The inimitable maître d’ Paulo de Tarso is to leave his role at Bar Boulud at London’s Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park to open his own restaurant with fellow restaurateur Nicolas Jaouën.
Privately backed by C&C Alpha Group and Shanti Hospitality, De Tarso and Jaouën, currently general manager of Mayfair’s La Petite Maison, are opening Margot, an Italian restaurant in Covent Garden this summer.
The concept for the restaurant, which will celebrate the glamour and rustic charm of Italian design and craft, will focus on “great food and great service, and simple elegance – combining comfort and a refined but lively setting. We want it to feel warm and inviting while at the same time bringing that energy of a little bit of excitement and allure,” de Tarso told The Caterer.
The restaurant, which will be open seven days a week and is expected to seat approximately 100 diners, will serve traditional Italian food, celebrating the country’s extensive regions. De Tarso said the service would be friendly, knowledgeable, and professional. “We aim to make everyone feel well looked after and welcome.”
Brazil-born de Tarso said: “Italy is part of my heritage and I’ve always loved the food. There are only a handful of really good Italian restaurants in London with the sort of offering that we are looking to provide. Italian food is simply amazing, and with our impeccable service and attention to detail our customers will love it. Italian food is much more than checked tablecloths and a humble pasta.” The seven-day-a-week operation will, however, offer both New and Old World wines.
Jaouën and de Tarso, who are good friends, worked together at Caprice Holding’s Mayfair restaurant Scott’s. After Scott’s, Jaouën was opening general manager for Keith McNally’s Balthazar, before moving to Alain Ducasse’s Rivea restaurant at the Bulgari hotel.
De Tarso commented: “Nick’s got the golden touch, and we have a similar approach and outlook on the business so I think we will create something truly special together. I’m happy to be working with him on this. Aside from what he brings to the table professionally, he’s a good man.”
As two front of house specialists fronting the business, de Tarso said that while having a great chef on board was extremely important, and something he doesn’t undervalue, they were keen that Margot gains a reputation for the interaction of its front of house team. He said they would major on sharing time with guests. “Everything I do is for the guest, to provide them with warm customer service and a memory to take with them.
“With the current market trends and the competition only getting more savvy, there are a hundred places someone can go if they don’t feel they are being looked after. We want to raise the bar, and in that way highlight the amazing hard work that the front of the house team does.”
Regarding their choice of Covent Garden, de Tarso said the pair were drawn to the area’s amazing history. “The energy of the area is brilliant – it’s very cosmopolitan – and with its shops, businesses, and theatres, it’s such an energetic destination.”
De Tarso added: “I have had the good fortune to build relationships with some great people over the years through the Wolseley, Scott’s and Bar Boulud. I want everyone who loves food, wine, drinks and good service who come through our doors to be treated warmly. I think I’ve shared a mutual respect with guests from all backgrounds and I hope that continues. Nick and I both have a great love of people and the energy of front of house.”
The high-profile maître d’, who has worked for 2015 International Outstanding Achievement Catey award winner Daniel Boulud at Bar Boulud for nearly six years, said: “It’s the dream. I won’t say it hasn’t taken work to get here, but it’s just felt right and fallen into place. Leaving Daniel is the only downside for me; he is more than a mentor. I love him so much, it’s hard to have to leave him. Daniel is happy for me, but that step will be heartbreaking. By chance I recently came across an old interview with him talking about coming to a similar crossroads in his career many years ago and his words inspired me to take the leap of faith.”
Jaouën, who credits McNally among his greatest inspirations, said: “Working with Keith McNally was a game changer for me, his whole approach to design, service, menu, everything, blew me away. I can’t wait to put that knowledge into practice and do this with Paulo – his energy and people skills are simply incredible.”