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Mark Hix

Mark Hix


Words Kirk Truman

Portraits Sandra Vijandi


“There are a lot more restaurants and different styles of cuisine in Soho. You can eat anything at almost any time of the day here…”

In and around our city, Hix restaurants have taken up home in some of London’s most evocative locations. From Smithfield Market to Shoreditch and, of course, Soho, celebrated chef, restaurateur and food writer Mark Hix is renowned for his original take on British gastronomy and firm thumb on the London restaurant scene.

With an exceptional knowledge of ingredients with provenance, Mark Hix is frequently lauded as one of London’s most eminent restaurateurs. He has a monthly column in Esquire, a weekly column in The Independent, and is the author of a number of cookbooks on British cuisine.

Hix was born in West Bay, Bridport, about 10 miles down the coast from Lyme Regis, where he now owns a restaurant. “I didn’t appreciate it when I was a kid,” he says. “When you’re brought up by the seaside, you never do. I spent a lot of my time swimming, fishing and playing golf, but I just took it all for granted.” When he moved to London, where he still lives, he became distant from the coast that’d been at the centre of his upbringing. “I go down to Dorset about three times a month now to keep an eye on the business and have a bit of time out,” he says. “I really appreciate the area now – there’s nowhere else like it.”

After spending 17 years at Caprice Holdings as Chef Director, Hix made the decision in 2008 to go solo –opening his first restaurant, the well established Hix Oyster & Chop House in Smithfield. Following the success of his first restaurant, he has since gone on to open a further seven establishments, including Hix Oyster & Fish House in Lyme Regis, the chicken and steak concept restaurant, Tramshed, in Shoreditch, and the well-known HIX Soho.

Hix has known his business partner, Ratnesh Bagdai, since the beginning of his restaurant career at Caprice Holdings, where Bagdai worked as finance director “In 2008 we heard about a site opportunity we couldn’t resist and got together to open Hix Oyster & Chop House”. The two decided to make the break, with the first Hix Restaurant appearing on the London restaurant scene. “I resigned and at the same time Rocco Forte asked me if I’d do a restaurant in Brown’s Hotel (Hix Mayfair). Suddenly, we had that and the Oyster and Chop House.”

With the success of Hix Restaurants in full swing, it wasn’t long before Hix came to launch another venture in Soho –the eponymous Hix Soho. The restaurant opened its doors five years ago to much acclaim, despite being surrounded by hefty competition such as Chris and Jeremy’s Zedel. The restaurant business is a funny old world – just when you think consolidation is the order of the day, the opportunity to acquire a great new site comes up and you find that you cannot turn it down” says Mark. “And what I mean by a ‘great site’ is this: somewhere where you don’t have to dig too deep into your pockets to do a good refurbishment, which has the added bonus of being a perfect central location.”

Mark has always had a relatively simple approach to food and cuisine, with each of his restaurants themselves having happened organically when the time and location were a perfect match. Hix has a hard and fast rule: no more than three main ingredients on the plate. “Then there’s the seasonal element, obviously. We tend not to mess around with the food too much. It’s just about showing off the main ingredient. Sometimes you only get one ingredient on the plate, so it’s just about being simple and carefully sourcing the ingredients.”While each restaurant has its own distinct character, they all share the same experience of simple British cooking.

Mark Hix has long been an advocate of the Soho neighbourhood and its restaurant scene, citing Soho as, historically, the capital of London dining. Hix has watched the various as different styles of cuisine have come and gone over the years in Soho, an area once saturated with Italian restaurants.“You can eat anything at almost any time of the day here,”he says. “It attracts a lot of good chefs and restaurateurs – the business is there. I remember, when I was working at Le Caprice, Quaglino’s opened, and we all wondered where everyone was going to come from for a big restaurant like that. But now there are so many restaurants and they all seem to be busy. There are obviously more people eating out because there is more choice –I don’t know where they used to go in the old days.”With Hixter Bankside having opened its doors July last year, I remain curious as to the next location of one of Hix’s restaurants. Whatever the case, it is certain his place as one of London’s most prolific restaurateurs is set in stone.

