A recipe for success
It’s a decade since acclaimed chef Marco Pierre White withdrew from the gastronomic battlefield, but that doesn’t mean he has stopped dishing out orders in the kitchen…
After 17 years of creative excellence in professional kitchens, which saw him become the youngest British chef to be awarded three Michelin stars, Marco Pierre White decided to hang up his apron in 1999. He came back with a bang of pans as the fiery face of TV’s Hell’s Kitchen in 2007. But while he may have removed himself from the frontline, Marco never completely went off the culinary radar. He set up a restaurant company, which owns two successful London eateries (see A natural entrepreneur, right), and is involved with more establishments across the UK. Indeed, Marco has kept his culinary fingers in several pies…
Originally, Wheeler’s was a chain of fish restaurants, owned by a line of large companies. Marco bought the name and tried to revive the Duke of York Street branch in 2002, but this closed three years later. This latest version, on the site of his old restaurant Luciano, in Mayfair, is again being run in conjunction with his business partner, Sir Rocco Forte. The emphasis is best of British seafood, with large portions, simply cooked. Reviews have been mixed, with many saying the prices are steep (£123 dinner, wine and service for two). But the restaurant is busy most nights and there is talk of the duo expanding Wheeler’s across the UK, and in Dubai.
This chain of Italian eateries is run with jockey Frankie Dettori. With a New Jersey Italian-American theme, there are branches in Knightsbridge, Chiswick, Chelsea Football Club at Stamford Bridge, Dublin and Dubai. Frankie’s offers a standard Italian menu, including pasta, meats and burgers, alongside more adventurous Marco-inspired meals (rib-eye allo romano with snails and garlic butter). Prices are palatable: the set lunch of two courses is £11.75. The ambience is fun and lively – the Knightsbridge branch has mirror balls hanging above diners – and families and groups are well accommodated for; vegetarians less so.
The White Room
Marco has opened three fine dining restaurants aboard the P&O cruise liners Aurora, Ventura and Oceania. Of The White Room, on superliner Ventura, Marco says: ‘It’s the realisation of a dream’. The restaurant delivers fine dining in a relaxed manner, and is partly al fresco, allowing diners to watch a Caribbean sunset then dine beneath the stars. The menu is modern Mediterranean, serving up dishes such as grilled sardines with black olives and capers; Italian potato dumplings with porcini mushrooms and artichoke; and lobster Americano.
Steak & Alehouse
Set in the heart of the Square Mile, London’s financial district, the focus is on fine cuts of steak that have been naturally reared and traditionally matured. The all-British menu is a carnivore’s dream, but there are daily changing specials to suit those with a less meaty bent, too, and classic English puddings. Reviews have been favourable, with the diner offering a three-course lunch special (£21.50), relaxed atmosphere and speedy service.
The Swan Inn
This newly-refurbished inn is home to Marco’s latest Steakhouse & Grill venue. The stylish surroundings make this a genuine gastro pub, with the focus on traditional pub grub combined with the best modern Anglo-French cooking. The menu takes a brasserie approach that’s steeped in the classics and stamped with Marco’s influence, with dishes including Lancashire Hot Pot, Wheeler’s of St James’s Fish Pie, and Marco’s trademark dishes such as Croustade of Quails’ Egg Maintenon. Lunch or dinner set menu is £18.50 for three courses. And if you’re too stuffed or too tipsy to get home, you can retire upstairs to one of the 12 stylish bedrooms.
Yew Tree Inn
This 17th century building has oodles of character and charm. The cosy, interconnecting dining rooms make for an intimate eating experience. The Berkshire restaurant was Marco’s first foray outside of the capital and has been very successful. Serving tasty and traditional posh pub fare, combined with fine wines and real ales, there are claims that Marco has himself shot the game on the menu.
Steakhouse & Grill
This chain is a collaboration between Marco and his friend and former maître d’ James Robertson, founder of Lanes. James began his career working with Marco at Titanic, Drones and Quo Vadis before opening Lanes five years ago. There are two sister Steakhouse & Grill restaurants in the capital, one on the Kings Road and the other near to Liverpool Street Station, on thte former Lanes’ site. Both offer traditional steak house meals ‘under the guidance’ of Marco. All steaks are Aberdeen Angus, ranging in price from £18.50-£30, and all ingredients are sourced from within the British Isles.
Located within the Chelsea Football Club Complex at Stamford Bridge, Marco is a collaborative effort between Marco and Russian millionaire and Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich. In a venue where premier dining meets premier league football, surroundings are suitably swanky. Offering lunch and dinner menus traditional to the Marco brand, they’re a million miles from traditional terrace offerings.
A natural entrepreneur
After retiring from the kitchen, Marco set up White Star Line Restaurants with Jimmy Lahoud, and the company currently owns the Belvedere and L’Escargot restaurants in London. The Belvedere, a beautiful former Jacobean ballroom, is set in Holland Park in the genteel London suburb of the same name. Its tranquil setting makes it popular for special occasions, including weddings. L’Escargot is an established Soho eatery, which opened in 1927 but closed in 1992. Taken over by White Star Line in 1994, L’Escargot was refurbished in 1998 and now houses Lahoud’s vast collection of art including works by Miro, Chagall, Warhol, Hockney, Picasso and Matisse. It also offers private dining rooms popular with the art, theatre and media crowds.