Our best-in-bunch of the names taking luxury eating and drinking to the next level. The essential digest for gourmands of all tastes
This section features the likes of Mr Lyan, Ewan Venters of Fortnum & Mason, and Tatiana Fokina of Hedonism Wines
Claude Bosi: Michelin man
If any restaurant deserves a Michelin star or two, it’s Claude Bosi at Bibendum – which after all is housed in an Art Deco building opened in 1911 as HQ of the renowned tyre company that gave its name to the culinary guide. But the fact that Bosi, hailed for his modern European cuisine, has earned two stars since opening in 2017, on the back of previous double-starred success with Hibiscus, says something. Unlike some of his high-profile peers, the Frenchman can usually be found in the kitchen doing what he’s most passionate about. ‘You go to Bibendum and you’ve got the man himself cooking, and he’ll bring you the food,’ says glasses designer Tom Davies. ‘Go into the kitchen and just watch him. It will blow your mind.’
Charles & Wendy Outhwaite: English fizz with finesse
When it comes to sparkling wine, England’s green and pleasant land is going through a purple patch. Vineyards such as Ridge View, Herbert Hall and Nyetimber have helped to propel Home Counties fizz to global acclaim. The going – and the growing – has got so good that even the venerable – and French – Taittinger is trying to get in on the act by buying up tracts of Kent. According to Spear’s wine columnist Jonathan Ray, the pick of the British bunch is less well known: Ambriel. It’s the brainchild of husband-and-wife team Charles and Wendy Outhwaite, who purchased the idyllic Redfold Farm on the South Downs in 2006.
The location is blessed with rare ‘free-draining’ greensand, and the vines produce classic varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Ray’s favourite is the sparkling rosé, which, he says, has ‘remarkable finesse’. Cheers!
Ewan Venters: Piccadilly circus-master
‘Fortnums is in the business of pleasure,’ says Ewan Venters, CEO of the venerable Piccadilly institution. ‘It’s about transforming the everyday cup of tea into something extraordinary.’ Since taking the reins of the 312-year-old department store in 2012, Venters has arguably reasserted Fortnum & Mason as London’s premier luxury department store. It has posted six consecutive years of double-digit sales and profit growth in that time, bucking the wider high street malaise. Its success can be traced to the approach Venters and chairman Kate Hobhouse adopted when he started: to build a ‘beautiful, profitable and sustainable’ business. ‘The real skill of a retailer is to present an offer to people that they didn’t even know they wanted,’ he tells Spear’s, citing the ‘phenomenal success’ of the store’s new sparkling tea. An organic blend of its rare brews, it encapsulates how the store marries its heritage with an acute understanding of its consumers today.
‘Knowledge has become the new luxury,’ he says, noting that younger consumers in particular are showing an increased desire to understand the authenticity of what they buy. ‘Being able to understand how something is made, what it is made from, why it is so good, and importantly being able to share that information with your friendship group is an indication of true luxury. It is so much deeper, the relationship, than simply a label.’
Fortnums opened a store, bar and restaurant in the Royal Exchange late last year, and it’s opening in Hong Kong. ‘I think the depth of experience retailing for Fortnum & Mason is about the true authenticity of product, attention to detail, product quality, sourcing standards, storytelling, creating an environment, whether it’s physical or digital, that makes people feel secure and certain about spending their money with a brand like ours,’ says Venters.
Douglas Blyde: Skill by mouth
When it comes to bacchic delights, Douglas Blyde is your man. He looks after media mogul Evgeny Lebedev’s cellar and party planning, and also counts Strictly Come Dancing’s Emma Weymouth and an MD of General Atlantic as clients. He recently co-designed a mezcal cocktail with Fortnum & Mason’s restaurant 45 Jermyn St (the ‘Jekyll & Blyde’) and has hosted or judged everything from the 50 Best Bars Awards to the Sud de France Sommelier Cup. When it comes to liquid assets, where’s he putting his money? Bordeaux’s Berliquet, recently bought by Chanel, is ‘a particularly good château to watch for investment’, he tells Spear’s. ‘Buy it up!’
Kenneth Benning: Britain’s caviar king
The idea of farming caviar in the English countryside might sound a little fishy, but Exmoor Caviar is earning plaudits at the UK’s top tables. Founded by industry veteran Kenneth Benning in 2012, the farm is in the foothills of Exmoor National Park, where its sturgeon enjoy privileged access to 45 million litres of daily freshwater flow and the focus is firmly on sustainability. Things are going swimmingly: Benning’s produce is on the menus of a raft of Michelin-starred restaurants across the country, as well as tables at Chequers and Buckingham Palace.
Georgie Crawford: Local girl doing good
When the whisky industry stuttered in the Eighties, many distilleries closed. However, some have since risen from the ashes, gaining a posthumous reputation among collectors of single malts. One of the finest examples of these ‘ghost’ distilleries is Port Ellen. A bottle of its 1980 12-year-old fetched £50,000 at auction and its soft, smoky character is in such demand that it will be brought back to life thanks to investment from Diageo. Overseeing its reanimation is the passionate Port Ellen local, Georgie Crawford.
Ryan Chetiyawardana: The best bars, bar none
Known as Mr Lyan (it’s easier than pronouncing his surname, he points out), Ryan Chetiyawardana opened his first joint, White Lyan, in an insalubrious corner of London’s Hoxton in 2013. It was the first bar in the world to dispense completely with ‘perishables’ such as ice and fruit, and also eschewed branded products. Since then Chetiyawardana has branched out, with other bars and concepts such as Lyaness, which has a menu built around a handful of single ingredients, and Cub, which focuses on the confluence of sustainability and hospitality. But the Lyan’s appetite still hasn’t been sated; he’s working on a plan to break America with a new bar, Silver Lyan, which will open soon in Washington DC.
Peter Hannan: Blue-riband beef
With top chefs Mark Hix and Angela Hartnett, food writer Tom Parker Bowles and the venerable Fortnum & Mason as fans, there’s little wonder that demand for Hannan Meats’ Northern Ireland-farmed beef is outstripping supply. Having grown up on a beef and sheep farm in County Kildare, PeterHannan has been slaughtering and selling his own meat since the age of 11.
He favours the shorthorn breed of beef cattle, which are known for their calmness. (Less adrenaline makes for better meat.) The beef is matured in a Himalayan salt cave for between 35 and 220 days. To help cope with customers’ appetite for its produce, Hannan Meats recently built a second of these and, with ever increasing focus on provenance and welfare, the bull market looks set to continue.
Tatiana Fokina: The hedonist’s friend
Oenologists’ mecca Hedonism Wines is home to a 6,000-strong wine list that is thought to be the largest in the world. So when it opened a sister restaurant, Hide, with Ollie Dabbous at the pass last year, it was bound to draw attention. (Accordingly, a Michelin star arrived within six months.) The move was a no-brainer, says CEO Tatiana Fokina, who explains that the short walk from Hide to Hedonism’s HQ makes it possible to supply diners with the finest wines in a trice. ‘Time is luxury.’
Chris Dee: Food hall of fame
Feeling peckish? Perhaps Chris Dee, the man in charge of Harrods’ revamped food hall, can offer you something. Australian wagyu? Prunier caviar? Or what about a dish thrown together by a Michelin-starred chef in one of its six restaurants? While you decide, survey your options from the wine bar and enjoy one of the 100 cuvées by the glass or one of the 1,200 bottles stored in the cellars downstairs. By the second glass, you might even find yourself pondering the merits of Harrods’ own ‘vegetable butcher’, who can julienne, grill and even suggest a (third) wine to match.
More from the Spear’s Luxury index 2019: