EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED AS MARK HIX MOVES INTO BELGRAVES HOTEL

THE RUMOURS have been swirling around the leisure industry for months, and Thompson Hotels yesterday confirmed that chef Mark Hix will run the restaurant and bar at its new hotel launch Belgraves, due to open in January.

The 80-seat Hix Belgravia, the chef’s fourth restaurant, will offer a menu inspired by his travels around the world, while Mark’s Bar, his second after the Soho original, will contain a cigar garden and artworks commissioned from artist Mat Collishaw.

Belgraves, located on Chesham Place behind Sloane Square, is the first transatlantic opening from Thompson Hotels, the New York and Los Angeles-focused group owned by brothers Larry, Jason and Michael Pomeranc and Stephen Brandman.

The 85-room hotel is a joint venture with the Harilela Group, the Hong Kong-based family-owned hospitality empire led by Dr Hari Harilela, an adviser to the Chinese government, with interior design by Tara Bernerd and EPR Architects to make the hotel a “second home” for London’s business leaders.

Jason Pomeranc has said he is inspired by traditional British hospitality – but if guests expect Hix’s signature British style at his latest opening, then think again. “We’ve had fun with the menu and are going off-piste,” said Hix.

CASINO BANKING
RUMOURS circulated that Daniel Stewart had bankrolled a third round of quantitative easing, securing a licence to print money at its Christmas party at Harry’s Bar on Ironmonger Lane.

The firm even let guests speculate that the banknotes at the roulette table were fakes, funded by Chinese investment firm Jade Investments.

“The money was NOT real,” stressed a spinner. “It was fake money with Marilyn Money [written] on it, as the theme was Hollywood.”

With hindsight, the Elvis impersonator was a giveaway – as enjoyed by David Newton of the Helium Special Situations fund, over from Monaco for the occasion, and Daniel Stewart’s chairman and chief executive Peter Shea and consultant Adam Wilson.

FEEDING THE 5,000
BUSINESS is booming at Pret A Manger, the sandwich and coffee company majority-owned by private equity firm Bridgepoint.

So while other firms are scaling back on corporate entertainment, the chain still throws both summer and Christmas events for its 5,000 staff, the latest last Saturday at the HAC Artillery Garden.

The food, however, was “not that great”, according to one guest. Perhaps Pret a Manager should have served its own products – even if only the famous porridge, credited with helping the company hit its 37 per cent rise in core earnings last year.

END OF THE AFFAIR
NO STONE was left unturned when journalists yesterday quizzed FSA chairman Lord Adair Turner at the press call to release the report on why RBS failed. Not even whether the alleged affair by the bank’s former CEO Sir Fred Goodwin affected his concentration on the job in hand, as one newspaper reporter queried.

“We found out who this person was,” said Turner, to sniggers from the room. “If this person had been a chief risk officer, there might have been concerns. Did we go back and work out precisely how focused on the job Fred was? No.”

LUCK OF THE DRAW
SAY WHAT you like about bankers, at least they know how to run a simple charity raffle. Or do they?

The Capitalist hears that one 30-something investment banker managed to sell both the raffle ticket and the counterfoil at a City firm’s recent Christmas drinks, meaning he made twice the money but the punter had zero chance of winning.

Sound familiar? “It’s no surprise the City is in so much trouble when you have people who don’t even understand how a raffle works running the banks,” said a mole.

GOING DUTCH
KELLY Rowland is big in Saturday night television, as a judge on the X Factor. And now the ex-Destiny’s Child singer is big in expensive watches, as the face of TW Steel, the Dutch watchmaker known for its oversized timepieces.

The partnership was unveiled at a party at The Box, the Soho burlesque club favoured by Icap’s excitable traders, and special edition Kelly Rowland watches will follow in 2012, assures TW Steel’s chief executive Jordy Cobelens (pictured left with Rowland). Perhaps presumptuously, he added: “I know they’ll be a huge success.”