Robbie Bargh, founder of London-based firm Gorgeous Group, is the man that brands from Soho House to Hakkasan, lvmh to British Airways, call when they have a hospitality project in mind. In October his firm launches its two latest projects: Fitz’s bar at the new Principal London in Bloomsbury (formerly the Hotel Russell) and the Mediterranean-style restaurant Baba in Edinburgh.
“Fitz’s will be a really beautiful, fun bar, inspired by the last days of disco and the Bloomsbury set,” says Bargh. “This is a place for people who love going out but also love having proper conversations. We have a lot of space for entertainment, whether that’s a performer or someone playing the saxophone or reading poetry. There’s always going to be something going on.”
The bar, housed in a listed building in London’s most historic of literary neighbourhoods and with 100-year-old stained glass windows, was designed in collaboration with Russell Sage Studio to be both decadent and cosy. But the new night-time spot isn’t just for hedonists. “It’s an homage to those lovely old New York bars where you can be a bit naughty if you want to. Nothing comparable exists in London,” says Bargh.
Edinburgh’s Baba, on the other hand, is inspired by the Mediterranean, based on Bargh’s travels around Tel Aviv, Lebanon, Greece and Cyprus. “Edinburgh isn’t known for its weather so we wanted to tell an exotic story,” he says. On the menu – cooked up with head chef and business partner Jonathan McDonald from Glasgow’s Ox and Finch – are mezze, kebabs, grilled squid and lamb meatballs. “It will be very democratic: shared plates and no tablecloths,” says Bargh, noting that he picked up much of the furniture at souks to create an authentic atmosphere.
The secret of Gorgeous Group’s success? “We know people will spend money when the place makes them feel fuzzy inside. It has to be worth talking about. With the click of a mouse you can shop, buy a house and even find a partner but eating and drinking is so much more emotional. When you create a restaurant or a bar you really want to create something magical.”
Ryan Clift helped create Open Farm Community, one of Singapore’s best farm-to-table dining spots, but recently the British chef has shifted his gaze to Bali. His Mediterranean-style restaurant Grow opened earlier this year in L Hotel in Seminyak. The menu showcases ingredients found in and around Bali: Lombok oysters, or beetroot, carrots and greens delivered by farmers from the agrarian eastern highlands of the Kintamani region.
“There are only two ingredients on my menu that aren’t from Bali; that’s olive oil and an Argentinian steak,” says Clift, who unveiled Grow Up, the property’s rooftop bar addition, in August.
Q&A – Jack Lewens
Co-founder, Vigneti Tardis, Italy
Through shared vineyard ownership with winemaker Bruno de Conciliis and three of London’s top restaurant owners, Ellory founder Jack Lewens hopes to change the way restaurants buy and sell wine.
How did the collaboration come about?
I’ve been friends with Bruno for years and approached him last year about making wine together. Chatting to friends in the industry I realised there was a desire for restaurateurs to be more involved in the process but to also have greater control over the costs. This is how Vigneti Tardis came about, a new wine brand that focuses on small-production, biodynamic wines that can be imported and sold through our restaurant network.
Who is involved?
My partner at Ellory, Ed Thaw, Stevie Parle of Dock Kitchen, Michael Sager of Sager & Wilde and Bruno de Conciliis. Stevie, Ed, Michael and I have formed an import company. We have long-term rental agreements on vineyards in Campania with our winemaker and share the cost of production and bringing the wines into the UK. This means we can sell amazing, craft-led wines at a great price.
When can we try the wines?
We’ll make a white and a red, and some aged wines, which will be in our London restaurants in October. In the future we hope to bring in our own olive oil and see our wines sold in Paris, New York and Tokyo.
Outerlands is the epicentre of Outer Sunset’s new wave of cool beach culture. The brunch menu is luscious and attracts a large weekend crowd (reservations are encouraged) but dinner is when you’ll get a better sense of the locals: there are surfers, artists and young families.
The menu changes regularly but the bread here is a constant. Owner Dave Muller learned from Tartine’s baker (see page 30) but made adjustments for the neighbourhood’s more humid climate, resulting in a moist, chewy boule loaf with a crunchy exterior.
Front Porch Farm
With 45 hectares of farmland and access to the Russian River, Front Porch Farm is part of a growing movement in California to put the culture back into agriculture. “Diversity doesn’t have to be the enemy of profitability,” says founder Peter Buckley. More than 70 crops flourish and are cared for by specialists then sold at markets, shops and restaurants. “We think about growing a community. Doing regenerative work with wonderful people is, to us, a state of grace.”
If healthy eating conjures thoughts of monastic salads, O Watt is a surprise. This is the fifth restaurant in the city from Kiko Martins, who replaces fried food and sugar with raw, grilled or steamed alternatives. It’s the taste of the charcoal-grilled octopus with pearl barley, prawns and mussels that lingers in the memory rather than its healthy credentials.
+351 21 136 9504
Melbourne-based husband-and-wife team Yuta and Shar Kobayashi are on a mission to increase Australia’s appreciation for saké; in 2016 the couple noticed that few bars stocked the stuff. To address the issue, they launched Toji. “Most Australians see it as a warm drink that’s like syrup,” says Yuta. “But Toji is light and crisp.” Each bottle is brewed in Niigata prefecture, a region north of Tokyo with a history of saké production. “We want to bring a classic Japanese product to Australia in a modern way,” says Yuta.
Guillaume St Pierre, Paul Croteau and Pascal Bussières founded Italian-inspired Battuto with all the trappings you’d expect: pasta, tomato sauce, bread and charcuteries. The interior is by Montréal’s Appareil Architecture, which has decked the place out in tile and marble. “As a trattoria we try to embody the neighbourhood restaurant,” says Bussières.
+1 418 614 4414