London party

Get to know London’s most powerful butlers

Gianluca Antonelli, Les Delaunay

“I was a disaster as a waiter, a crappy bartender, a really bad chef. But I knew I wanted to work in a restaurant with customers. I never thought of being a butler until I came here. Now I feel blessed to have found my way. I’m just good at what I do, that’s all!

Gianluca Antonelli is a natural. Taking care of the spectacular large hall of Delaunay is easy for him. He has a degree in hotel management, is in many ways the consummate professional, but as someone whose family ran a cafe in central Italy it’s also in his blood which gives him a flair. engaging which makes him a real butler. ‘.

“Personality makes all the difference,” he says, “Being a butler is a natural skill that comes from curiosity. My pleasure is to make everyone feel welcome, whether they are an elderly couple from Yorkshire or a QC. If they leave with a smile on their face, it’s my job done.

Nevertheless, there is a dedication here that goes beyond simple good humor. Antonelli will prepare his tables in advance, which often involves looking for guests to see what industry they belong to. you have the tension that creates the atmosphere. You don’t want to sit two lawyers next to each other, they might be working on the same case! “

For him, the venue and the food are important, but “the ambiance is 50 percent of the experience.” And in Antonelli’s hands, the Butler is the wizard behind this mood, the keeper of the gates of the Emerald City and the Great Oz itself. “I feel blessed to work as a butler. It’s a responsibility, you are the face of an establishment, but for me it’s great, it’s beautiful. To have fire in the belly and ice in the veins.

Deborah Fellows and Stewart Moss, Joe Allen

Philippe sinden

Joe Allen is another London classic, now located on Burleigh Street in Covent Garden, and recently relaunched with new chef Gary Lee. Fellows and Moss both started as waiters at Joe Allen around this time in the 1990s, and are now the managers, which here encompasses the role of butler. Both are fun characters, full of fun ideas – Moss: “You always know who a person is joining. Friends tend to be alike. Just like people with their pets “- and restaurant owners, like” People get nervous when they arrive, which can make them rude. You got to help them get through it.

“A good butler needs to know when a guest walks through the door or to put them in the room,” says Fellows. “You will study the reservations and have a vague idea of ​​where to put people, but you have to allow the room to change. ”

Indeed, the buzz for these experienced hands is not a super smooth operation, but a balance between order and a bit of healthy chaos. “I like working more like this than Debbie, where my plans can all fail,” says Moss. “You can only learn it on the job – you have to get yourself in the shit and then get out of it again.” Fellows adds, “Customers understand the good frenzy you are in. They love it.”

It’s all about the atmosphere, fundamentally, and of course giving celebrities what they want. More precisely, “The table with all the mirror next to it. They want to be seen! Joan Collins is a regular, while Alexa Chung and Alexander Skarsgård attended. However, “the great and the good light entertainment” are the most valuable. “Blind Date would come here after the shoot,” says Moss. “Dates would arrive with their luggage, and we would take bets on them, while Cilla had a glass of champagne in her fur coat. But real VIPs aren’t celebrities: “In our book we have codes, WKF – Well Known Face – and VIPs, who are loyal customers of Joe Allen.”

Moss concludes, “Look, your responsibility is to make sure people have a great time and want to come back. Goodbye is as important as hello. I once said goodbye to a group of 20 people. in a different way to each person.I was exhausted by the end.

Jesus Adorno, Charlie

Jesus Adorno

/ Philippe sinden

Jesus Adorno is the legendary butler who presided over Le Caprice, Princess Diana’s favorite joint, for 39 years. Within a minute of speaking to him, you can see how Adorno killed the master-a-Terminator-style sentry notion in favor of someone who was, well, a really nice person. After the Caprice closed last year, he was snapped up by Charlie’s at the Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair – and old Charlie is lucky to have a man with his little black book (“well, the iPhone these days – here “) with” about 20 to 30 percent “of bookings made by calling him personally. He admits that after Le Caprice closed, he was heartbroken. I didn’t think there was a chance of falling in love with another room. But when I walked into Charlie’s, it was the second time. A maitre d ‘must love the restaurant, must love the doors you pass through, feel an affinity with the tables, the glasses, the plates.’

Such a Jedi restorer’s speech is Adorno’s raison d’être. Born in Bolivia, he moved to England at age 19 and joined a Le Caprice relaunched in 1981 after reading about it in the Evening Standard. Under owners Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, he became the ultimate butler, who at the time started on the phone. “A lady said to me: ‘I only call Le Caprice because you sound so good. I say to the young colleagues: try having sex on the phone.

Part of the job, he says, is studying newspapers and magazines to keep tabs on city events, but the core skill is a “passion for looking after the customer.” As the customer walks into the restaurant, I look at his body language to see what he’ll appreciate. One thing I’ve learned is never to impose on the customer. ‘ However, you don’t abandon them: “You watch them like a hawk, in silence. I walk around the restaurant looking for details to tell me if a customer is happy. He remembers a time when he hijacked a famous businessman from a bustling Le Caprice and then asked a table to ask for the bill: “I ran outside but he had already entered the restaurant. Ritz. It was a great lesson for a butler. Never, never say no right away.

As for hosting famous guys, he says it can be boring as no other table will leave while they’re around. And then there are the anecdotes. “Once Corbin and King were busy at The Ivy, Princess Diana asked me to escort her through the kitchen to her car. I was about to guide her when Corbin and King walked in and took over. Princess Diana turned to me and said, ‘Sorry Jesus, you lost this time.’ ‘

Alcides Gauto, Toklas

Alcide Gauto

/ Philippe sinden

For Alcides Gauto, the depth of the experience makes him a great butler. He dismisses the idea of ​​how he would ask a novice to do the job, because it just doesn’t work that way. “The people who do this have been around for a long time,” he says, “especially in an established restaurant because you know the customers and you know that every table is different, and that the little things are what make a night out. goes well. In this capacity, Gauto made long stays in restaurants in the United States and in London, including eight years at La Rochelle Canteen in Shoreditch. He is now a butler in Toklas on Surrey Street next to Strand, a new restaurant opened by Frieze co-founders Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, but his priorities remain the same. “I’m a person on the ground, I’m not an office person,” he says, “My skills and my job have always been about human contact. Make customers and staff feel comfortable in the restaurant. ‘

He treats everyone who walks through the door, whether famous or new, the same, and says the nature of the business means that this approach with real people remains more valuable than social media: “It’s word of mouth business, people talk to a lot of people. If you play your game well, that’s more important than any Instagram post. ‘ As such, he’s much more focused on the regulars. “And when regulars bring their parents, I always make so much fuss. They really like it.”

In its straightforward and unpretentious approach, getting a good table from a butler is simple: “Just be polite. Especially if you don’t have a reservation. Just smile. It’s not a trick. To me, a person who says, “I’m so sorry if we could get another table”, that’s a winner. Ultimately, her approach is to always work with female restaurateurs and female chefs. “I modeled myself on them. I have never worked in macho restaurant environments. I can’t stand watching these people on TV.