Adam Brown talks personal taste: Part Two

The Orlebar Brown founder wraps up his list of likes with Cornwall’s Booby’s Bay, Edinburgh’s hidden hotspots and the golf ball’s that prompted him to launch his label

Adam Brown at home in west London
Adam Brown at home in west London | Image: Brijesh Patel

My style icon isPeter Hawkings, senior vice president of menswear at Tom Ford. He looks great, whether I bump into him at Portobello Market and he’s in a vintage army jacket and sneakers or fully suited and booted. I’m always slightly envious; I’ll go off and buy an army jacket and it never looks as good. I’m a big believer that it’s not what you wear but how you wear it.

The best gift I’ve given recently is nine drawings by Nigel O’Neill in neon yellow frames, to my partner Tom. These are preparatory sketches for a series of abstract paintings. I love the element of process. I discovered them at Paul Smith on Albemarle Street and six of them hang together in the hall; they’re the first thing you see when you come into the house and they look fabulous. 9 Albemarle Street, London W1 (020-7493 4565;

The site that inspires me is Booby’s Bay in Trevose, north Cornwall. My grandmother took a cottage on the headland for a month every summer for 20 years. I now rent the same house every August. It’s the place I love most; I don’t sleep much, so as soon as it’s light I head to the beach. There is something about being so far away from everything that allows you to think freely.

The last meal that truly impressed me was at Spring, Skye Gyngell’s new restaurant at Somerset House. The decor reminded me of David Collins – lots of pale blue, very elegant. It’s hidden away down a long corridor and as you walk down it you progressively enter Skye’s world. I love her cooking too; it’s very natural and ingredients-led. I’m not a foodie but I love the experience of going out to eat, the people watching, and the atmosphere at Spring is very happy, very “up”. We had a great time. Somerset House, New Wing, Lancaster Place, London WC2 (020-3011 0115;

Timberyard restaurant, Edinburgh
Timberyard restaurant, Edinburgh

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Francis Bacon; I dream of owning one of his paintings. But if I were being more realistic it would be Keith Coventry – I’m hankering after any one of his Estate series. There is something about the simplicity and abstraction of the subject matter that I could look at for hours.

The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a bunch of golf balls I found on a beach in Cornwall. When I was trying to decide whether or not to take a risk and start Orlebar Brown, I went for a long walk early in the morning and came across a golf ball. It was odd as there isn’t a golf course anywhere nearby. I’m very superstitious and decided if I found one more I’d go for it. I found six. Now, whenever I go on holiday, I pick up random golf balls. I find them on busy streets in big cities and it’s become an obsession. I’ve got about 30 that I keep in a box in the study.

If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is Edinburgh, a kind of mini London but with the countryside and sea close by. I love the beautiful Georgian houses and the cranky little restaurants such as Gardener’s Cottage, which is like an oasis in the middle of town and serves the most delicious seasonal food, and Timberyard, where I love the private dining room in a shed with an open fire, and the modern industrial furniture. There’s great shopping at independent menswear boutique Dick’s, which has a brilliant edit of under-the-radar brands, and lots of culture – the National Portrait Gallery is fantastic and then there’s the Ingleby Gallery for contemporary Scottish art and Fine Art Society for 20th-century Scottish painting. And just 20 minutes outside town is the breathtaking Pentland Ridge walk, where you can see miles and miles of open countryside – it’s a real example of how Edinburgh provides the best of both worlds. Dick’s, 3 North West Circus Place, EH3 (0131-226 6220; Fine Art Society, 6 Dundas Street, EH3 (0131-557 4050; The Gardener’s Cottage, 1 Royal Terrace Gardens, London Road, EH7 (0131-558 1221; Ingleby Gallery, 15 Calton Road, EH8 (0131-556 4441; National Portrait Gallery, 1 Queen Street, EH2 (0131-624 6200; Timberyard, 10 Lady Lawson Street, EH3 (0131-221 1222;

An indulgence I would never forgo is walking my dogs Arthur and Rudi for an hour every morning in Kensington Gardens. It is completely sacrosanct; as soon as it’s light we’ll get up and go, rain or shine. My favourite view is standing with your back to the Speke Monument looking along rows of trees to the spire of St Mary Abbots and the roof of Kensington Palace – it’s almost like a Constable painting. There’s always a different mix of people and I feel like a voyeur, watching the world from the outside.


