It’s been a busy week! I breakfasted with Jaume Tapies, chairman of Relais & Chateaux, last Friday, at the group’s recently-opened ‘maison’ in London’s Beauchamp Place. the property is effectively a shop window for the hundreds of luxury restaurants and hotels within the collection, offering passers-by a chance to browse marketing material and cookbooks, get a sense of the properties and book a stay.
Tapies tells me that Relais & Chateaux has been prospecting British hotels and has for the first time been “knocking on doors” at those hotels it feels would be worthy additions to the brand. He expects that at least ten or twelve more UK properties will feature in the collection in the next two to three years. He also promises that the 2009 guide will “change completely” from previous years’ editions, with the generic page template replaced by a fresher and more design-led approach.
Monday of this week saw the start of three days of intensive Cateys judging at the splendid Dorchester Hotel on London’s Park Lane. I now know the identies of the majority of Cateys winners for 2008 – but if I told you I’d then have to kill you, as they say, so I’m keeping shtumm. What I can tell you is that the winners were chosen by a bewildering array of hospitality’s great and good. Judges included Brian Wisdom of People 1st, the IOH’s Philippe Rossiter, Bob Cotton, Heston Blumenthal, Hotelier of the Year Michael Gray, Robert Cook of Malmaison and Hotel du Vin, Travelodge’s Grant Hearn, William Baxter, Alaistair Storey, Marcus Wareing and a host of other big names.
Judging is an exacting – and exhausting – process. Luckily, I was able to recharge the batteries with a fortifying dinner at Restaurant Tom Aikens, above the King’s Road. the occasion was the restaurant’s fifth birthday, and Tom pulled out all the stops to create a stunning tasting menu that was complemented by great wines picked by head sommelier and 2008 UK Sommelier of the Year winner, Gearoid Devaney. Happy birthday, Tom.
One award not yet allocated is the Silver Award – and we need your help with this category. Which individual has, in your opinion, done more to further the cause of UK hospitality in the past 25 years? let us know and you could win yourself a pair of tickets to the industry ‘s Oscars night in July.