How is the opening going? It’s been pushed back A few times…
We’re now on track for a soft launch next month. It’s a huge project; the total investment for the hotel and restaurant is £14m. Ormer Mayfair was originally supposed to open in October last year but there were issues with planning and asbestos removal. It’s worked out well because August is a good month for a soft launch.
What’s your remit there?
We’re looking after the entire F&B operation including afternoon tea and room service. I’m always very hands-on with my projects. I designed all the back-of-house areas, but Tully Filmer Interior Design has overseen front of house and indeed the rest of the hotel. It’s been a challenging project because the hotel is spread across six townhouses and the restaurant – Ormer Mayfair – and kitchens are in the basement. We’ve had to remove a lot of walls to create an open plan back-of-house area. I didn’t want any of my teams to be hidden away.
The Grill at Flemings was a bit dingy, have you been able to introduce any natural light?
Yes. Why the original designer blocked out the windows is beyond me. It’s been complicated but we’ve managed to make it much brighter. We’ve gone for a 1930s look with lots of leather and suede, and brass and marble. It’s got a lovely, comfortable feel to it.
There’s a lot of competition in the area, how are you going to make sure the restaurant stands out?
Our USP is that we can bring a little bit of Jersey to Mayfair. I’ve been cooking on the island for 18 years now and have strong relationships with a lot of the island’s suppliers. We’ll probably receive consignments three times a week when we’re up and running, everything from Jersey raspberries and wild turbot to shoreline-foraged ingredients such as sea purslane, salty fingers and sea beets.
Will the menu be pitched at a similar level to Ormer?
Yes, although it won’t be a carbon copy. It’s a different marketplace. Mayfair likes more bells and whistles. We’re offering a tasting menu and à la carte, plus probably the odd sharing plate and a dish of the day. We’ll try and mix it up and be flexible. We’re anticipating the tasting menu being popular because Flemings will be a special occasion sort of place. We will be serving some classics from the Ormer menu including lobster ravioli with crab bisque; watercress veloute with oyster mayonnaise and beignets; and treacle tart with Jersey clotted cream ice cream.
Are you anticipating any problems with the existing customer base?
The Grill has been shut for so long that any regulars will have moved on. The refurb is intended to move the hotel from a four-star product to a five-star one so we’ll be attracting a different audience anyway.
Is there an expectation that you’ll deliver a Michelin star?
You can’t run a business on accolades. Clearly myself and Henrik Muehle (Flemings’ high-profile general manager) have experience in that world and have a good understanding of what we need to deliver. The aim is certainly to be working at that sort of level.
How often will you be in London?
During the launch, all the time. But once we’re up and running, the plan is to be in London for two days a week. Since August last year, I’ve been overseeing the F&B at 12 Hay Hill on Berkeley Square (a private members club). It’s just round the corner from Flemings, which is very handy indeed. Some of my staff are moving across to the hotel, which will take the pressure off because they know how I work.
You were born in Yorkshire, how did you end up in Jersey?
I left school when I was 15 and went straight into the industry. I did three years in top London hotel kitchens including The Savoy and The Ritz and then worked at The Black Bull in Moulton, North Yorkshire, which is very big on fish. Because of my interest in seafood, I got offered a job at Longueville Manor in Jersey and the rest is history. I honestly could not think of a better place to cook, the ingredients available there are incredible. It’s also a great place to raise a family. I live there with my wife and two boys.
What’s it like running a restaurant in Jersey?
The business sector is key, but we need to attract locals and tourists too. The island has to work hard to pull in visitors and for me that means making sure I get media coverage. There’s a noticeable uplift whenever I appear on TV. The bucket and spade brigade stopped coming years ago but, increasingly, Jersey is being seen as a gastronomic destination.