WWD: Richard, would you consider bringing any of Keith’s restaurants to London?
Richard Caring: Several of Keith’s brands would work in London. They’re original; they’re exquisite — and there’s a definite market for them. I might have just persuaded Keith to bring Pulino’s to the U.K. London is all about sites: The toughest thing is finding the right one — but I think I have one. I also want to take Keith to the West Coast of America. I don’t think he’s even been there [laughs]. Pulino’s would be sensational in L.A.
Keith McNally: I’ve always been reluctant to the idea of reproducing places. But you can be pure to the point where it becomes snobbery. With this new place, I think I would reproduce it — in an interesting way.
WWD: Speaking of transporting restaurants across the Atlantic, tell me about the growing pains at Le Caprice in Manhattan.
R.C.: Cecconi’s is finding its way in L.A., and Caprice is doing the same in New York. It will take us a year to understand the market. But we will find our way. We’re in a hotel that is unionized, so we have to learn to work with the unions. I’m not unhappy with the first five months, and every month that goes by we learn a little bit more. We seem to have a great loyalty of clients. It’s an older clientele. We have a lot of locals, which is positive, but we have to try and mix that with a younger crowd. You’ve got to get downtown to come uptown — which is difficult. Also, we seem to have upset some of the food critics in New York because we don’t recognize them. When you phone 17 times and can’t get a table, you don’t come in with the most positive of mind-sets. We seem to be turning the critics away the whole time.
WWD: While you’re sorting out Le Caprice, what other projects are you working on?
R.C.: We’re trying to do an Ivy hotel next to the Ivy — about 50 to 60 rooms. It’ll take a couple of years. We’ve got 50 rooms at the Dean Street Townhouse [Caring’s latest restaurant-and-rooms concept in London’s Soho], and we’re adding another 20 rooms. We’ve just opened 26 rooms in Shoreditch House [in East London]. We opened Soho House Berlin on Monday. We open Soho House Miami in September.
WWD: What are some of your favorite restaurants in the U.S. and the U.K., and what makes them so special?
R.C.: The River Café. I think we would both agree on that one. When they opened, they were very innovative with their form of cooking. And I like Mr. Chow in Miami. I like the whole ambiance. It’s sizable, but still retains a great buzz.
K.M.: I generally like the restaurants that make the most mistakes. When somebody drops a tray of glasses, I think, ‘Thank God it’s not my problem!’ [laughs]. I like old fashioned. There’s a restaurant called Raoul’s on Prince Street [in New York], and I like it because it’s cozy; it’s comfortable. And I had a lot of success there when I wasn’t married, taking women there.
WWD: Keith, what are your strengths as a restaurateur — aside from making sure nothing crashes to the floor?
K.M.: My strengths lie in hiring good people and seeing through bulls--t. I think I can detect when someone is being phony, and I have a good eye for things. I don’t think I’m much of a businessman, though, and I don’t look too clearly at the bottom line. I tend to think about the product, and make it as good as possible without really working out the finances and seeing if it’s possible to recoup the investment.
WWD: Have you ever spent any downtime together, or is it all business?
K.M.: We once walked 18 miles through Devon. I actually walked from the south of Devon to the north, and then I called Richard, who has a house there. We got up really early, and we walked across Exmoor [National Park, in southwest England] with two of Richard’s 18 dogs. We nearly lost one of the dogs in the fog.
R.C.: For lunch we had two stale cheese sandwiches and shared a warm beer. And then we shared an ice cream with the Labradors, Porgy and Bess.
WWD: What did you talk about for 18 miles?
K.M.: We got on really well. We talked a bit, but one of the nice things is being comfortable with someone when you’re not talking.