Tell us about the hotel’s signature restaurant, Ting?
I started working on it two and a half years ago. Initially the company wanted a casual, all-day dining style restaurant: stations and buffets and all that. I l thought we could do something better and we developed the concept that is now Ting – high-level Asian-influenced food in a relatively relaxed environment. The views are obviously incredible and the restaurant needs to work in five or 10 years, it needs to have a timeless quality.
Where does the name come from?
It simply means ‘lounge’ in Chinese. But we are not a Chinese restaurant, and I don’t do fusion. I had to adjust the menu a little to reflect the name, but it also draws on my experience of working in Asia – Tokyo, Dubai, and the Maldives. We use local ingredients wherever possible, and we have a few signature dishes that will stay on the menu such as the scallops with carrot, ginger and yuzu, and the Rhug lamb with sake and soy sauce.
Are there challenges of being located on the 34th floor?
One of the biggest headaches is transporting all the produce from ground floor up to the kitchens. Someone has to check it in downstairs before it comes up. And you certainly can’t add any more space! But it’s the third time I’ve worked in a skyscraper, I was on the 52nd floor of the Shangri-La Tokyo, so I’m used to it by now.
Is it important to attract Londoners as well as residents and tourists?
Of course. Initially we forecast around 60-70% of diners being non-residents, but since we opened it’s actually been more than 90%, aside from breakfast of course. We certainly don’t want to be a typical hotel restaurant. And we’ve started much better than expected, but realistically, it takes time for the team to reach its potential.
You have a deli and cake shop on the ground floor too…
Yes, Lang. We try to make everything fresh each day – the bread, cakes, pastries, quiches. Business is building up there. We also serve food in the Gong bar on the 52nd floor too – Iberico ham, organic smoked salmon - food is that complements the drinks, rather than the other way round.
What have been your career highlights to date?
Opening this hotel has been an incredible experience. We are fully booked for dinner now and I’m proud of that, though we still have lots to work on. In time, I’d like to the menu to become more market-led, changing each day depending on what we can find.
Are you enjoying being back in London?
Definitely. Before working in Asia, I was at The Ritz for three years and with Pierre Koffmann at The Berkeley before that. I still love to cook. I’m not an executive chef who sits at a desk all day.
Where do you like to eat out yourself?
I love Casse-Croûte on Bermondsey Street, and Elliot’s in Borough Market is superb for lunch. Ten years ago you couldn’t get good casual places in London – you had to go to Barcelona or New York. Now we have so much here - even Marcus Wareing is doing more casual now.
Any advice for young chefs?
For the first five to 10 years, work hard, learn and enjoy the craft. Don’t worry about promotions and Michelin stars – those opportunities will come. Too many chefs are worrying about their next position. Remember this business is all about making people happy.