I am oft’ asked who is Brown in Town’s demographic. Aside a great many grooms for whom we make a great many wedding suits, not to mention a fair number number of City Gents and a handful of high-fliers, coming up through the ranks are those most lauded of creatures whose profile has enjoyed a meteoric rise these last few decades; the Chef!
My own appreciation of good food, not to mention fine wines, is quite possibly associated with my appreciation of the finer things in life; good design, fine cigars and of course nice clothes. And one of the things which I became very good at during my tenure overseas was dining out. Southeast Asia, South America, China and Hong Kong all had wonderful restaurants with great service and fantastic food and drink. In fact, I dined out EVERYDAY for three years. I cooked dinner at home only ONCE – cooking for one is just not very inspiring.
And perhaps inspiration is the reason behind my appreciation of restaurant culture. For I am not only interested in the food and the drink, although they play a huge part: the entire dining experience is tantamount to exquisite cooking and superlative wines. Ambience, architecture, design, presentation, pairing of not only food with wine but crockery with cutlery and even napkins – each one must be executed with consideration and consideration of the others. They all bring something to the table. Pun intended.
Upon my return to Blighty I took a break from retail and joined one of my best friends at the restaurant where he was head chef, The Gun in London’s Docklands. I was his maître d. We worked hard and we played hard. Perhaps too hard. But what I came to appreciate about the hospitality game was that it is very much like retail: they are both service industries but where a fabulous product plays a part in the overall experience. And while for some of its protagonists it is supporting another passion, there are those for whom it is a means to an end. For me, it is the latter.
While the high street groans and large retailers fill their shops with products which none of their staff understand, nor have any interest in concerning themselves with, independent retailers are enjoying brisk trade delivering a product they believe in and take great pride in sharing and enthusing over with likeminded people.
So it may well have something to do with my affinity with the hospitality industry, or it may have something to do with my dining habits, but I am delighted to have have become tailor to some of the owners, head chefs, maître d’s not to mention sommeliers of some my favourite haunts in London and Bristol such as Wallfish Bistro, Bel Air House, The Rummer Hotel, Hotel du Vin, The Glass Boat, The Quality Chop House, The Hoxton Hotel, The Ethicurean, Hyde & Co., Café Murano, Rick Stein, Salon, Casamia, Bar Buvette, Merchants Tavern and of course Terence Conran to name but a few. In fact, it is Sir Terence who has introduced me to many of the things which I love, not to mention played a part in the launch of my retail career.
And so it should come as no great surprise that many of these friends and cohorts have become patrons of Brown in Town over the years, as I have become a patron of theirs. In particular, when I am staying in London, where I enjoy dining out at the many wonderful restaurants in the vicinity of The Hoxton Hotel.
In fact, it is to a chef that we owe a debt of gratitude for our wonderful outpost in London’s Shoreditch. Shaun Searley, who is head chef of The Quality Chop House in Farringdon, was only available to be measured for his wedding suit before service on a Friday and in the vicinity of his restaurant. But, as you can imagine, living in Bristol with two saucepan lids does not such an appointment make!
So, in the interests of providing a good service, we took a room at The Hoxton Hotel in Shoreditch and responded with a resounding “yes Chef!” – Shaun’s betrothed might also once also have been my boss at The Gun, but this had nothing to do with our decision!