they’re talking about and are passionate about what they do.”

It was while working for Spanish food importer Brindisa that Simon first decided to open a restaurant. He was initially researching an Italian concept with his partner Sanja Morris; but his time at Brindisa helped him “develop a real passion for Spanish food”, and the pair decided to shelve the idea for a purist Italian restaurant. “We came up with a hybrid, which was to combine Spanish and Italian in the form of an enoteca slash tapas bar.” After finding the site that would soon become Salt Yard, they refined their vision even further. “The venue came with a full kitchen and dining area – so it evolved into a fully-fledged restaurant.”

It is this marrying of Spanish and Italian regional cuisines that has become the group’s trademark – albeit executed with individuality at each site. As executive chef, Ben Tish, says, “They naturally have different vibes to each other because of the area, but with the same kind of service standards.”

Salt Yard opened over a decade ago. The years since have seen four more openings from the group: Dehesa on Kingly Street; Opera Tavern in Covent Garden; Ember Yard in the heart of Soho, on Berwick Street; and Veneta. While the group’s previous restaurants took inspiration from across both Italy and Spain, Veneta marks a change, in that it focuses solely on the culinary traditions of Venice – with Spain not at all represented. But according to Simon and Ben, it was the process of finding a site that dictated the restaurant’s concept.

“We looked at a site on Regent Street St James’s, which has now become Milos. We walked into the space – which is a huge, grand space. Ben said, ‘This place would be great for a Venetian grand café.'” Simon says that the idea stuck, though they didn’t take the space. “A little while later, we started to know more about the St James’s Market development and we really bought into the vision. Then we saw this particular unit – beautiful, big bay windows, tall ceilings. Veneta is a distilled version of the original idea.”

Simon and Ben looked to create a restaurant that would chime aesthetically with the rest of the area. “We felt that it needed to be something grand, because St James’s has this rich, royal heritage. Obviously Venice comes with lots of history and grandeur too, so we felt like it was a good fit.”

Immersing himself in the city’s famous food culture, Ben sought to look past the usual Venetian fare of cicchetti – instead focusing on its abundant fish and, of course, pasta. “One thing that stuck out for me was their focus on fish and seafood. There’s a lagoon there, and they have something called lagoon fish. It’s very specific to the region.” Ben says he was inspired by the sushi-like preparation of these fish. “Crudo – which is raw or lightly cured shellfish with lemon, rosemary and salt – is a big focus there. We wanted to recreate that here, so we introduced the raw bar downstairs.”

While the menu is extensive and covers everything from meats, fish and a section dedicated to fresh pasta dishes and risotto – to a gelato menu on top of the regular dessert menu (“Venice is renowned for sweet things”), it is the raw bar that seems to be making an impact at this early stage, with its fresh, healthy options. “From the feedback we’ve had already, the raw bar is a real hit – in particular this dish which is a crab cocktail served in a spider crab shell, on a special crab plate we designed. That’s been one of those dishes that people have been talking about; it’s been posted a lot on Instagram.” Another difference Veneta brings to the group is the introduction of breakfast, which is available throughout the week; a reflection of the needs of St James’s business community.

Though still early days for Veneta, the Salt Yard Group has more openings on the horizon – even if the concepts are not yet fully formed. “We’re always in discussion with landlords and agents on sites. We haven’t signed anything yet, but we’re looking to do something else next year,” says Simon. “We’ll continue to grow – but for us, it’s always been about taking the right opportunity – only when we’re ready for it – and making sure we absolutely get it right. Going forward, it’ll be the same. Let’s call it considered growth.”

3 Norris Street, St James’s Market

Tom Parker Bowles, food writer

Fortnum & Mason has come a long way since opening in 1707 at Hugh Mason’s small St James’s Market shop. A move to an iconic site at 181 Piccadilly and three centuries of history later, it is perhaps the world’s most famous grocery store. This time last year, the company reported record sales figures of £88 million – and the recent launch of its first standalone restaurant, 45 Jermyn St., has pushed the brand further into new territory.

Now, the company has taken another step forward, with the publication of its first official cookbook. Featuring recipes for longtime classics, dishes pulled from the archives and contemporary dishes, the book provides a history of the store’s life; a snapshot into Fortnum’s past through the prism of its most well-loved dishes and ingredients.

The man tasked with consolidating 309 years of history into just 304 pages is Tom Parker Bowles. A respected food writer, critic and sometime television presenter, he also happens to have royal connections, being the son of Camilla Parker Bowles.

While the presumption might be that these connections might have led to Tom’s appointment by the Royal Warrant holding Fortnum & Mason for the purposes of writing this historic book, the reality is far more prosaic – as he explains over coffee at 45 Jermyn St.

