In celebration of the opening of her new Chelsea brasserie, No. Fifty Cheyne, Quintessentially chats with entrepreneur OBE Sally Greene about her favourite London haunts and what makes her tick.
Quintessentially: Tell us about your new opening, No. Fifty Cheyne?
Sally Greene, OBE: I just received an email from a friend saying "it's glorious, filled with delicious scents and personalities," which is incredibly pleasing. Anyone in the restaurant business knows it's a real slog to get to this point.
Eating out has become more of a 360 immersive experience, from the interior design to the style of staffing, and of course, the dishes and drinks. Clients palates are getting more and more educated, people are spending more and more time in bars & restaurants - and restaurants are having to respond accordingly. We've adapted No. Fifty Cheyne by developing the Upstairs cocktail and drawing room, so that it's not limited to just one offering and so guests can enjoy a whole evening with us without the concern of wondering where to venture to post-dinner.
People are eating with their eyes first. Instagram and blogs are still growing in popularity, and the importance of producing food and drinks that look as good as they taste is paramount. Our incredible Head Chef, Iain Smith, does this exceptionally well.
There is also a distinct rise in health-conscious dining, and guests are getting to know their bodies better, so we've seen an increase in vegetarian/vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-intolerant guests. We have developed menus to suit this range of requirements, whilst keeping the dishes full of flavour and where possible – locally sourced.
No. Fifty Cheyne is working with brands to devolve an extensive low & no cocktail menu to cater to the desired increase for non-alcoholic and or low-calorie drinks.
There has been a real shortage of employees in many sectors or the restaurant business, from chefs to waiting staff to bar-people. As such, there has been nearly a 20% pay increase over the past five years for those positions. No. Fifty Cheyne is working with some local schools to see how we can highlight career opportunities and earning potential.
Where do you like to go out to eat or socialise?
Other than No. Fifty Cheyne, my usual haunts in London include any of Jeremy King and Chris Corbin's establishments – most recently, I have been to their fabulous new opening in St Johns Wood, Soutine. I also love the Covent Garden Hotel, Petersham Nurseries, and Oswalds. I never miss a night at 5 Hertford Street when they have the Ronnie Scott's band playing – 'big band in a small room.' They always bring a sense of theatricality.
What's your London hidden gem?
For me, London is the best city in the world. It has a fascinating history as a centre for creativity and free-thinking. I love to travel, but there is nowhere else I would want to live, so when I'm back and have a moment of peace – an infrequent occurrence - nothing beats my Grade II listed garden in Chelsea. I'm spoilt for choice at home, with the beautiful garden one side of the house and views of the river the other.
Do you have a particular night at Ronnie Scott's that you'll never forget?
Ronnie Scott's is my jewel in the crown of Soho, and I wanted to ensure it survived. In my teens, my father took me for my first visit to Ronnie's to see Nina Simone. I remember her being hunched over the piano, looking severely depressed but with this dreamy deep-throated voice. Magical. That's why I chose to purchase the club and breathe new life into it to keep it kicking today.
I couldn't possibly pinpoint one favourite night since I've owned the club; there are so many that spring to mind. Listening to the powerful and irreplaceable voice of Amy Winehouse will be logged in my mind forever. Watching everyone queue around the block for Prince, then hearing the screams of delight when he arrived; being fortunate enough to have a late-night gig with Lady Gaga when her concert at the Albert Hall was cancelled because Tony Bennett was ill - unforgettable moments like these are such a delight and privilege to witness.
You're known for bringing old buildings back to life – how did this interest begin?
I credit my father for championing me and my dreams. He was a theatrical lawyer and sat on many theatre boards, so I was immersed in it from a young age. He was the one who encouraged me to go in and save the Richmond Theatre from closure in 1986. That was the toughest job as it belonged to the local authority. And from that moment I got the bug and never looked back.
Have you always been involved in the theatre?
As a child, I grew up wanting to be an actress. At drama school, it became apparent fairly quickly that it wasn't my calling! So, I changed my mindset from wanting to tread the boards to restoring them instead. I realised that working on rejuvenating these amazing buildings was far more satisfying.
What is your proudest moment?
In 2000 I formed a board to save The Old Vic that consisted of Lord Attenborough, Michael Bloomberg, Sir Richard Eyre, Stephen Daldry CBE, Lady de Rothschild, and Dame Judi Dench. Watching them all pull together to help reinvigorate one of the most famous theatres in the world - and realize a dream of mine - made me feel immensely proud.
You have lots of projects on the go; what does your typical day consist of?
There is no typical day, but it's always a constant balancing act between the businesses. I'm a night owl and being involved in the theatre/music and restaurant worlds, I am unlikely to ever be home before the early hours on any given night.
I start my day with my trainer to get the blood pumping and make me feel alive and ready for the day ahead. We are currently working towards the 60th anniversary of Ronnie Scott's at the Royal Albert Hall, so I spent this morning in meetings to discuss the line-up and made calls to the Rolling Stones (who are currently on tour) to remind them to put the date in their diary! Next up, I'm heading into a meeting for the Ronnie Scott's Charitable foundation - I think it's crucial for both past and future generations that we continue not only to feature the big players in the jazz world but that we also champion up and coming artists - the next 'big thing.' We should encourage young musicians to help jazz continue to grow in popularity and make its way back into the mainstream. This drive is why we work tirelessly with the Ronnie Scott's Charitable Foundation to provide music education, instruments, and experiences to children from underprivileged backgrounds who may not otherwise be exposed to jazz.
Then later, I'm going to The Old Vic to catch Andrew Scott in Present Laughter one last time before I leave for the summer. Finally, I am heading back to No. Fifty Cheyne this evening for a dinner meeting with a movie director who wants advice on bringing a production to the stage. There isn't much downtime in the world of Sally Greene!
And lastly, what's next?
The Old Vic has just revealed the first details of a £12 million plan to create an on-site education and community hub at its London home, which will allow it to double its work with young people. It is part of a strategy to expand the theatre's outreach work and aims to usher in a "new chapter," in which its social mission plays as big a role as its production output. The Old Vic doesn't receive Arts Council funding, so a considerable part of my time is spent fundraising.
As I mentioned, on October 30th Ronnie Scott's will be celebrating its 60th anniversary at the Royal Albert Hall with appearances by Kurt Elling, Courtney Pine, Madeline Bell, Imelda May sings the Blues, Nigel Kennedy plays Jimi Hendrix, Guy Barker, Liane Carroll, Ian Shaw, Natalie Williams, Judi Jackson, and the last ever performance of Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, with guests Van Morrison & Pee Wee Ellis.
Greene Light Films is executive-producing the new Joan and Jackie Collins series which we hope will be out in 2020. Greene Light Stage have Romeo & Juliet opening in November - as well as many other exciting projects, yet to be announced.
Your Lifestyle Manager can book you a table at No. Fifty Cheyne, or get you tickets for a show at the Old Vic. Reach out here.