 

Paul Raymond

Paul Raymond


Words Kirk Truman

Illustrations Luke Stuart


“There will always be sex – always, always, always.”

There is no denying it, I did not know him and neither did you. Though, still his methods and his legacy are forever lingering and echoing about this neighbourhood. About the vibrancy of the evening along Brewer Street, the un-glowing neon beacon of the Raymond Revuebar is hung high above the street unnoticed by the people that tangle below. The Box Soho screams obscenity; nudity and sex before our very eyes unravelling. But from whom did this idea prosper: the world centre of erotic entertainment? Sex, publishing, property and Soho – Paul Raymond shall be forever renowned as the king of Soho.

The man who pioneered Soho strip clubs and the soft-porn magazine trade for more than 40 years began his career as an entrepreneur selling nylons and hairnets from a stall. Born into a Roman Catholic family in Liverpool, Paul Raymond was an early continental stage name he had chosen for himself – he was born Geoffrey Anthony Quinn. His mother wished for him to have a sound job in life, such as a railway ticket office clerk, thus never fully accepting his somewhat obscene chosen career path. As a youngster, Raymond’s father absconded from his life when he was just five. Despite his success and the confidence which his trade is known, as a youngster Raymond was shy and often stammered. His childhood would’ve taught him the deep requirement to establish his own independence which ultimately led to define his character.

A working-class boy, Raymond left school at 15 and started working at the Manchester ship canal as an office boy. His first passion was devoted to percussion – though he would claim he was rather good, it wasn’t enough to make it as a professional. Under the direction of wartime labour laws, he went down a mine as a Bevin Boy for one day only with the police bringing him back. After a stint in the RAF he left legitimately, beginning to move toward theatricality. In Liverpool, Raymond became a theatrical agent and a theatrical impresario in a small way later in Manchester. He then humorously purchased a mind reading act for 25 pounds though he was ‘never quick enough’ as he would describe it. The manager of a theatre said to Raymond that he would allow him and his two female colleagues on to his stage with a catch; only if the females were to be entirely nude. He offered the two girls an extra 10 shillings a week and they agreed. At this point, the law stated that on-stage nudity was permitted providing women didn’t move whilst on stage. Being a man who sought to find a way around any obstructions in his path, Raymond found a way to make the women rotate in order to make his earlier shows a success. Here began Raymond on a path through a changing Britain and Soho that would lead him to become the richest man in the country, going on to present risqué sex shows such as Yes, We Have No Pyjamas, Come Into My Bed and Let’s Get Laid.

Raymond saw that the Lord Chamberlain’s restrictions surrounding on-stage nudity could be simply bypassed by turning theatres into private clubs. The old Doric Ballroom in Walker’s Court soon became the makings of The Raymond Revuebar, hosting an array of daily explicit shows. The club was one of very few legal venues in London offering full frontal nudity. Though homosexual acts between men were illegal at this time, the Revue bar was also able to incorporate a Sunday night show aimed at a gay audience. Amid the controversy of the club and Raymond’s reputation, the chairman of the London Sessions called his show “filthy, disgusting and beastly,” fining him £5,000 in 1961. The publicity for his shows was, of course, worth many times £5,000. By the late 1960s the venue was solely hosting striptease performances. This in turn made way for big budget erotic shows of the type presented by continental clubs such as the Crazy Horse. With a small number of male dancers, performers were mostly female. Performances involved a mixture of solo striptease acts mixed with simulated boy/girl and girl/girl on-stage sex. Pieced together with as many as three performances nightly, they were known as The Festival of Erotica which ran for many years.

