The Art of Hospitality
Corbin & King’s painterly new restaurant raises a glass to the colourful past of St John’s Wood
There was a moment last year when it was suggested to Jeremy King that his restaurants should start making their dishes more “Instagrammable” to boost popularity on social media. This was met with a swift, albeit tactful, rebuff from the co-owner of London landmark restaurants The Wolseley, The Delaunay and Brasserie Zédel, among others.
The following day, vindication came via Instagram itself, and The Sunday Times restaurant critic Marina O’Loughlin. “She did the most wonderful thing,” says King. “I had no idea she was going to do it — she posted a photograph of The Wolseley’s Omelette Arnold Bennett, which is probably one of the least photogenic dishes because it looks a bit sort of brown.” This was for no other reason than to extol its “unspeakable bliss”, as she put it, to her 30,000plus followers. “That’s the point,” says King. “There are enough people who like what we do, and continue to like what we do.”
What they do is old-school elegance, impeccable service, crowd-pleasing food, and a sense of occasion inspired by the grand cafés and brasseries of the European capitals, from the art deco-inspired, Viennese splendour of The Wolseley, on Piccadilly, to the informality of the classic Parisian neighbourhood café Colbert, on Sloane Square.
This spring, King and his business partner Chris Corbin expand the number of restaurants in their portfolio to eight. Located on St John’s Wood High Street, the new one is called Soutine, after Chaïm Soutine, the Russian-French expressionist painter known, among other things, for his vivid images of Paris’s restaurant scene in the early 20th century.
At that time, St John’s Wood was itself home to a famous art school. “An extraordinary number of artists had studios in the area,” says King, “and I like the idea of the art school, which was formed by people who had previously lived in Paris, because it provided a lot of its graduates into the Royal Academy. So Soutine is a celebration of the art and artists, of the people living in St John’s Wood.”
Corbin and King’s beloved brasserie food will come this time with an additional “tipping of hats” to Chaïm Soutine’s Russian and Jewish heritage (think chicken Kiev and veal Pojarski). And, naturally, art will adorn the walls of this space, which has been transformed by designer Shayne Brady into an Art Nouveau bistro, a panelled bar leading through to the darker, more ornate dining room.
All of it eminently Instagrammable, from the food to the mise-en-scène. Not that Corbin and King would ever encourage such a thing. They’re far too busy discussing their new big site in Soho…
Soutine, 60 St John’s Wood High Street, London, NW8; corbinandking.com