Introduction

Introduction

By
Skye Gyngell
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781849495806
Photographer
Andy Sewell

The space

I wanted a space that I could really connect with. It needed to be different from the restaurant at Petersham with its tumbledown, natural appeal, but just as beautiful in its own way. I wanted somewhere that felt warm and light filled – high ceilinged and grand but intimate as well. It took me over a year to find it… I had all but given up hope when I visited Somerset House late one afternoon in early March 2013.

I stepped into the offices of HM Revenue & Customs to be greeted by swirly burnt orange carpet, vinyl desks and what looked like huge plastic fly-catchers over the windows. The room was big, certainly, with Greek columns and ornate cornicing, but it felt dark, dismal and damp. It wasn’t love at first sight. A light well in the centre of the room caught my eye. It, too, had seen better days – the light from it was smudgy, grey and cold – though it could be repaired. In the far right corner a mellow, gentle light seeped across the floor from a large Georgian window overlooking the Thames.

I began to warm to the space; I could see it had potential. That smudgy, broken light well could become a garden – a beautiful little jewel of a garden dropped in from the sky, nestling between the reception area and potential kitchen. It became the focal point of my thoughts.

It was a larger space than I had envisaged, which was a bit scary, but I went ahead anyway and submitted a proposal to Somerset House at the end of that month. It was such an exciting prospect yet I didn’t dare build up my hopes – the market is fiercely competitive and this was a site that would appeal to far more experienced restaurateurs than me.

I waited and waited for a response. It was unbearable, as I became increasingly convinced that this was the right space for me – the only space for me. Two months passed by without word, then out of the blue I was invited to a meeting to discuss the proposal. Fortunately, it was well received, as the board at Somerset House were looking for a stand-alone restaurant that wasn’t part of a chain. They liked the ideas that I put forward with my team and gave us the go-ahead. I was over the moon. The hard work began in earnest – to turn this neglected, once elegant, room into a joyful space.

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