Where do you find inspiration?
My background is quite varied. I’ve worked in kitchens, studied fine art, biology and philosophy, and I’ve travelled around a fair bit, so I’ve seen some unusual things. Sometimes it’s an amazing fruit, a product or a spirit, but often it’s the cultural rituals surrounding food and music that I find interesting. It helps that we have a really diverse team here too – from architects and musicians to mathematicians – and they all bring very different perspectives.
How do you develop ideas from that initial spark?
It might seem strange, but actually we work on paper to begin with. I think it helps you get to a solution quicker, but also I don’t like it when bartenders just throw stuff together – it isn’t very useful, and it’s also very wasteful. We’ll do a lot of research, and often we try to reference things that are familiar to people, and then showcase them in a different way. Take The Royal Mail, for example, a twist on an Air Mail cocktail. When air mail first started, the postal service tried to encourage people to use stamps, so they flavoured them with vanilla and almond. That was an interesting starting point, but we try not to make things too literal, so we looked at other ways to evoke those flavours rather than just using vanilla and almonds.
How do you go about pairing food and drink?
It depends a lot on the venue and the style of cooking. We’ve worked with Rick Stein in Barnes, for example, where there’s quite a large menu and lots of different styles, so we tried to match drinks to the feel of the restaurant, rather than to make things with individual dishes in mind. At somewhere smaller like Black Axe Mangal, however, we’ve been able to make a drink that works exactly with that style of food. It’s got a creaminess that takes away some of the spice, it’s kitsch and fun, and it really works well with the flavours of the cuisine.
How do you go about designing spaces?
I think I know what works and what doesn’t by now. When we were designing Dandelyan, I was never going to tell Tom Dixon what to do, but then again I knew there were certain things we needed. I wanted big furniture, so that people never felt that they were sitting on top of each other, and to absorb some of the sound in the room. In my restaurant Cub, I wanted a more light and airy feel, so the colour palette was key.
Who are your biggest influences?
Definitely my sister, Natasha [co-founder of management consultancy firm Bow & Arrow]. She’s won “New Designer of the Year” twice, and she’s very creative, but also incredibly practical. Both of us have this view that we’re drawing the sciences into the arts.
A lot of my inspiration comes from the team too. Some of the stuff those guys come out with is amazing – it spurs me on in turn.
When are you at your most creative?
You know what? I have a really long shower in the morning – 25 minutes or so. It’s something that, even as I’ve got busier, I’ve not sacrificed, because it’s a real moment of clarity for me. I sing in the shower and I don’t even know I’m doing it. It’s almost a meditative thing, where I’m free of all of life’s stresses, and I find that very creative. It gives me a clear head.