INTERVIEW DOUGLAS BLYDE / PHOTOGRAPHY PAUL WINCH-FURNESS
Legendary British chef Marcus Wareing writes about his favourite London restaurants, celebrity chefs, mixology and the inspiration behind The Gilbert Scott, his new restaurant in the grand St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel
The masterplan for St Pancras Chambers began 12 years ago and the restoration took nine years. Look at the size of the place! 250 bedrooms and 64 private residences. The dining room was the last bit of the jigsaw.
Owner, Harry Handlesman invited six restaurateurs to pitch and together with my general manager, Chantelle Nicholson, we won with our concept for a British brasserie within quintessentially British architecture. It was never going to be about fine dining or bear my name. The recession sorted the men from the boys - you can’t have your name above 20 doors anymore, claiming to cook in them all and I’ve never wanted that anyway.
When someone mentioned we should have a carpet I cringed. I don’t want to camouflage noise. The whole place has to be full. I’ve put in as many tables, banquettes and chairs as possible to create the hustle and bustle of a grand café.
Echoing the building’s lines, we’ve installed the first ever stove on a curve. We employ 102 people in total of which 25 are in the kitchen. It’s a hard job for anyone onboard but very rewarding, especially when you see the dining room full and buzzing with people.
Having a bar is a new culture for me although there are similarities between mixology and cooking. I enjoy talking to head barman Ollie Blackburn about understanding flavours. He’s created 10 innovative signature cocktails which are already very popular with our guests, the ‘Pot Poire’ in particular, a fabulous Grey Goose vodka creation with Earl Grey, lemon and lavender.
Over the past few years I’ve seen a massive increase in the amount of chefs fighting to get on TV. But it’s not what I get up for. I’ve got two restaurants to run now. I do my bit on Masterchef, Great British Menu and Saturday Kitchen for example but it only equates to a few days a year. My time’s in the kitchen.
When I have time I enjoy dining at London’s Le Caprice and Scott’s. The vision and standard of owners, Chris Corbin and Jeremy King has never changed and I’m not treated differently to any other paying customer.
Although I’m not naturally inclined to use Twitter, when I look at the idea of it and Facebook, I think genius. I read a book about Google – it’s amazing to think that at one time those guys didn’t know how to turn idea into profit.
I haven’t taken a salary for two years. There’s a massive greed in people to take it because it’s there. But for me there’s no need - I own the business anyway.
I realise there are rumours about me taking over Claridge’s restaurant in the future, but they’re just that – rumours!
The Gilbert Scott, St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, Euston Road, NW1 2AR. thegilbertscott.co.uk, 020 7278 3888.