Tim Gardner is director and co-owner of The Lonsdale Bar and Restaurant in London’s Notting Hill, which was relaunched with a new look and new ‘steak menu’ last month. After a career spent working for others the revitalised cocktail bar is Gardner’s first solo project.
How I got here:
Having spent some time working in bars in France I returned to the UK in 1996 just as Fuller’s was launching three gastro pubs. I found myself managing The Sun & 13 Cantons in London’s Soho at just 25 years of age, and must admit I was a bit of a kid in a candy store. The training Fuller’s provided served me well, and I went on to manage Home Bar & Restaurant in Shoreditch in the capital.
In September 2001 as general manager I opened The Wellington Club in London’s Knightsbridge, worked at the Crazy Bear Hotel in Oxfordshire after this, and joined Ignite Group’s Cocoon restaurant in Regent Street with a brief of shaking things up in July 2007.
I purchased the bar last November with my business partner Ben Entwistle (who previously owned the Well in London’s Clerkenwell, which is now part of the ETM Group). We traded it through Christmas and closed for refurbishment this January, although the appalling weather delayed things.
The bar had been under its previous ownership for eight years and was ready to be freshened up, which we’ve done. Only the classic cocktail menu, which was created by Dick Bradsell of Dick’s Bar and the Atlantic fame and Henry Besant founder of the Worldwide Cocktail Club, has remained untouched. We’ve appointed Jason Wallis, previously with Hawksmoor and The Palm in Belgravia, to introduce a predominantly steak based menu, as in this economic climate I think you have to offer as much as possible to draw customers in.
My biggest achievement:
It’s easy to buy somewhere but my biggest achievement will come if we manage as a team to keep running the The Lonsdale as a successful business in the long-term, as that’s always the challenge after the initial buzz of opening.
Owning your first business:
The satisfaction of doing it for yourself is wonderful but you do take on more stress, as you want everything to be just as you want it. There’s always an issue with lead times, builders and suppliers, so my advice would be to remain as calm as possible and be a rock in a stormy sea throughout.
My piece of advice:
It’s very useful to get proper training at a big company, as I did at Fuller’s, to see how they do things. It’s something you can then take with you to an independent and stamp your personality on.
We’re looking at refurbishing the first floor bar, used as a private space, and making sure we consolidate on what we’re already doing. We’re in a residential area and Fridays and Saturdays have been fantastic, with a slow build of trade in the rest of the week as we get the message out that there’s more to the bar than just cocktails.