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James Holah, The Ebury, London
Right first and foremost thank you very much for inviting me in.
Give us a bit of background on The Ebury, obviously your second time here from talking earlier?
I worked here as head chef from 2005 to 2006, it was the first head chef position I got after I left Gordon (Ramsay) and I met with Tom Etridge who was the owner at the time and him and I seemed to click and we did really well, we had a lot of success here back then.
Did you want something very different from Gordon Ramsay then?
I was looking to do something where I had a bit more control over how the place was run, the style of food, Gordon runs a very tight ship it's a fantastic environment to work in but I felt like I just wanted to do something a little bit more individual and something not quite as high profile, and the Ebury was perfect, it was kind of like a top end posh pub, a place where I could kind of go away and cook what I liked.
Was it a business that was already operating?
Yes it was. They were having a reasonable amount of success and then when I came on board we made a few changes and it very gradually got busier and busier and we got more and more successful. It was a great time.
So tell us what's different this time round the James, what's the project now?
The project now is Tom and I are at the back, formed a company which the concept is based around restaurants and micro hotels and gastro hotels, instead of gastro pubs.
You've probably just invented a new term there.
Yes gastro hotel. The concept is we're going to be closing for refurbishment in January and we're going to be reopening as a ten room boutique hotel with a very nice restaurant and cocktail bar, hopefully. The hotel is being designed by Lou Davies who recently did The Riding House Café. It's going to be very modern, very slick, very quirky and then hopefully we'll have a good restaurant that people will enjoy, a modern cocktail bar, a good vibe, good atmosphere, great people and a reasonable price point.
So are you going to be a community restaurant? Who are you appealing to? Who's your market?
Yes absolutely last time around when we were here we were very much a cornerstone in the local community, we were used by all the local residents and people were proud to have us there.
That's the key isn't it?
Yes we were used frequently by lots of people who lived locally as well as obviously having people coming here because we had a half decent reputation. That's the challenge now is to try and get that back,to get back those customers that sadly have been lost in the interim and so we're doing a lot of promotions, we're going round people's doors, literally by hand and introducing ourselves and telling them that we're back and the feedback we're getting is, "Oh thank God, we've missed you, we used to love the place and we don't go any more. We're glad you're back, we'll be along soon and we'll give you another try,"