All fired up

by Jessica Gunn , Friday 29th November 2002 11:08

I get up at 8.15am, which sounds quite reasonable until you hear what time I finish. I don't have breakfast - I'm the type of person who goes straight out of the door. I live above a convenience store, so I go and buy myself a litre bottle of water and a pain au chocolate for breakfast every day.

I live in Chelsea and drive to work, so I'm there by 9am. The golden rule is that whoever is the first to arrive in the morning turns on the coffee machine.

I own and run the FireHouse, which used to be known as the Hudson Club, in South Kensington, London. It's a fantastic place, which looks over the gardens of the Natural History Museum.

The club has plenty of history, too. It was built in 1862 and in 1959 was the site of John Aspinall's first gaming club. Jimi Hendrix played his first UK concert here and, in 1966, Tom Jones celebrated his first chart number one here. Allegedly, it was also the last place Lord Lucan was seen alive.

The first thing I do at work is talk to my secretary. I give myself a timetable, like at school, so I have a fixed diary every week. I have a list of things I have to do and a list of things I should do. I try to get through the things I have to do early in the week.

I took over the Hudson Club two years ago and it was relaunched as the FireHouse in September this year. It's spread over three floors, and our restaurant, the Dining Room, is on the first floor. On the ground floor we have the Slide Bar, and then the Fire Bar on the lower ground floor.

When we first saw the club, it was fairly run-down - now I wouldn't want anywhere else. I and the other investors haven't got much change out of £1m for the place.

We've got one of the few late licences in the borough and almost 300 members, 150 of whom have joined since the relaunch.

I generally have lunch on the run at around 1pm. We only do an evening service in the restaurant, but I always walk into the kitchen and say: "I employ all these chefs, so why am I so bloody hungry?"

I rarely eat in the club at night, either. I can't get a table on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday - we're just too busy. I sometimes go and eat in the kitchen, but I always make sure I get something between 8pm and 9pm.

Ever since I've had my own restaurant, which is only recently, I've loved going to other people's restaurants. You enjoy it so much more when you know what goes on behind the scenes and don't have to sort it out.

I always loved cooking and I always wanted to be a chef when I was younger, but I ended up working in the City. I was very happy for a few years, but then a friend of mine got a restaurant and I thought: "If she can do it, surely I can."

The original plan was to find a nice 30-seat place, but I ended up with the FireHouse. Now, I employ 25 people, and it's a bit scary.

The club is obviously open very late, but I usually try and leave between midnight and 3am. I'm not married, but I have a very understanding flatmate.

interview by Andrew Davies

The FireHouse

3 Cromwell Road, London SW7 2HR
Tel: 020 7584 7258
Web: www.FireHouseSW7.com

Capacity: Slide Bar, 100; Dining Room, 80 (35 dining, 45 drinking); Fire Bar, 80
Average spend: Dining Room, £60 for two (including house wine); Slide Bar, £5.50 per snack
Annual membership fee: £300

Just a minute...

What's your ambition?
I don't think I'll open another FireHouse. The venue is so unique that I don't think you could reproduce it elsewhere. That doesn't mean I wouldn't want another club somewhere else, with a different name and concept.

What has been your worst experience on the job?
To be honest, I've only been in it for two years but I've loved every minute. I've learnt so much from everybody and it's been fascinating. I suppose if I had to pick something it would be the lack of spare time. I've had 10 days off in two years.

What's your favourite restaurant?
Adam Street, because of the good food, great service and relaxed ambience.


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