Recession? What Recession? Pass Me Some Grapes.


A few, like Bacchanalia, border Berkeley Square, a verdant patch of Mayfair abutted by luxury car dealerships (Ferrari, Bentley), social clubs and the London outpost of Blackstone, the private equity giant. It is the playground of oligarchs, petrogarchs and hedge funders. They can dine at Sexy Fish, a Caring creation where eating is “like being punched in the face by Dubai” as the Spectator put it. Across the square is Mr. Caring’s most treasured bauble, a private members’ club called Annabel’s with six restaurants and an immense grizzly, made of twigs, standing in the forest-themed men’s room, a visual pun on the old joke about where bears relieve themselves.

Mr. Caring would not comment for this article, nor would the publicity department of his company, Caprice Holdings, explain why he would not comment. This is surprising because he’s typically very chatty with the media and months ago decided to lean into the unbridled hedonism of Bacchanalia. In the run up to its opening, the restaurant announced that it was looking for “London’s first grape feeder,” which was advertised in a full-page ad in the London Times. (Job requirements: “gorgeous hands’‘ and a “basic grasp of Greek and Latin.”) Hundreds applied for the job, and all were disappointed. The posting was a publicity stunt.

In early November, The Evening Standard, a free daily, asked in a roundup of new restaurants if Bacchanalia was “a toga too far in troubled economic times.” Not to Marcella Martinelli, a stylist who was a guest at one of Bacchanalia’s launch dinners.

“Obviously the cost of living crisis is important,” she said. “But if you can afford this, it’s an experience. As long as they get the pasta right — that’s all that matters.”

Alec Gunn, the chief executive of a warehousing company, who was an early Bacchanalia diner, said he felt that such theme parks of overindulgence were important for the London scene, and that they were aspirational. “I’ve worked hard all my life,” he said. “People deserve to have some fun.”

Mr. Caring concurred in remarks that he made on opening night, before and after he mingled with attendees, while being trailed by a large man with an earpiece. He seemed acutely aware of the chasm between the festivities he’d orchestrated and the misery everywhere else.

“The last guy that made a speech in these sorts of surroundings started with ‘friends, Romans and countrymen,’” he began, quoting Mark Antony from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” (By that point in the play, Caesar has been stabbed to death.)



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