Secrets of success: meet the man who runs the Ivy

WHAT’S THE KEY TO THE IVY’S ENDURING, RAGING, CULTISH SUCCESS?
The juxtaposition of people; you’re rarely going to find that in another restaurant.

Celebrities next to tourists and regular Londoners. Then it’s focus on the customer.

That’s the key to a good restaurant. Each day we look at what went wrong and see how we can correct it.

HOW DID YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE ?
When I was at school, I worked in restaurants. At university, I worked three nights a week in a restaurant. I got most of my experience at a restaurant in Manchester – waiter, then barman, then maitre d’ then manager. I loved the work so much I never wanted to leave.

HAS THE RECENT DOWNTURN BEEN A CATASTROPHE FOR LONDON EATERIES ?
I’ve seen restaurants close, but mostly because they weren’t good. Same with Woolworths – it closed because it was crap.

THE IVY IS OPENING IN DUBAI – WON’T THAT DILUTE THE BRAND?
I don’t think it will detract. But it will be different – you’re not going to get Diana Rigg followed by Sienna Miller coming in on a typical night.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF THE JOB ?
Developing staff. Some of the commis chefs I hired have become big shots in Caprice Holdings.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE RESTAURANTS ?
I like family restaurants and cheap and cheerful ones – Yala Yala, a Lebanese street food restaurant (Green Court, Soho) and Harbour City (Great Marlborough Street) for cheap and delicious dim sum are my favourites. I like the value thing. I wouldn’t be at the Ivy otherwise.

ARE YOU FRIENDS WITH LOADS OF YOUR CELEBRITY GUESTS ?
They’re my “restaurant friends” rather than my friends. I don’t invite them round to my house.

IS THE IVY ALWAYS BOOKED ?
As much as we want – we like to keep the option for spontaneity – it gives it
vibrancy.

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO GET A TABLE AT THE IVY LAST-MINUTE ?
Try between 8:30 and 9:30. Be nice, offer to have a drink at the bar, and we’ll always try to find a space for you, no matter what you’re wearing.

WHAT’S BEST TO EAT AT THE IVY ?
Start with the crab, it’s so clean. Then have the roast poulet for two, stuffed with foie gras. For dessert, I’d go for the sorbet. It’s to die for.

BEST COCKTAIL ?
The Twinkle – it’s elderflower, champagne, and a twist of lemon.

1-5 West Street, WC2H 9NQ. www.the-ivy.co.uk