“I was filming in Australia about a year and a half ago. Ewan Venters (CEO of Fortnum’s) and I sat over a long lunch at a place in Bondi, and I said to him: ‘You have over 300 years of history, but you haven’t done a cookbook.'” Tom offered his services, and soon the process of researching and compiling recipes began, alongside Fortnum’s’ executive chef, Sydney Aldridge.

The team’s aim was to produce a usable, working cookbook. “You want it stained, battered and bruised from constant use,” says Tom, whose enthusiasm for food is reflected in his hyper-speed speaking and a penchant for jumping to his next thought before articulating his last. He says that picking the recipes for a book “three hundred years in the making” – taken from Fortnum’s archives, dishes available in the store and at 45 Jermyn St – was challenging, but “fascinating”.

Fortnum & Mason: The Cookbook has something to please all home cooks, at all skill levels, according to the writer. From quick dishes to “elaborate” recipes, Tom says there is much to enjoy. Personally, he enjoys the “more comforting dishes; it’s probably because of the season.” He rattles off a number of unctuous, flavoursome dishes perfectly suited to the colder months – Welsh rarebit (“Fortnum’s perfected it”) is just one British classic that makes an appearance.

Tom says Fortnum’s has had a presence in his life since he was a child. “I grew up in the country most of the time, but my grandma used to take my cousin and I here. When you’re a kid and not in the city much, London is a magical place. With its glittering windows, Fortnum’s had that sense of magic – especially at Christmas. I was always slightly in awe of it.”

Though Tom grew up in nature and enjoyed the seasonal produce readily available there, it wasn’t until going to boarding school aged eight that his “healthy interest in food turned into greed.” After university and a string of jobs unsuited to him (“I was sacked from every job I ever did”), Tom was made Tatler’s food writer – and remained there for eight years, before making the move to GQ, and then to Esquire. He would soon also become the food critic at the Mail on Sunday. Tom says he is grateful to have found a career he gets so much enjoyment out of. “I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than write. “Sometimes I think, ‘My god, I’m eating and writing about it’ – that for me is a dream.”

Tom has now notched up hundreds of restaurant reviews up and down the UK and across the globe. With such experience, what does he think of the restaurant scene in Mayfair and St James’s – two of London’s more challenging districts for restaurateurs? “I always knew St James’s pretty well – my father was always in the area; and my uncle used to have a restaurant round here. The Crown Estate are doing up the whole area, so he had to move out – we’re looking for a new site as we speak.” That restaurant is Green’s – recently acquired by restaurateur Marlon Abela.

As for Mayfair, Tom says there are a number of iconic restaurants here that never fail to deliver the goods. “I can absolutely rely on Scott’s every time – it’s a fantastic place.” Same goes, he says, for The Wolseley. “It amazes me that it’s only been there for 11 years. Jeremy King and Chris Corbin are incredible restaurateurs.” According to Tom, food is just one facet that makes Corbin and King’s restaurants modern day classics. “You go for the whole experience – that cacophonous, echoing room – and that never ceases to get me excited.”

He tells me that he hopes to see more of what he calls Mayfair’s ‘new breed’ of restaurants. “Kitty Fischer’s on Shepherd Market is fantastic. It’s small, decently priced, but it’s cool. That’s the new Mayfair for me – you don’t have to wear a tie and you can eat lunch there for £25.”

Tom believes in the democratisation of food. He is a champion of the street food scene and is involved in East London food market Dinerama. “It’s always packed. I think that’s great, because 20 years ago you wouldn’t have found that. You can have amazing food for a tenner, a few drinks… That’s how the food scene has changed, and I hope that’s the future.”

Fitting someone whose “life is food”, Tom has an emotional view of eating that he says connects each and every one of us. “You can communicate through food, no matter where you are,” he says. “You can be celibate, you can pay taxes or you can dodge taxes – whether you like food or not, we still have this shared experience. To sit down and break bread together – I think that’s a very important thing.”

Fortnum & Mason: The Cookbook is published by Fourth Estate and priced at £30.

Liz Hurley, actress, model and designer

Actress, model and beachwear designer, Elizabeth Hurley, is one Britain’s most recognisable faces. Starring in a number of international movie hits including Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and Bedazzled, she has recently used her profile to help raise awareness for charitable causes close to her heart. She talks with Reyhaan Day about fame, family and her memories of Mayfair, as she prepares to turn on the Shepherd Market Christmas Lights.

You will be appearing at the Shepherd Market Christmas lights in Mayfair. What appeals to you about the area?

I’m fascinated by the history of Mayfair and have always thought it one of the most special places in London. I rarely go further east in London than Mayfair, as everything I like is there: Farm Street Church, Thomas Goode, my hairdresser Jo Hansford, Scott’s, 5 Hertford Street, 34, Annabel’s, Sexy Fish, the Curzon cinema – all of which are fabulous.

