Fellow travellers passing through St Pancras to get onto a Eurostar train to Paris would be forgiven for not noticing a culinary megastar in their midst. Chef Hélène Darroze usually arrives with moments to spare, and walks briskly through the station in a cosy sweater and flats (closer inspection proves that they are Gucci). She leaves her Michelin-starred status along with her whites at the Connaught.
“When I’m travelling between one restaurant and the other I have a chance to catch up on my emails, work on menus and other projects - sometimes looking out the window and having a moment to reflect also gives me inspiration for new ideas!” She smiles.
“After 10 years of travelling with Eurostar, everyone there have become an extended family. Everybody knows me and have seen my girls grow. They are completely part of my life!”
Darroze has the commute, which can be more than once in a week, down to a fine art. “I can leave from the centre of Paris, and arrive into London with a quick 20-minute taxi ride to The Connaught. It’s perfect. On some occasions I will come in for the day, and know I am back home to see my girls before bedtime.”
Communication is important too. “As I’m on a train it also means apart from when I am in the tunnel I can keep in touch with the world!”
The wide glass entrance and polished concrete floor of St Leonards is probably robust enough for Jackson Boxer to ride his motorbike straight inside, but he resists the temptation, keeping it round the corner ready to leap onto if needs be. “It’s the only method of getting about London faster than the tube, with the advantage of comprehensive air conditioning,” he laughs. With his fitted leather jacket and smart boots, there’s no mistaking him for a Deliveroo driver as he roars round Old Street roundabout
Boxer is spending much of his time at the Shoreditch restaurant, although Brunswick House – a favourite for big private events as well as regular service – also needs attention. And there’s the matter of his two small children too... “My biggest challenge?” he muses. “Time. No one ever needs me urgently in half an hour, they need me desperately five minutes ago. Until there’s some major amendments made to the theory of general relativity this will persist in being a problem for me.”
But it’s not just speed that makes it Boxer’s transport of choice. “Riding bikes is about the most fun thing you can do legally, and so far has proven much better for my health than excessive consumption of drugs and alcohol, which is what I did for ever- diminishing kicks in my 20s.”
You would expect Jeremy King, as one of London’s most revered restaurateurs, to be a recognisable figure. You might be a little more surprised to see him sailing down Pall Mall on a bicycle. But that is indeed the mode of transport he often uses to move between his always-busy restaurants.
“I actually use several methods depending on time of day, location and of course the weather!” King
has a marvellous story from the early days of The Ivy, when he got around by scooter. “The shop tried to sell me waterproof clothing for when it was cold and wet,” he laughs. “I told them when it’s cold and wet I’ll be in a car!”
“I would still use a scooter now,” he adds, “but the proliferation of them means that parking is virtually impossible. So my transportation divides between bicycle, tube, walking, bus and my car (I’ve had the same one, an old Bristol, since 1985).”
Are we sure he doesn’t own a time machine? Those who dine in any of the Corbin & King restaurants will know that their co-owner has a brilliant knack of appearing to greet people. “In truth finding the time and also accepting that it is impossible to ever see as many customers as I would like is the challenge. Luckily we are a team of directors and between Chris, Robert, Jason and myself, I now feel that it is just as important seeing the staff.”
The familiar curved chassis, that tick-tick-tick of the engine ... anyone who’s spent any time in London knows the look and sound of a classic black taxi. But look at this particular one more closely and it’s clear that it’s not your standard vehicle. Behind the wheel is Margot Henderson, who uses her beloved cab to get between her restaurants in Shoreditch and the Mall. “I’ve had one for years,” she says, as she obligingly parks up on Arnold Circus for a photograph.
Why, when so many people say driving in the capital is a nightmare, does she have her own taxi? “It’s the glamour,” she guffaws. “It turns on a 50p coin, it’s a ducker and diver, and it looks especially cool piled up with crates of food or lots of staff.”
With a busy events arm, Arnold & Henderson, as well as the two restaurants, a taxi is a handy vehicle – not least because it can go in the bus lane (well, that’s what Henderson says). But as she also says, she’s not always for hire by the staff... “The challenge is trying not to be a pain to everyone, just letting go and trusting them! You can’t be in two places at once.”
Stevie Parle lives “practically off-grid” in the Kent countryside, so it’s quite a mission to get to the capital. Unlike some commuters, though, he doesn’t mind the train. “I live in Kent and get the train from Canterbury most days. It’s fast and comfortable and I really find the time I spend on the morning useful in getting ready for the day,” he smiles.
It’s once he’s in London that the fun starts, moving between his five restaurants... “I try and manage my diary so I spend one day in each restaurant and the meetings I need to take come to me wherever I am. This never works and I end up running from one to the other all day like an idiot.”
Parle does have the advantage, if he needs to run from Soho to Docklands to Dalston, of being very tall, so he can outpace everyone else on the pavement. If he does use the bus, which he enjoys, he has to stoop to get in through the doors, though. “During the day I like to walk, or take the bus, and more often than not jump in an Uber. I don’t get the tube that much but it’s by far the quickest way to get to Craft London in North Greenwich.”
And after all that running around, it’s back to the countryside. “On the way home I’ll read and unwind a bit before getting home to a house full of kids and mayhem!”
CODE’s editor Lisa Markwell drives a 10-year-old electric car around London – between CODE HQ in the west end and the Sunday Times in London Bridge (where she spends half the week). However the GWiz, or CODEmobile as we call it, also doubles up as a delivery van for the Quarterly. It’s become a ritual for Markwell and founder Adam Hyman to drive around the capital delivering magazines.