Beyond The Stove

26 Mar 2015
4 min read
FOUR Foundation Ambassador, Jason Atherton talks philanthropy, taking on New York and a love of Sir Alex Ferguson in part II of our interview with him

Tell me about the new projects you are launching this year?

New York is the first one, which launches in May at The New York EDITION. Then I get straight on a plane to Sydney to open my restaurant there, then on the way back I stop in Dubai and open the restaurant there­—sounds crazy, I know—and then I’ve got a small break and I’m opening a Japanese restaurant in London at the end of the year. The Japanese place will be in Farringdon, with a high-end omakase restaurant in the back, with a really cool chef who has been spending a lot of time in Japan. Then, next year, we will open up a tapas bar at the top of Tower 42 (London), which will be Europe’s highest tapas bar. And then we have an Italian opening at the back end of next year!

Wow. That’s a lot you have going on!

I just love to be creative—it’s my life, I love it. The Japanese place will be very cool, urban and edgy with a Japanese hip-hop bar in the basement. The Italian opens up at the back of Victoria at the end of 2016, which will have a pasta academy within, so we’ve got some really cool stuff coming up.

Tell me more about the concept you have in mind for the new restaurant in New York. Will it resemble Berners Tavern here in London?

No, more Pollen Street, but a little bit more edgy. We’re looking at doing a crudo trolley, which will be walked around the dining room. Guests will be able to pick crudo off it, maybe some oysters, then they’ll have a lot of things for two on the menu, plus the solo dishes.

How do you think your New York audience will react to the restaurant?

I have no idea! You’ve really just got to believe in what you’re doing, get your head down and get on with it. You can’t predict how people are going to react.

And what can we expect from your new Sydney venue?

A very high-end tapas bar. It will have 90 seats, with a tapas bar in the middle, a cocktail bar and the idea is that guests create their own tasting/tapas menu.It’s in the big up-and-coming area in Sydney right now called Chippendale. We’re inside the old Foster’s and Carlton Brewery building and it’s a really cool location.

And Social Wine?

Social Wine will open in Marylebone just next to Selfridges as a cool, sophisticated wine bar.

When you have a new restaurant concept in mind, do you nurture staff from within or look out for chefs you’d like to hire?

We do a bit of both. It’s really important for me that people inside the company feel that there’s growth and that we’re not just going out and hand-picking the best of what’s out there and buying the staff in. That would be a little bit like Manchester City just buying all of their players in, right? If you look at how Alex Ferguson built his legacy, it was all built from within the club.

Does that mean you’re a [Manchester] United fan?

No, no, I’m just a massive Alex Ferguson fan! What he built there, it was powerful, it was unbreakable and all about the team. It’s that whole ‘do or die’ attitude for each other, which can only be built over a period of time. To use the football analogy again, say if you bring in one superstar player from Barcelona, he’s only got his own interests at heart. Of course he wants the team to win, but he’s going to be there for two or three years, he’ll win a few trophies and have made a tonne of money. When you build a team from within, because it’s been built over a number of years, they’re a team, they’re mates and want to protect each other and win as a team, for each other.

What does a typical day in the life of Jason Atherton involve?

I get up about 6.30-6.45am. I make breakfast for the kids, something like eggs or toast. I then drive the kids to school, because it’s the only time I get to spend with them during the week. I make some calls and conference calls to Asia first because of the time difference. I then drive to Mayfair and first come here to Pollen Street. [I] check in, check everything is okay, that’s usually by 8.30am-9am. Then I go to the office in Soho, probably have a few meetings, before popping into Berners Tavern as it’s just around the corner. I’ll call by Social Eating House before coming back here and I always do lunch service at Pollen Street five days a week. I’ll do two or three dinner services here [per week] and then, like tonight, I’ll do a service at City Social then tomorrow night at Berners Tavern. I go home and I’m usually tucked up in bed by 1.30pm and up again the next day to do it all over again.

When are you going to slow down and take a break?

In the next couple of years we’ll re-examine the business and where we are at and relook at some of the concepts. Maybe we’ll want to do more! My big ambition is to see Pollen Street go further in the Michelin Guide, The Good Food Guide and the AA Guide. We just celebrated our fourth birthday here last week and I’d really like to do a refit of Pollen Street next year, too. It’s a case of just making Pollen Street an even better restaurant.

Read part I , and look out for Jason Atherton’s exclusive FOUR Foundation video.

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