London Lantern

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Top London Chefs and Restaurateurs - Nick Lambert

23/03/2005, By

Reader Rating: 2.9 from 15290 votes


Nick Lambert was born in Saltburn, North Yorkshire in 1971, his father was a Church of England Vicar and great organic gardener, while his mother was a Dentist and great cook; as a result he always loved food from a young age - on his 4th birthday, when asked what he wanted as a present, he requested a pound of mushrooms cooked with garlic and butter.

He studied History at the London School of Economics 1990 to 1993, where he was taught by Dr David Starkey, who was superb and always made Nick jealous about the restaurants he dined at - Nick was living on £20 per week after paying his rent so was a touch constrained as to where he could eat out at! Starkey once famously turned up an hour late for an afternoon tutorial - when challenged by one of his least favourite students he just slapped him down with "My dear boy, I was having a rather good lunch at Mosimann's so why on earth was I going to rush back to you lot" - everyone looked at him blankly except Nick as he understood where he was coming from having read a couple of M. Mosimann's books.

The only way he could eat out at university was to get a good friends, who edited the LSE Newspaper to create the position of "Restaurant Critic" specifically for him. Unfortunately he got carried away and blew the entire year's budget at Kensington Place on his first assignment - it was well worth it though as it was one of the first dates he had with his wife Emmaline!

He left LSE in 1993 and tried to make it in advertising as a copywriter. He found it tough as the industry was decimated after the excesses of the 1980s and opportunities were few and far between. He ended up working for a small agency who had a mixed portfolio of clients that included the Benihana Restaurant group. He worked a lot on the Benihana account and launched their restaurants in Chelsea and Piccadilly - this gave him a real taste for the trade and he resolved to open a restaurant when he retired at 40! The restaurants were at the time big budget and glamorous and it was at a time when the restaurant scene was really mushrooming in London - Conran was expanding rapidly, Marco Pierre White was emerging as a real force and chefs like Gary Rhodes, Alistair Little, Antony Worrall Thompson and of course Stephen Bull were pushing Modern British to the forefront.

He went to law school in 1996 after deciding that advertising was not really doing it for him. He got very serious and it almost looked like he was going to become a lawyer for the rest of his life. Thankfully, he realised in time that this would not be a good thing for him or the legal profession as he detests office politics, doing what heís told and pushing paper around. He did work for Burberry for a year in Intellectual Property which basically involved him organising raids on sweatshops in Korea and Thailand that were making fake handbags and shoes. Whilst this job was actually quite fun for him and it was at a time that Burberry was really taking off he was coming to the conclusion that he must bring his restaurant dream forward as it was what he really wanted to do.

Nick and his wife had got lucky with a property that they owned in Westminster and it had gone up so much in value that they were able to borrow enough against the equity to buy a restaurant lease and have enough working capital to keep it afloat. After working closely with Benihana and talking to people in the trade he knew what he was getting in to so he decided to train as a chef and front of house which he did at Butler's Wharf Chef School (the unacknowledged inspiration for Jamie Oliverís Fifteen concept).

At present Blandford Street Restaurant is closed for a complete refurbishment, creating a stunning new interior, it will re-open on April 18th. (continued next month)

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