Homes & London: A Taste for Success
Homes & London magazine, ‘a celebration of everything that’s great about life in and around arguably the world’s most exciting city’, recently launched their brand new website with a long-form article featuring our CEO and Founder, Martin Williams. Read the full article here…
A Londoner is spoiled for choice when it comes to tasting menus, cocktail bars and more, but where can you treat your palate with seasonal dishes or a nightcap if you live in the home counties or nearby commuter links? This is exactly what restaurant owner and entrepreneur Martin Williams thought of when planning his newly opened third restaurant, M Twickenham, in St James’s development Brewery Wharf.
Martin is a dapper, well-groomed gentleman, one who enjoys the finer things in life and inspires his guests at M to share in that same sentiment. We discuss his past, passions and desire to create a lifestyle brand more than just a place to eat. With such a strong background in hospitality, it’s no wonder his luxury restaurant collection has been widely lauded. As an Area Manager for Zizzi he took the group from six restaurants to 36: “That is where I learned volume and scalability.” He then spent just over one year at Covent Garden’s Christopher’s, a real political hub in its heyday. “It was quite an amazing place at the time, a bit like The Ivy for politicians.” Often rubbing elbows with Tony Blair, David Blunkett and Boris Johnson, learning the art of fine dining and how to manage a room full of powerhouses. However, it was his nine years spent with Gaucho, growing the brand from a handful of restaurants known as Gaucho Grill, rebranding and moving it to an international level which solidified his reputation as a force to be reckoned with, giving him the fervour to embark on his own in 2014.
Williams’ two flagship restaurants, M Threadneedle and M Victoria, are permeated with a sense of theatre from the moment you walk in. Perhaps a nod to Martin’s history as a drama student at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts. The staff are all impeccably groomed and the room has an air of extravagance with lush banquet seating, sumptuous purple and teal hues and a grand staircase leading to the bar area. There is a private dining room upstairs, and an additional three downstairs. They used an interior decorator who specialises in home décor as opposed to restaurants, striving to give the expansive space a cosy and luxurious ambiance. But what is an M restaurant? According to Martin, if you ask his guests, “they’ll say it’s a restaurant that has lots of different elements, that specialises in steak.” So, in a city where restaurants are popping up more often than it rains, how does a restaurant with a focus on steaks from around the world differentiate itself from the well-known “steak houses.” To start, by focusing on not being a machismo bar and grill, it has been able to reach a wider audience. “At M you can dine equally on fish as you can on meat,” says Martin, with some of the best quality seafood in London, and an extensive gluten free raw offering. “We have the highest-grade Ike Jime sashimi in the world,” the second restaurant after Heston Blumenthal to have Blackmore Wagyu 9++ from Australia and share the same USDA beef as Wolfgang Puck. And yet with these premium ingredients, they still manage to undercut their competitors. Complementing the menu with affordable options on both their food menu and wine list, like the Argentine rump Executive Group Chef Michael Reid calls his favourite. “You can take yourself way too seriously, it’s about making it accessible and having some fun with it. Which I think is equally our USP as much as the quality of what we offer. We have a saying here “‘aspirational but accessible’.”
Aside from food, hospitality is at the core of M. “It’s more like a hotel or private members’ club than just a restaurant,” says Martin. They are constantly thinking about how they can better accommodate their guests. Whether that is through a specially devised booking system which allows you to choose your table via a Google Earth style view, the Menu 28 which offers those on the go two courses with coffee, in 28 minutes, for £28, or that they “don’t have to give timed bookings, if you want a table then it’s yours for the night.” There is even the opportunity to try some of the most expensive wines, alongside more affordable, with their wine tasting machines and Coravin; a glass of Petrus anyone? Their wine shop located in Victoria has a vast list ranging anywhere from £8 to £5,600 a bottle. Wine Director Zack Charilaou strives to make wine “down to earth and wants to take the pretentious side away.” The private club, The Den, truly takes care of its members, offering complimentary breakfast daily, a discount on food and beverage, use of their private screening rooms and an engraved bottle of Hennessy XO as a welcome gift. The Locker Room at M Threadneedle, is a secret room with a private bar, 50 inch TV and foosball table. However, what makes the room truly special are the lockers which hold members’ bottles of spirits. You receive a personalised key which is kept behind the bar, so when you come in, the bartender will take your bottle out of your locker, make your cocktails, and put your bottle back – just like having your own cocktail cabinet on hand.
So how can this upscale dining experience translate to a neighbourhood restaurant? “It’s about identifying areas where people who are dining with you during the week happen to live. Do they know the brand? If they do where are they likely to live? Let us extend that brand to a local level, do a slightly different offering that is more dog friendly, more child friendly, but is also a great bar to have a glass of wine in on your way home, or if you can’t be bothered to cook,” says Martin. Everything from the design, hospitality and menu will be held to the same standard as in Victoria and Threadneedle. “The Twickenham model has the levels of service, the levels of guest recognition and the innovation that we have in the two flagship locations, just taken to a local level. We have wine by tap, cocktails by tap, as well as the wine machine.”
When it comes to the menu, Martin and Michael have always cared immensely about the husbandry, slaughtering and ageing of their meat but sadly hadn’t found a farmer that ticked all those boxes for the flagship sites; four years later they have. “We always wanted a great British steak on the menu and now we’ve found two great local partners,” M Twickenham is the first ever restaurant to offer 100 percent full blooded Highland Wagyu. “Post Brexit, prices have gone up 15 percent on anything you’re importing. So, to do a local product is viable. You can’t be sourcing things from all over the world. Plus, it has always been one of my passions to say ‘ok, let’s go super sustainable and super local’ and create a menu that is sourcing local ingredients, and Twickenham is perfect for that.”
M Twickenham is the first ever restaurant to offer 100% full blooded Highland Wagyu.
By acknowledging the need for great restaurants outside of the centre of the city or the high street, M is able to offer some independent expression to the frequent diner who has tired of the chains. Giving those who don’t dine out near their house due to a lack of choice, a “home from home near their home.” So whether a resident of Twickenham or fan of the rugby, you’re lucky enough to call M your local or post-game victory spot.