What a great decision it was to take some time off from de Groots headquarters in Sydney and fly to London to see Yolanda, who has been living here for the past year, setting up the company’s UK venture. Sydney was picture perfect when I flew out, all summer sunshine and blue skies. London has turned out to be its dreary self – grey clouds hang low and dense like a bunker, the sun disappears by 4.00 in the afternoon and a constant veil of rain obscures our vision. But I don’t regret the city swap for a moment.
Yolanda has set up an office in Lancaster Gate – not a bad address for the new office – across from Hyde Park and within walking distance to Mayfair. We have had a number of business meetings to discuss our exciting new venture, in between riding bikes in Hyde Park, spending an afternoon at the Christmas Markets at Embankment, window shopping in Mayfair and Bond Street and sitting in London pubs enjoying a glass of wine. We also shopped till we dropped at Portobello Markets and Covent Garden before a well-deserved brunch at Bill Granger’s restaurant in Notting Hill, Granger & Co.
The highlight of my stay would certainly be today’s lunch at The Ledbury in Notting Hill, one of London’s leading restaurants. It was opened in 2005 by one of Australia’s best exports, the young Brett Graham. The boy who started his career in a simple fish shop in Newcastle has built such a reputation for his restaurant that it now bears two Michelin Stars to its name. Brett blazed a trail to London via a stint working under Liam Tomlin at Sydney’s highly acclaimed Banc restaurant, where he won the Josphine Pignolet Award. This recognition is one of many he has amassed, but possibly the most influential, as it granted Brett a trip to the UK, where he secured a job at The Square under Chef Phillip Howard.
Needless to say, The Ledbury is busy every day and evening, so Yolanda and I were very lucky to get a table when we visited and delighted when the restaurant manager invited us down to the kitchen to meet Brett.
I have been looking forward to next week, when we will get down to business and discuss our UK plans, but Yolanda had another surprise in store for me before we get too engrossed in official business. She has booked a weekend in Barcelona so we are off to Spain tomorrow. I guess we will have to make time over tapas and wine or whilst walking through the Gaudi to discuss business – or maybe I’ll just have to extend my stay here, it seems the office is running perfectly fine without me.
Maureen de Groot