Mayfair must have been a fascinating place in the 90s. What are your fondest memories of that time, and how do you think London has changed since then?

Thankfully, I don’t think the atmosphere of Mayfair has changed much at all, which is why I like it. All the restaurants and shops are vastly improved, although, like everywhere, parking is now a horror. But I was working all though the 90’s – I didn’t go out much.

Did you know from a young age the life you wanted to enjoy when you were older? Were you after a career or a lifestyle?

I didn’t even think about a lifestyle until I had my son; for me it was always all about work. I grew up in the suburbs and was lucky to have wonderfully supportive parents. From a very young age I did hours of dance and drama classes after school every night and moved to London when I was 18 to continue training, where I didn’t know a soul.

When did you realise that you would be able to make a career out of acting and modelling?

I got my first agent in my third year of college and started working right away. First in commercials, then I got a play and then film and TV. I lived in LA for ten years and worked like a dog – but I had the best time.

You’ve had a long association with Estée Lauder. How has being involved with a global brand like that helped your career?

I’m in my 22nd year of working for Estée Lauder and they have been the most incredible company with whom to work. I’d never modelled before and they took a real chance on me. As well as shooting their campaigns, I’ve been the global ambassador for The Estée Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign (BCA) for over twenty years, and it’s one of the most important things in my life.

Do you see yourself as an actress first and foremost? Or do you think that your fashion business is more representative of where you are now at?

I took eight years off from acting to raise my son, and was incredibly lucky to get back into the industry. I did a season on Gossip Girl; a movie with Gerard Depardieu; and am now playing the Queen of England in The Royals – we just wrapped on the third season. I started my beachwear company, Elizabeth Hurley Beach, while raising my son and still put a great deal of energy into it, but I am really enjoying acting again. My heart is in show business.

Why did you decide to get involved in fashion from a business perspective? What are you bringing to the table with your beachwear line?

I decided to venture into beachwear not only because I’ve always been obsessed with holiday clothes, but also because it’s an area where women, regardless of shape or size, can either look amazing or really get it wrong. I wanted to develop resort collections which make women feel fabulous at any age. We have a very loyal fan base and are in great department stores around the world, like Harrods and Saks 5th Avenue; and we’re in lots of fabulous smaller stores and luxury resorts.

You are heavily involved in charity work. Tell me about a couple of projects that you are working on that are close to your heart – and why do you think that it’s important for you to put the spotlight on these issues?

In addition to serving as the global ambassador for The BCA Campaign, I support several charitable causes and organisations—particularly those focused on health, children and the military. I am a strong supporter of Elton John’s charity, Elton John AIDS Foundation; I’m the president of Hop, Skip and Jump, an organisation focused on providing high quality respite care for children and young adults with disabilities; and I’m a patron of the City Veterans Network and Walking with the Wounded.

In what way have your priorities changed over the years?

Everything is a juggling act and, as every working mother knows, something always has to give. Once I had my son, I decided that he would not be the one losing out – which is why I stopped doing movies and TV for the first eight years of his life. I don’t regret it for a moment. I adore my son and we are very close. I am more like an Italian mother than an English one, and I think he’s the bee’s knees. I’m pretty strict and he’s very well behaved. He has been very well socialised from a young age and I can take him anywhere.

Do you see similarities between your son and your teenage self?

When I was a teenager I had pink hair, a nose ring and ripped up clothes. I wasn’t really rebelling against anything though; it was just fashion. Plus, I really loved the music and still often have the Clash blasting. My son is extremely focussed and just had his first acting role in The Royals, where he plays Prince Hansel von Lichtenstein – a rich, spoilt, royal, reality TV star. He loves show business too and would love to leave school and start working. Cruel Mummy says no.

What dreams do you have for you and your family? Have they changed as you’ve become wiser and more successful?

My friends and family mean the world to me and without them I’d be truly sunk, so no matter what I’m doing, I always find time for them. I long for everyone I love to be happy.

What is your relationship like with fame? There must be both positive and negative aspects…

If I could choose success or fame, I’d definitely go for the former. However, in my business they are closely intertwined, and losing some privacy is the cost of doing business. I try as hard as I can to retain some privacy though and, over the years, I have carved out ways to achieve that. I go through stages of living like a recluse but, as a mother, I have to moderate that a bit so my son has as normal a life as possible. Nevertheless, he’s always on ‘binocular duty’ when we go on vacation and scans the horizon for stalkers with long lenses.

Do you see yourself as a positive person?

I love my life, I love change and I love new experiences. Saying yes is so liberating; it’s my favourite word. I have the same friends and still do most of the same things that I’ve loved to do for thirty years. I’ve always been ambitious and determined – but I like to giggle along the way.

What has been your proudest moment so far? What is there left for you to achieve – professionally and personally?

