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David Morgan-Hewitt: Managing director, The Goring, London

Published:  23 July, 2008

You started off in public relations and now you're the managing director of one of London's flagship hotels. How did that happen?

I went into public relations after university because people told me not to go into hospitality - dreadful career and no money. But I really wanted to do it and when a friend of mine asked if I would manage his restaurant in the late '80s, I was straight in there. It was an amazing experience because it was in the West End and we quite often had regulars from the theatres. I will never forget one Monday night in particular. We had one regular couple and everyone else was famous - Lisa Minelli, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh, Tim Rice, Elaine Paige - the whole crew. You could never repeat a night like that.

Have the celebrities followed you to The Goring?

It's a different sort of thing here. We get masses of politicians. A few weeks ago, we had John Prescott on the left-hand side of the restaurant and Lady Thatcher on the right. I remember thinking at least they've got it the right way round! Since we refurbished our dining room at the end of last year, it's pretty much full all the time. It used to be quite male at lunchtime, but we've managed to create a far more glamorous and feminine restaurant, which appeals to the ladies.

Are you in charge of the drinks list?

Historically, my predecessor, William Cowpe, handled all the wine buying but over the past few years, I have been heavily involved in this side and now we've got a great sommelier called Sebastiano who's taking over. He's very good at keeping the cellar moving and this is a big job. We have around 700 bins as well as a whole lot more bottles waiting their turn to go on the list. If we were to go out and sell our cellar tomorrow, we'd make over half a million pounds. We buy a lot of wine en primeur and we're currently drinking wines that Willie put down quite some time ago. We choose those which we believe need to be drunk and put them on our recommended wine list at very good prices - 60/70 a bottle.

Is pricing something you take pride in?

We start off with normal mark-ups at the opening prices, but we soon get rid of that. It's fascinating to see how much extra other hotels and restaurants charge for the same wines that we offer. The problem is that people get lost in percentages instead of thinking about cash. At the end of the day, this business, like any other, is about making more cash than you spend. If a wine costs 200 to buy, you really don't have to times it by four, add VAT, and make 600 quid from one bottle. If you've sourced it and looked after it in your cellar for some time, then to make 200 is fair enough; 600 is just silly.

Is your wine list mainly French?

Yes, although we have a lot of American wines too. We do veer out into Australia, Chile and New Zealand, and dip our toe into Italy, but the list purposefully reflects the way our clients drink. I know there are fantastic wines in the New World but I still maintain that the greatest wines are from France. I realise this isn't such a popular view anymore, but in terms of dessert wines, for example, who really comes close to Y'quem? No one. The wonderful thing about the New World is that it's forced Europe to find a way to maintain quality. France used to be so up and down with its quality and there's no need for that.

Now that you're managing director, are you planning on introducing any new strategies?

One thing that's not going to change is the way we deal with our clients. The Gorings have always been totally focused on the guests, and that is crucial to the way we work. Our staff are the reason that people come back here and I'm constantly banging on about the importance of staff education. The staff are our biggest asset and it's vital to invest in them. True luxury is when someone knows your needs before you're aware of them yourself.

So what's next?

We will be 100 years old in 2010, and not only is the hotel privately owned, it's still run by the same family that built it. This is truly unique and we're heading towards a big celebration. We're bringing in consultants to provide a fresh pair of eyes and give us a kick up the bum if necessary. Although The Goring still has a bit of the gentleman's club about it in some ways - and I hope that never goes - we want to be aspirational as well. There's something rather nice about going to the same place that your parents went to, even if you do have to wait a while before you can afford it. Instant access to everything isn't always the best approach.