The people I rely on for wellbeing are two crazy trainers called Hugo and Alex at Equinox gym. They teach punishing Tabata classes, eight circuits of eight exercises in 20 minutes. Exercise helps me sleep. 99 Kensington High Street, London W8 (020-7666 6000;

The books on my bedside table include Alastair Gordon’s Weekend Utopia, which is a coffee-table book I found at Paula Rubenstein’s, a fabulous curiosity shop in New York. I love the cover: it’s this brilliant 1920s scene of people sunbathing on the terrace of a house in the Hamptons, with the dunes and sea in the background; it sums up exactly how I’d like to live. I’ve also got Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh, which I’ve read before but this is my grandmother’s copy, and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, because I’m heartbroken the television series has finished; the book is much more heavy going. I used to read a lot but I’m more of a box-set guy these days. Paula Rubenstein, 21 Bond Street, New York, NY 10012 (+1212-966 8954;

In my fridge you’ll always find homemade Bircher muesli, the making of which is a Sunday evening ritual, almond milk, rye bread, Green & Black’s 85 per cent – I love the bitter taste – and lots of marmalade. I don’t mind which brand but it has to be quite sweet, with big old lumps of orange rind in it.

A recent “find” is an amazing vegan restaurant in West Palm Beach called Christopher’s Kitchen. I’m usually very sceptical about vegan food and we only went because Tom had been on a detox retreat and wanted to stay healthy. It’s in an awful shopping mall, but the staff were very fresh-faced and the food was incredibly inventive. I had kale, figs and some kind of cheese-esque thing and then a frozen banana pudding that tasted like ice cream. Delicious. 4783 PGA Boulevard, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, FL 33418 (+1561-318 6191;

Weekend Utopia: Modern Living in the Hamptons by Alastair Gordon
Weekend Utopia: Modern Living in the Hamptons by Alastair Gordon | Image: Brijesh Patel

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Notting Hill. It’s hard to beat: within a short walk you’ve got upmarket Westbourne Grove, Portobello for a bit of madness and Golborne Road for colour; they all have completely different personalities. On Westbourne Grove I like Aesop for the integrity of its products and its packaging, and the Nicole Farhi shop-cum-café 202, because it allows dogs. I’ll go to Portobello’s vintage clothes market on a Friday morning; I buy lots of pieces there – the last thing was a linen smock shirt – which I use as inspiration for the collections. On Golborne Road – which feels the most “real” and hasn’t yet been completely bulldozed by tourists – I like Ally Capellino, Rellik for more vintage pieces and the great cafés like Lowry & Baker, a tiny little place that is really cute for coffee on a Sunday morning. I love shopping and I’m always fascinated by what other people are selling and how they’re selling it; what’s the romance that makes you hand over your money. 202, 202 Westbourne Grove, W11 (020-7727 2722; Aesop, 227A Westbourne Grove, W11 (020-7221 2008; Ally Capellino, 312 Portobello Road, W10 (020-8964 1022; Lowry & Baker, 339 Portobello Road, W10 (020-8960 8534; Rellik, 8 Golborne Gardens, W10 (020-8962 0089;

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a portrait photographer. It’s what I used to do and I would go back to it but on a more artistic, personal level rather than a commercial one. I don’t think I’m very good though. I had a whole host of careers before I arrived at Orlebar Brown; I’m remarkably unambitious.

To explore more of Brown’s beloved Cornwall, try these gastronomic treats, or discover this hidden gin den in Notting Hill – Brown’s favourite shopping stop.