Professionally, as the global ambassador for the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, there are two research scientists at The Royal Marsden Hospital and Institute of Cancer that share a grant in my name based on funds raised through The BCA Campaign. To know that through my work as the Campaign’s global ambassador I can help such important research be achieved, is something that I am proud of and has had a profound impact on me. Personally, having my son and watching him grow up and develop makes me an extremely proud mother.

Do you have regrets?

My father died before I had my son Damian; the fact that they never knew each other is a constant source of regret. I worshipped my dad, and would have loved to have had him in my son’s life. Nevertheless, Damian has been regaled with hundreds of Grandpa Bear stories over the years.

When are you most ‘yourself’? Is it hard to really be yourself when you are constantly in the public eye?

I’m pretty much myself the whole time – there’s no Jekyll and Hyde thing going on. I’m definitely more comfortable with people I know and trust, but they are the people I’m with 99 per cent of the time.

Where do you feel most relaxed – physically and mentally?

When I head west, to my home in the country, I feel my shoulders relaxing and a calmness befall me. I love going home – the hair goes in a ponytail, the Ugg boots go on and my spirits rise. I play with the dogs, the cats and the parrot, I garden, I light bonfires, I read and I giggle with my son and friends. Bliss.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

Hopefully still working. I can’t imagine not having a project.

The Shepherd Market Christmas Lights switch on takes place on December 8.

Sloane Square – Chelsea’s artistic links

Chelsea has a long-running history of art running through its streets; from the Pre-Raphaelite painters of the mid-19th century, to the 1960s countercultural revolution on the King’s Road and the 2008 launch of the Saatchi Gallery on Duke of York Square. Reyhaan Day takes a trip through the decades to discover Chelsea’s artistic links.

Chelsea’s reputation as London’s foremost artistic borough first gathered momentum with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood – a group mid-19th century English painters that resisted the idea of Renaissance painter Raphael as the artistic ideal; a view that was the status quo, and upheld by influential figures within the art world.

Formed as a secret society, its painters began signing their works with the PRB initials; and in the process, founded an artistic movement that was to shake up the British art world.

William Holman Hunt, James McNeill Whistler and Dante Gabriel Rossetti – three founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood – lived at 5 Prospect Place, 101 Cheyne Walk and 16 Cheyne Walk respectively.

Attracted to the area by low rents, studio space and access to the inspiration-giving river – while still remaining within easy reach of the West End and prospective buyers – the Cheyne Walk artists found themselves in a community of like-minded thinkers. Joseph Mallard William Turner had seen out his days here, living secretly with his mistress in accommodation on Davis Place, which later became 118-119 Cheyne Walk; but the artist’s private nature meant that his presence went unnoticed by other artists beginning to move into the area.

Cheyne Walk has enjoyed the greatest concentration of artists in Chelsea since the mid-19th century. From lesser-known painters such as Walter Greaves – born on the Walk and whose father had been Turner’s boatman – who enjoyed a brief glimpse at Chelsea’s artistic community, living at 104 Cheyne Walk, before being largely shunned and dying in poverty; to landscape painters Cecil Gordon Lawson and Edward Arthur Wilson; leading British impressionist Sir Philip Wilson Steer; and more recently, cartoonist and impressionist Sir Gerald Scarfe.

Many others of a similar disposition took up residences in nearby Glebe Place, Tite Street and Manresa Road – the location where, later, the Chelsea College of Arts began; and where Trafalgar Studios, one of the first and most significant of Chelsea’s emerging multiple studio spaces, was first opened in 1878. The building of studio space such as this attracted artists of varied income – important in lending Chelsea its bohemian, artistic air.

Similarly, The Studios on Tite Street created its own enclave of artists, including Whistler, John Singer Sargent and Augustus John. The influence of these large units spawned a series of smaller studio groups around the King’s Road and Glebe Place; and soon led to a healthy environment for artists and art lovers, with regular life classes and sessions with some of the era’s now-lauded names.

The Pre-Raphaelites would have a significant impact on a later but equally important era of art culture in Chelsea: the 1960s. In the years between the dissolution of the Brotherhood and the mid-20th century, the movement and its principles fell out of favour with those in artistic circles – particularly the emerging British Modernist movement – with the Pre-Raphaelite preoccupation with medieval imagery akin to the passé ideal of painting fully representing reality. But the technicolour aesthetic of ‘swinging’ London in the sixties generated a renewed interest in the movement’s work; while Chelsea artists in this age took bold new steps into unchartered territory.

The King’s Road, by this stage, was the key example of a wider countercultural movement that embraced the romantic, naturalist and heavily symbolic principles of the Pre-Raphaelites’ paintings. A smattering of stores opened on the road, many indirectly influenced by the medieval style adopted and popularised by the Pre-Raphaelites – boutiques including I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet, Granny Takes a Trip and The Sweet Shop proffered garments reminiscent of John Everett Millais’ Ophelia’s flowing gown, with colours as vibrant as those chosen by the earlier generation of painters.

