The next phase of my love affair with London was a little calmer. My delight at London’s night life scene had not dimmed, but I did realise the how important it was to take the opportunity to consume the other luscious ingredients that London provides. In fact, to this day, walking through the doors of a beautifully put together bar or club still conjures up the same excitement as it did back in 1998 - but I also now get the same excitement with restaurants, coffee shops, the theatre and any of the fantastic sporting and cultural arenas and centers. Firstly, within my public relations company and, secondly, for the majority of the last decade, I have been able to experience so much of this amazing city and still call it work. The old Confucius idiom says ‘Do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life’. I couldn’t agree more - London is my work and I love it so I’m not actually working!
A city like London doesn’t happen overnight. We have organically grown into the world’s leading city and, in my opinion, the capital of the World when it comes to what I love most: lifestyle businesses. When I made the decision to have only three late nights a week instead of five, I allowed myself to indulge in other activities. I developed a taste for white tablecloth dining. London, in the early to mid-noughties, started to produce some fantastic places to eat that were also great fun to spend time in too. I did find my taste in restaurants, back in those days, were the ones steeped in history. I found myself living next door to The Ivy so that became a regular. Scott’s in Mount Street was the place for some sea food while we headed to Quaglino’s - or Quags as my socialite pals would refer to it as – for some fun. Escargot on Greek Street was producing some fantastic food and, for date night, Clos Maggiore in Covent Garden served up romance on a plate.
Around this time, and as a perfect aperitif to the stunning food I was eating, was theatre. Before living in London, I thought I loved theatre, but a realisation dawned on me. Even though I had ‘treaded the boards’ myself (Eugene in the stage production of Grease, Wolfreton School, 1986), I had only actually been to the theatre four or five times - a couple of pantomimes - one with Little and Large - my sister’s ballet school production and a fantastic production of Great Expectations at the Hull New Theatre. Well, over the last 18 years this has certainly changed. My first West End show was Les Misérables, which I have now seen four or five times. It was a heavy start but it got me hooked. Over the years, I’ve seen most of the shows that have graced the West End, but also quite a lot of fringe theatre which can be quite exceptional. One that stuck in my memory was a show called Keeler, produced, I think, by old friend Alex Holt and directed by Paul Nicholas of Just Good Friends fame. The reason that this stuck out so much is because it was a brilliant production, but also that the famous picture of Christine Keeler -the focus of the play- had been taken at 18 Greek Street back in 1963. 18 Greek Street had, by this time, become my second home because I was now consulting with Zebrano Bars, who occupied the site. I had also moved my office into this extremely famous building. Once owned by Peter Cook, 18 Greek Street had become a hub for creativity and expression which is everything I love about London and what I believe lies at the heart of why everyone comes here and why we produce so many world class lifestyle businesses.
I have worked with many different creatives in many different industries. Inspiration can be found in every corner of London. I have seen, and used, amazing fitness facilities and can see the passion within the health and wellbeing industry grow with every month. We’ve led the world in hairdressing for many years. Our salons are not only full of highly skilled artists, but are now also incredibly hospitable with clients are made to feel so special. Our retail sector is world renowned, with whole districts that have become centers of the global fashion industry. Through intense investment and development, our hotels are now of a high standard befitting of a city such as ours. I think my favourite places to drink and eat in London now are in the hotel bars and restaurants. Whether Edition, Ham Yard, The Ritz or The Bulgari, I love to sit and watch the melting pot of these great places, seeing international tourists flocking in, and feel excited about the vibe the Londoners create in these hospitality hot spots.
I still love the clubs - I just don’t go that often. I love a venue that you can have a sneaky glass of wine in the early afternoon and, as the evening goes on, it changes to fit the mood and arrival of the deep, dark night.
London fascinates me. I really think it will now be my home for ever and I am proud to be able to celebrate this through the London Lifestyle Awards. London changes every day but somehow stays the same. As I’m writing this, I realise why this is. The product changes - a new bar or restaurant, a new show or shop - but the brand personality and values stay the same:
Ambition, Resilience, Inclusiveness, Creative and Entertaining.
London, I love you.