Do you live or work in west London?
I live and work in Notting Hill.
What’s your favourite thing about the area?
I view it as a continually evolving cosmopolitan village, blending local residents and businesses in a great neighborhood environment. Normally the area attracts many tourists, especially Portobello Road, so we welcome a constant stream of new visitors.
Describe your perfect day and evening in west London… Any favourite haunts?
Weekends in particular are pretty packed. My morning typically starts with a 15-minute meditation followed by a workout at White City House. Afterwards I normally take a walk with my wife Verity around Holland Park or Notting Hill with our mini–Yorkshire Terrier, Mochi. (We actually named the restaurant after her – Los Mochis). Afterwards we usually head for breakfast at either Eggbreak or the Farmacy since both allow dogs – and our restaurant in not open yet! On the way home we try to catch up with my sister and her family – that’s if my nieces’ and nephew’s super busy social schedules permit.
Then it’s time for caffeine – I’m addicted to the coffee at the Hatch run by Notting Hill Arts Club – before heading to Los Mochis to try out some new tacos and sushi our chefs have been working on.
If it’s a truly perfect day, I am able to catch an afternoon Chelsea game at the Bridge with a couple of friends, followed by early drinks at Kosmopol – best cocktails in the neighborhood – on Fulham Road.
If the weather is awesome, we might head back over to the roof top at Soho White City House for some pre-dinner drinks with friends.
Dinner favourites range from classics like Scalini, La Petite Maison or Scott’s to newer haunts like Amazónico or Gold on Portobello Road. Although to be fair I’m always on the look-out for new places serving tacos and sushi.
Your career is outstanding, having won you over 150 awards and twice in five years being named Restaurateur of the Year. What achievement are you most proud of to date?
That’s pretty easy – the awards for Best Fine Dining and Best Casual Dining Teams, both of which we were honoured to have won twice.
You’re about to open Los Mochis, a unique celebration of Mexican and Japanese cuisine and culture in the heart of Notting Hill. What inspired you to combine these two culinary cultures?
They are two of my favourite cuisines. Not only does their respective food and culture enjoy a long and illustrious history, but I believe they really complement each other.
And you’re committed to providing a free meal to a homeless and less fortunate for every meal you sell. How does that work exactly?
Yes, this is a really key part of our premise. For every meal that is bought at the restaurant, we will provide a meal through various local charities starting with Buses4Homeless.
We will also run a number of additional initiatives such as inviting guests to make a token contribution of £2 per table for filtered water. If possible, we will try to hire the formerly homeless too. We plan to hold special events in the restaurant to raise money, including auctioning off our artwork, and externally will provide prizes for various charity raffles. Our charitable initiatives will be constantly evolving, like the Burrito Bus, but with the core aim of helping those who face food poverty, lack of fresh water and other challenges that most of us have no concept of.
You’re no stranger to launching restaurants in the middle of a global crisis. Can you tell us a bit about your experiences with your legendary night clubs Pangaea and OKKU?
They both happened during distinctly different periods and on opposite sides of the planet. Pangaea was my first formal foray into hospitality, an exclusive club which started in NYC before crossing the pond to London in 2002 as the world was coming to terms with economic and travel issues post 9/11. OKKU on the other hand is a contemporary Japanese restaurant in Dubai, the opening of which exactly coincided with the start of the Global Financial Crisis. The project was already significantly delayed due to knock-on effects caused by major delays in the 5-star hotel where the restaurant was located, and this just added to the pressure. In both cases instead of following convention by locking down the hatches and cutting all costs – including staffing levels – we invested in Quality (service and product) with the understanding that guests more than ever would crave fun experiences and instant gratification. These were certainly scary and crazy periods. However, if you can operate successfully during the challenging times, you are ready to ride the wave when the economy starts to shift.
What do you think the secret to their success was?
Creating amazing memories and fantastic experiences for both our Team and our Guests alike, together with an uncompromising focus on Quality.
Restaurants and clubs have taken a massive hit in the last year, with 50% of restaurants expected to close. What changes do you think will have to be made to the industry post-pandemic?
The industry was already facing challenges, the pandemic just brought them all to the fore. We must use this crisis as an opportunity to evolve together. The pandemic has made society realise how hospitality enriches lives and the role it plays in the community. We must seize this chance to move away from a culture of discounting and poor treatment of staff towards one that creates rewarding experiences for guests and staff alike. It is incumbent upon us as an industry to bring happiness and joy not only to our staff and guests, but to our community and planet. We need to take the lead in demonstrating how much we all mean to each other.
Tell us something positive you’ve learnt from the last year.
The way the world has been forced to come together, pause and then reflect on the impact we have on each other and on the planet as a whole. It is undeniable we are all interconnected. People have a choice as to how they react in these situations and life is made in these moments. An angry person lives in an angry world, while a loving person lives in a loving world. Yet it’s the same world! We have to consciously decide which world we chose to live in.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about Los Mochis?
It’s a brand-new concept serving Pan-Pacific cuisine. It’s perhaps the first time anyone has combined Mexican and Japanese cuisine into a new genre.
Furthermore, we have positioned Los Mochis as casual-fine dining, with an average price point of £35-£45 per person.
We will be open for breakfast daily from 8am. Los Mochis is ready to open as soon as lockdown lifts.