In the 1960s, Chelsea became home to some of the decade’s most in-demand photographers – namely those immersed in the countercultural revolution taking place along the King’s Road. Terence Donovan based himself in the area in the mid-sixties, opening hip outfitters The Shop at 47 Radnor Walk with designer Maurice Jeffery – a boutique that a 1965 issue of Rave magazine described as “a favourite of the ‘in’ crowd”. Donovan was one of the first celebrity photographers alongside David Bailey – and his groundbreaking fashion images paved the way for a generation of photographers to come.

Fellow photographer Robert Whitaker’s studio was also located in Chelsea, on The Vale. Over two years from 1964 to 1966, Whitaker intensively documented the public and private lives of The Beatles. The band’s Yesterday and Today cover, with its surrealist shot of John, Paul, George and Ringo accompanied by dismembered dolls and raw meat, was taken by Whitaker in his studio. When The Beatles announced that they would no longer tour and had holed up in Abbey Road Studios to record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Whitaker moved on to another project. Now based at well-known residential studio space, The Pheasantry, on the King’s Road, he teamed up with friend and pop artist Martin Sharp to help create the album artwork for Disraeli Gears – the seminal LP by Eric Clapton’s band, Cream. The success of this project led to Whitaker’s frequent collaborations with the underground magazine, Oz; an influential, tripped-out countercultural rag, considered one of the era’s most visually exciting documents.

Photography gradually became the artistic expression of choice during this era, and other respected names found themselves living and working in Chelsea. Chelsea Manor Studios – which had originally opened in 1902 – was the location of Michael Cooper’s studio. Occupying Studio 4 of the building, Cooper was set a task that would be his making – to put together the infamous photographic montage for the sleeve of The Beatles’ masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Taking place in March of 1967, the shoot required wax figures from Madame Tussaud’s, various props and collage items and the band themselves; Cooper’s photograph was then painted by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth to achieve the final, eye-catching cover. Cooper, who was a significant figure in the music scene of the day, was also responsible for the lenticular cover of former Chelsea residents The Rolling Stones’ experimental 1967 release, Their Satanic Majesties Request.

The increasing perception of Chelsea as London’s most ‘happening’ district directly led to the area’s gentrification. Understandably, many of the artists initially drawn to Chelsea’s bohemian, cutting edge atmosphere were priced out – with many artists’ studios closing. Chasing affordable rents, creatives moved to nearby Notting Hill and towards Camden – leaving Chelsea with a rich artistic heritage, but less of an active community of working artists.

One of the few that continued living and working in the area was Julian Barrow – who worked for almost 50 years in the same Tite Street studio as John Singer Sargent and Augustus John, until his death in 2013. The demand for converted studio houses is such that they now command prices in the millions. Landlord Cadogan has, however, attempted to keep the bohemian traditions alive in Chelsea, by protecting some of the studio spaces for use by those in the art world.

Though there were less artists residing in the area, a number of commercial galleries began to open – smaller than in the traditional art nucleus of Mayfair; and the success of societies such as the London Sketch Club, the Chelsea Arts Society and the Chelsea Arts Club, as well as the Chelsea School of Art (now Chelsea College of Art), continued the artistic traditions established in the area. Notable alumni from the art college include art critic John Berger, Quentin Blake, Patrick Caulfield, Peter Doig, David Hockney and many others.

Influential and prominent artists of the time, such as master British abstract painters John Hoyland, Howard Hodgkin and former student Caulfield, taught their skills at these institutions, impressing their styles upon future artists. With the increase of wealth in Chelsea during the 1980s and 1990s, the galleries became more professional endeavours – with collectors heading to Chelsea for its boutique vibe and stylish, high net worth local clients.

The influence of the area’s historic art scenes is still felt in Chelsea today, with a number of galleries promoting the works of emerging painters, photographers and sculptors, as well as more recognised names. Langton Street, towards the World’s End Estate, has had a long line of galleries occupy the street – a tradition that continues today, with 9 Langton Street exhibiting contemporary works by London artists whose stars are rising. The Little Black Gallery on Park Walk upholds the photographic traditions of Chelsea; home to works by the late, iconic photographer Bob Carlos Clarke, one room at the gallery is permanently dedicated to his irreverent photographs. Michael Hoppen Gallery, on Jubilee Place, also showcases the best emerging photographers, alongside established masters of the form.

Chelsea’s reputation as an artistic hub has been revitalised further thanks to the opening of Charles Saatchi’s world class Saatchi Gallery – originally opened in a disused paint factory in St John’s Wood in 1985, it moved to the South Bank for two years in 2003. Forced closure left the gallery without a venue for three years, but in 2008, the Saatchi Gallery found a permanent home in Duke of York Square.