Raymond became a British institution and in his own words, “there will always be sex – always, always, always.” His realisation that the beauty of the live female body could in fact do better at the box office if relocated from the dark sweaty cellars of Soho to be rejuvenated within the world of theatre was key to Raymond’s success. When taking over the Whitehall and the Windmill theatres, the formula he continued was to provide nudity without actionable crudity, which he too applied to publications such as Men Only. Raymond’s wealth and empire began to spread throughout Soho rapidly with the purchasing of buildings throughout the area.

At an early stage in his career, Raymond refused to have partners or even a board of directors, thus leading to his organisation of theatres and magazines, sitting alongside a mass of around 400 properties in the Soho area, becoming a commercial giant that dwarfed other theatre managements. Come the late 1980s, profits from the numerous clubs he owned, his West End theatres and girlie magazines totalled more than £6m a year, continuing to rise yearly. Having acquired the lease of numerous other properties throughout Soho, they went from making Raymond into a multimillionaire then later into a billionaire, with the values of properties in the UK ever-rising. With an estimated fortune of more than £1.5bn, by 1992 he had ousted the Duke of Westminster as Britain’s richest man. Still, Raymond was simply ill-equipped to constructively employ or enjoy such wealth, remaining shy and often stammering in company. Despite his insistence that he was an entertainer, a show business man, he was frequently coined a pornographer and a crook by the British media, leading him to dismiss the much harsher claims made by journalists that he had little interest in anything other than his cabin cruiser, drink and his iconic gold-plated Rolls Royce.

Despite his overwhelming success, his personal life was often problematic, even tragic. In 1974, his wife Joan divorced him after 23 years of marriage after Raymond confessed to adultery with the well-exposed star of some of his shows, Fiona Richmond. With him and his ex-wife not nearly on speaking terms, his turbulent relationship with his son and presumed heir, Howard, had bettered until his drug problems ensued. The year Raymond became Britain’s richest man in 1992, his daughter Debbie Raymond, who had helped him run his business, died of a tragic heroin overdose.

Tortured by the untimely death of his daughter, Raymond came to confine himself in his Green Park penthouse, located next door to the Ritz hotel. Though still his story of financial success continued on. The receiver in 1994 accepted Raymond’s £15m offer to buy the Café de Paris, the Rialto cinema site and shops and offices in Rupert Street and Coventry Street in Soho, with him also buying the Queen’s House leisure complex in Leicester Square for £12m two years later. When appointing Joe Daniel, a Barclays banker, as his managing director it wasn’t long until rumours of cancer and bad health started to spread. In 1997, he sold his legacy, the Raymond Revuebar, to former Marseilles Ballet dancer Gerard Simi. The Revuebar dwindled with its eventual closure in 2004.

Raymond progressively thinned his connection with the organisation he had built, despite insistence that he was still in charge with his brother, Dr Philip Quinn, becoming a director of his Organisation in 2000. Falling out of the media limelight in his later years, aged 82, Raymond died of respiratory failure in 2008. Forward to today, his granddaughters, Fawn & India, continue his legacy and love for the neighbourhood that brought the success of his career amid a changing Britain and Soho. The sign of the Raymond Revuebar may no longer glow high above Brewer Street, but his methods and his legacy shall forever last in the neighbourhood which he helped shape. The king is dead. Long live the king.

Lina Stores


Words Jason Holmes

Photography Manu Zafra


“The shop is usually buzzing with the chatter of Italian accents. Decades ago Italians would have lived and worked in Soho…”

Businesses have come and gone in Soho down the ages, but one has managed to survive for more than seventy years. Behind Lina Stores’ green door lies a gourmand’s bounty. This is the bel paese in microcosm, and one of the last of the original Italian delicatessens to survive the countless makeovers that have scarred the bohemian quarter’s noble face.

