Fine Living | Diary of a Somebody

Matt Hermer

A grand plan – to bring local, sustainable food to every high street

Matt Hermer

November 04 2011
Matt Hermer

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Today was supposed to be D-Day, but it became clear very early on that it was unlikely as Marissa woke up feeling great and shot out of bed for an early-morning yoga class. Our doctor recommended that if the baby hasn’t arrived by today, we should have a scan tomorrow. So with the scan booked in, today started with cancelling some of tomorrow’s plans, starting with a shoot hosted by Jo Thornton, managing director of Moët Hennessy UK, that’s being held in West Sussex – one that, incidentally, I lobbied for him to host and then invite me!

I love shooting. I love the freedom of getting up and out in the morning, wandering the fields and getting fresh air – and there is usually a sensational dinner afterwards. As a passionate lover of food and wine, a shoot ticks all the boxes for a great day out. I responded to Jo at the time of the invitation that I would love to attend the shoot, subject to my first-born child not ruining the day and arriving on time – shooting etiquette forbids cancellation – but today I cancelled the shoot and my son still isn’t here. Loss of control seems to be the first step of fatherhood.

After morning cancellations and an hour catching up on emails, I hopped on the tube to head to Stratford where, last month, we opened our newest Bumpkin site at Westfield Stratford. Our other Bumpkins, in Notting Hill and South Kensington, cater to the local neighbourhood families and the restaurants are a home-away-from-home, where friends can meet up for a cosy dinner and families can bring everyone from babies to grandparents for a Sunday roast. Our Bumpkin Westfield Stratford City location follows a completely different model – rather than a local neighbourhood restaurant, it is retail-based. And though it follows the Bumpkin ethos of fresh local produce served in a comfortable environment, the retail-model Bumpkin offers a very different menu with various pricing options, targeted towards a new clientele. The success of this new retail site will determine our Bumpkin roll-out strategy, so I am watching it closely. My aim is to get Bumpkin on all the high streets, following this retail model, so that Brits can all enjoy well-priced sustainable locally-sourced typically British food. So far, so good – Westfield Stratford shoppers seem to appreciate the good food, friendly service and the respite that the restaurant offers from the madness of holiday shopping.

As I grow older, food becomes more important to me. Ten years ago, I was more focused on booze, which is why Ignite Group started out as a bars and nightclub business. Cocktails and drinks and more drinks and bottles shaped an evening out – and I was happy with a shawarma at the end of the night. And not that I don’t still enjoy one now and then, but I’m now much more focused on where we have dinner, where the food has come from and who is cooking it than where we are going out afterwards.

Senkai, our latest restaurant which opened last month off Regent Street, grew from this new interest in food. It is one of London’s first sustainable Japanese-inspired restaurants, which means that we offer as much British produce as possible (more than 75 per cent of the menu is made of local ingredients) and all the fish is sustainable. So after my Bumpkin Stratford day, I hop back on the tube to check in on Senkai, which is tonight hosting a glam group to celebrate Japanese Culture Day – a collaboration of art and fashion – with Maia Norman and Mother of Pearl.

I get off the tube at Piccadilly to find seven missed calls and voicemails on my mobile and immediately panic – I have been underground for 30 minutes and am convinced that Marissa has finally gone into labour. No such luck. Not one call from my wife and rather seven calls from friends and family wondering if she has gone into labour. I debate putting an outgoing message on my voicemail saying that, “The baby hasn’t arrived yet but we will let you know!”

At Senkai, everything looks on track for the evening event. The place looks amazing and I make sure I take the time to congratulate Rebecca, the general manager, and our head chef Tim, who have been working tirelessly since we opened. I’m minus Marissa tonight as she is tucked in her pyjamas and avoiding the rain, but I’m happy to get out of the house and away from the waiting game.

Having said my goodbyes at Senkai, I meet up with my friend Ewan for a drink – he runs the food and beverage side of Selfridges and it is always fun to talk shop with him. We head to The Dunhill Club for an annual truffle dinner – a five-course truffle extravaganza, which was more than good enough for me and for the real foodies, Mark Hix and Angela Hartnett, who were also there. After much wine and merriment, and before the evening becomes too debauched, I pop over to the W Hotel in Leicester Square – where we opened Wyld and the W Lounge almost a year ago – for a Dazed & Confused 20th-anniversary party and a nightcap. The party is kicking off with an incredible group of A-listers. Wyld looks incredible, the music is great and people are having a fab time. It’s times like this that remind me why I love this business.

Bring on Friday and please hurry baby!

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