A 70,000 sq ft space, it has been a significant addition to London’s art scene, with the gallery hosting five of the six most visited exhibitions in London in 2009 and 2010. Most recently, the biggest rock and roll band in the world, The Rolling Stones, took over the gargantuan space to chronicle the group’s life thus far, with Exhibitionism – one of the highest grossing and most visited London events in recent years, which even featured a recreation of the band’s shared flat in Edith Grove. The gallery has also become known for showcasing works from internationally acclaimed artists as well as those unknown to the art world, in exhibitions focusing on new art from regions such as China and the Middle East.

Natia Chkhartishvili, Shilda Wines and Eshvi

At 12 Hay Hill, I’m chatting with Natia Chkhartishvili – founder of Eshvi, a jewellery brand that operates a number of boutiques in London and has garnered attention for its collections, which have shown at Paris and London Fashion Week. But today, we are not discussing rings, necklaces and bracelets.

Natia has made it her mission to put the spotlight on her home country of Georgia, and one of its most enduring cultural traditions: winemaking. Noticing the lack of knowledge of Georgian wine internationally, Natia and her family formed Shilda – a wine company that aims to help the country’s small, traditional winemakers showcase their wine globally.

Natia tells me how her interest in wine began – and how the idea for Shilda developed. “I moved to London, and I was hosting lots of dinners at my place – so I always wanted to have a good wine. I started doing wine tastings and attending lessons to get a deeper understanding of how to differentiate good and bad wine.”

The lack of knowledge of Georgian wine in London made the business-minded Natia wonder what Georgia’s wine industry was missing. “There was no big manufacturing of wine – people were making amazing wine, but they couldn’t produce more than 5,000 bottles. They didn’t have people to help, they didn’t have new technology or additional investors.”

Natia and her family decided to build a platform where Georgia’s established winemakers could produce higher quantities of wine, while potentially reaching a wider audience. “We decided to pick up the winemakers who already know this field – whose knowledge has been passed down through generations – and we will follow the way they make the wine. Our aim is to bring to the local people the potential to show the international market what the real taste of Georgia is.” Natia says that the characteristics of Georgian wine come from the land, which is ideal for winemaking, and the minerals in the soil. “There is such a diverse landscape in Georgia, particularly for such a small country.” According to Natia, Georgian wine is most similar to African wines; but it has methods and traditions that are unique to the country, some going back some 8,000 years. “Kvevri wine, for example, is a special way of winemaking using clay. There’s nothing else like it.”

Natia tells me that Georgians “have a very big culture of hosting people – there is always a bottle of wine on the table.” She says that hospitality is central to the country’s philosophy. With the launch of Shilda, Natia hopes to share this with the world. The investment, technology and machinery that Shilda is introducing to local winemakers is set to bring a new level of interest in Georgian wine across the world. “We built a huge factory, which was finished last year. We can now manufacture up to four million bottles a year,” says Natia proudly. “Most of the small producers work for our factory to make wine using their approach, but on a bigger scale. Previously, they would only be able to produce 2,000 bottles – and none of those bottles would make it out of the country.

“We want to help the local people who have the experience. The main priority was helping people who have done this for generations, and to just bring their philosophy to the new way of wine production. I’m not involved in the winemaking process – we are simply giving a platform to the Georgian winemaking philosophy.”

Currently, Georgia is yet to establish a significant market outside of its neighbouring countries. “The biggest market was Russia; culturally, there are lots of commonalities between us. But after the conflict, that has changed. The Russians know Georgian wine well, as does Azerbaijan and Armenia; but I want Europeans to know about it. That’s my mission.”

Mayfair is a big target for Shilda, says Natia. “When it is time to introduce Georgian wine to London, Mayfair will be one of the first destinations. I spend most of my time in this area.” She says that Mayfair’s private members clubs and restaurants are key opportunities. “The clubs are important, because members listen to the sommeliers, and they know about new wines. Every time I go to the Arts Club, I always chat to the sommelier.” Natia thinks that the most important way to highlight Georgian wine is by making sure that Shilda is on the radar of those in the know. “It’s important that the sommelier believes in the product; if they believe in it, then they will really recommend the wine,” she says. “This approach to wine is very important.”

Although Georgian wine is still niche, Natia believes that things are beginning to change. “In the last two years, Georgia has had lots of interest in terms of tourists and the media – this will help our wine industry a lot.”

Natia wants to make Georgia – and in particular the wine region of Kakheti – a true international destination. She explains that drawing tourists to the wine region has been difficult, due to its remoteness and lack of quality accommodation; but a series of contemporary buildings surrounding Shilda’s vineyards, including luxury accommodation and a spa, are currently being constructed to counter this. “This will be one of the most innovative projects in the Kakheti region,” says Natia.