As a mecca for homesick Italians in search of a taste of home – where a coffee machine sweats steam in a quiet corner of the shop as customers come and go – Lina Stores has never disappointed. Hidden in plain sight at 18 Brewer Street, the shop was founded in the 1940s by a lady from Genova, Lina, who remains something of an enigma. “I suppose it was quite unusual for a woman to go into business alone back then, but the nature of Lina’s business was fairly commonplace among Italian immigrants at the time,” says Helen Lenarduzzi, Lina Stores’ buyer. “A combination of the large Italian community in Soho, a desire to hold on to Italian gastronomic traditions and perhaps a mediocre grasp of English that would have made other forms of employment more difficult will have made opening an Italian delicatessen an obvious decision.”

Today’s decision is to keep the business safely within the family. Massimo Perdoni serves as the shop manager and has said in the past that Soho has changed tenfold since Lina Stores was founded 70 years ago, yet it’s to an establishment like Lina Stores that people come to glimpse something of the old Soho. Lenarduzzi agrees: “Lina Stores has always had an iconic look, so it would have been a travesty to abandon it. There would have been an outcry from customers if we had. There’s something about our white and green stripes that seems to appeal to customers.” The deli’s staff are all Italian, and there’s a constant footfall of Italians popping in for a quick coffee. “The shop is usually buzzing with the chatter of Italian accents. Decades ago Italians would have lived and worked in Soho, but now the majority commute in.”

“Back in the early days, most of the customers would have been homesick Italians, due to the large number of Italians that migrated to the UK in the post-war years. But in more recent times there has been another wave of immigration of young Italians looking for opportunities that are sadly unavailable in their home country.”

London, as it has done over the centuries, still stands resolute as a beacon for those seeking to better themselves, the city’s very culture woven from the cultures of those who serve it. “Back in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s Lina Stores was one of many Italian delis in Soho, but over the years almost all of them have disappeared,” adds Lenarduzzi. “There was also a new threat from supermarkets stocking similar items that were available in the small independents. So the key to our survival has been our willingness to move with the times. We are more focused on representing smaller, more artisan producers and there’s something infinitely more reassuring about being able to discuss the history and nature of a product with the grandson of a small company’s founder than having emails passed from pillar to post in a multinational organisation.”

Business has thrived because of the commitment of Perdoni and Lenarduzzi. “We import from all over Italy. Italian food is so diverse it would be hard to justify not doing so. The way people in Italy eat varies enormously from region to region and we pride ourselves on having a selection of products from all over the country.” But Lina Stores also sets itself apart from other delis by having more than one string to its bow. “A lot of homemade food is made on site which forms the backbone of our services. It’s lovely to hear customers telling the shop staff about their childhood memories of the ravioli they bought from us.”

But should an independent like Lina Stores be worried about the effect the Crossrail project will have on the area? Lenarduzzi is chagrined: “It’s heart-wrenching to hear about all of these special buildings and institutions that are under threat. London as a whole seems to be facing a wave of demolition that values so-called modernisation over heritage.”

“I have a horrible feeling that there will be cries of ‘What did we do!’ emanating from all corners of London within the next 20 to 30 years. If something is torn down and replaced by something that in the long run is a poor substitute, there’s no going back. The trouble with buildings is that it’s an irreversible gamble. And the argument that more people will be able to visit Soho thanks to Crossrail doesn’t hold much weight if the heart and soul that has driven visitors to the area in the past has been ripped out.”

With this in mind, Soho as the cultural heart of London has skipped a few beats of late, but it remains business and usual for this independent. “The secret to running a modern business in 21st century London to achieve a balance between forward-thinking without losing a sense of where you came from and how you got to where you are,” says Lenarduzzi. “We’re acutely aware that one of the things customers enjoy most about our shop is the interaction they have with the staff.”

With actors like John Hurt, celebrity chefs, restaurateurs and politicians stopping by to stock up, Lina Stores succeeds in selling traditional merchandise to a city that finds itself in the grip of change. When Lenarduzzi says that “nothing can come close to visiting an establishment that has stood the test of time,” one comes to understand precisely what all Londoners are in danger of losing forever if we allow ourselves to get used to the kiss of the wrecking ball. History, lest we forget, has shown that London and its immigrant communities have made Soho. What grows together goes together.