“We decided to construct super modern buildings which will be integrated into the vineyards. It will have the biggest wine tasting space in the whole region, with huge wine cellars – and it will also have places to stay, offering a five star experience.” She hopes that Shilda will become the main Georgian destination for visitors. “The concept is that if a tourist comes to Georgia for one week, the main destination will be Shilda – and we can organise tours all around Georgia from there. There has to be another reason to stay in Kakheti – and I think this will be it.” Natia believes there is untapped potential in Georgia. “It has the potential because so far, what we have in Georgia are small hotels with a traditional experience; but there is no luxury,” she says, telling me that the whole project will be wrapped up within a year.

Natia says that wine has given her a newfound understanding of her country, and a drive to put Georgia on the map. “Wine is something that I became much more interested in after reading and understanding how things work, how interesting things can be and how big a potential Georgia has. Now, my main priority is using every major potential Georgia has – whether it be hospitality, wine, food, design or art, everything – because I think it is a country with huge potential that really needs attention.”

Ravinder Bhogal, Jikoni

In the basement of the Monocle Café, Ravinder Bhogal is taking me on a kaleidoscopic journey of global influences and characters that have inspired her life in food. Now, she has started the next chapter of her story, with the opening of Jikoni: her debut restaurant on Blandford Street. It’s a scorching afternoon in Marylebone; the perfect day to dream about the exotic dishes the chef is cooking up.

Ravinder knows Marylebone well, and says that it has always been her first choice for Jikoni; her business partners, on the other hand, needed convincing. “They’re Soho boys – they understood the pace of Soho. But one Monday or Tuesday, we walked around Marylebone and couldn’t find anywhere to eat. Every single place was full. I think that’s when the penny finally dropped for them.”

She says that the feeling of community within the neighbourhood is what attracted her to Blandford Street. “There are these beautiful music shops; there’s an antiques dealer who’s been here since 1970. It feels like a place where there is longevity – where there’s meaning, depth and substance. I love that it’s a neighbourhood and that there’s a sense of community. I wanted to buy into that.”

Ironically, Ravinder never intended to open a restaurant; as she says, “restaurants were never part of my psyche”. It was while working as a fashion journalist that an opportunity came that would change the course of her life. “When I was working in fashion, I was the diet disaster for people. I would make things at home and bring them in to the office,” she says. “A stylist from this magazine I worked for – who I was constantly feeding – said: ‘I’ve just seen this advert for a TV show – Gordon Ramsay is looking for a new Fanny Craddock.’ She said that she had this really strong feeling that if I entered, I would win. And I did.”

Once the show, The F-Word, had aired, Ravinder’s star begun rising fast. “I started getting calls from agents, saying, ‘You could have a career in this, come and see us!’ I was a journalist, so I didn’t really believe anyone – I thought they were talking rubbish.”

Soon, Ravinder found an agent she trusted. Three months after showing her agent a manuscript, she had a book deal.

Published by HarperCollins, Cook in Boots became a surprise hit, garnering a Gourmand World Cookbook Award for the UK’s Best First Cookbook. Ravinder thinks that it was the book’s grounded tone and focus on women in their mid-twenties that led to its success. “It was an authentic book, in that it was my voice. It’s fun to read – it’s how I talk to a friend. I think it was original at the time, because as much as there had been Nigella writing for a certain sort of audience, no-one was writing for girls in their twenties.” Ravinder says that her book also appeals to women with an interest in both fashion and food. “I come from a fashion background, and the book was very true to the London ‘girl about town’. That’s exactly who I was. I wrote about that experience. I think that’s why women who love to buy Vogue but who love to eat as well, were able to relate to it.”

The endorsement from Ramsay, plus the success of her first book, led to Ravinder’s first taste of telly. Appearances on BBC and Channel 4 followed, Ravinder joining critic and presenter Jay Rayner for the latter’s, Food: What Goes in Your Basket. It was while working alongside Rayner that Ravinder first entertained the notion of cooking for customers. “I was working with Jay on Channel 4, and for part of that, I had to cook.” Ravinder says that it was Rayner who planted the seed in her head. “He really liked my food. He said, ‘I think you should go and lock yourself in your kitchen for a couple of years and learn; I think it would do you good.’ So I did.”

Ravinder immersed herself in London’s pop-up scene, which by this point offered the most original and sought-after dining experiences for the capital’s food lovers. “My first one was with Anna Hansen at Meza; shortly after, I was approached by Mark Hix to do a takeover at Selfridges, which was the most incredible night. I really enjoyed the thrill of doing service.” It was at this point that Ravinder met Ratnesh Bagdai – partner to Hix, and now partner to the Kenyan chef. Despite Bagdai’s frequent suggestions of teaming up, it wasn’t until four years after their initial meeting that the wheels of the opening were put into motion. “I kept bumping into Ratnesh. We’d start the conversation, but he was so busy by this point because Hix had grown so much, that it never really came to anything. Jay Rayner told me to tell him that I was no longer interested, and to see what happens. So I did.

“The very next morning, Ratnesh emailed me and said, ‘Can you put a date in your diary? We have to do this thing – meet me this week.'”

Having honed her craft over her four years of pop-ups, Ravinder had a clear vision as to what her debut restaurant would be like. “I went to Ratnesh with an entire plan, and he totally got it. He’s also from an East African and Indian background. The word ‘jikoni’ means ‘kitchen’ in Swahili – so he understood immediately. It was like fate; it was our destiny to do this restaurant together and have this kind of shared heritage and understanding.”

Jikoni is the result of Ravinder’s exposure to many gastronomic traditions. From African culinary customs absorbed while growing up in Kenya, to the Indian flavours that permeated mealtimes at home with her family; Ravinder has channelled these disparate inspirations to create a uniquely multicultural offering. Ravinder’s biggest influences, however, have been the strong, matriarchal figures for whom cooking has been a part of daily life. “My mother is a fantastic cook. She is one of these incredible women under whose hands these wild flavours blossom and behave.

“She was quite Victorian; she really believed that girls should learn how to sew and cook and clean the house. It really forced me into the kitchen, against my will, very early on,” she says with a smile. Ravinder remembers other women that passed on their knowledge, including Kenyan ladies that brought produce to the family home; and those she has met on her travels. “I always find myself in someone’s house with a woman teaching me how to cook. I just think there’s a maternal generosity; it’s such a shared wisdom, such a generous thing to do to cook with someone and share a recipe.”

Ravinder says that her male relatives also gave her plenty of inspiration and encouragement. “I’d say my grandfather was the reason I fell in love with cookery. Even when I made the most horrible things aged five – burnt chapatis and things like that – he would always say, ‘Oh my god! This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever eaten. You’re so talented – even better than your mother!’ As a five year old, you believe that. He would give me money, and I would go and buy toffees – I felt rewarded. He was the guy that showed me that cooking is almost like a currency for love… I’m all about that!”

Her father, an aeronautical engineer, also introduced her to an array of international produce that would impress upon the budding chef’s mind. “There were lots of international influences in Kenya – and I was in the thick of it because of my father. He travelled a lot, so he’d turn up with interesting things like Iranian watermelons. I was exposed to a very international palette.”

Of course, African food culture was formative in Ravinder’s education. “We were so embarrassingly hungry all the time, like our mother never fed us – so we would run to people’s houses and eat, or we would go to the local kiosk to buy things like baobab. I used to get told off for eating it, but I loved it. They put loads of food colouring, sugar and chilli with the baobab seeds, because it’s quite sharp. You suck on them like candies, then you spit the seeds out – but they dye your mouth,” Ravinder recalls. “I used to eat it in secret and my mouth would be lipstick red – and we’d be furiously brushing our teeth before our parents came home.”

Ravinder says that the Kenyan landscape offered an abundance of quality ingredients. “Kenyan soil is so volcanic; it’s a beautiful, lush, red earth place. Things grow so well. Tomatoes taste completely, insanely different. That sort of produce really inspired me.”

These influences have culminated in Jikoni’s menu – a collection of dishes Ravinder is clearly proud of. One of the most anticipated is Ravinder’s take on the scotch egg – a dish perfected over her pop-up years. “The scotch egg is something I really honed over time. It’s become a signature.” One is a prawn toast scotch egg with banana ketchup and pickled cucumber – which marries “something so Chinese restaurant, and something so British” to innovative effect. The all-important crust uses spicy Thai prawn crackers – puffing up and crisping when deep-fried – to encase the runny centre. Another features pork with fermented carrots and tamarind and date chutney; and a vegetarian option comprises pumpkin with dukkah, tahini and pickled chillies. Other highlights on Ravinder’s menu include scrag-end shepherd’s pie, spiced with black cardamom and cinnamon; and a daily-changing plate offering curry and rice dishes from across the globe. For dessert, guests can devour gooey banana cake with miso butterscotch and Ovaltine kulfi; and meringue roulade with pistachio crust, mascarpone with orange blossom water and apricots cooked with verjus, bay leaves and mint.

The food at Jikoni is rooted in home cooking, albeit elevated to exacting standards; and Ravinder wants the atmosphere of the restaurant to reflect that. “Originally, I said to Ratnesh that all I wanted was a kitchen with a few chairs and tables. I feel like Jikoni is an extension of my home and an extension of my personality as well.” She says that she wants guests to feel at home during their visit. “I want people to come and feel part of an un-restaurant. It’s a place where strangers can gather to eat, drink and maybe talk to the table across. I’m not really about luxury – everything we do is a humble luxury.”

Jikoni is now open at 19-21 Blandford Street.