My friends joked that Marco Pierre White must be opening a window, as I whizzed off to Corsham, Wiltshire to have my third lunch with him since the summer. I was running out of things to ask him, and he must be sick of the sight of me. I was heading to The Rudloe Arms in Corsham, Wiltshire, which is the third pub in his Wheelers franchise to have a recent Marco makeover.
Marco Pierre White is a collector. He has no plan and no strategy with regards to building his pub & inn empire. He is minted. Definitely. He has the sort of wedge that just defies my comprehension. He is always on the lookout for new projects.
He knows what he wants when he sees it, and then, he scours the reclamation yards of Britain and France, buying choice pieces with which to dress his establishments. For him consistency is the key. He wants to provide an affordable, good quality product with a soupçon of gastronomy across the franchise, which is not a chain but a series of sibling pubs and inns. All hallMarco-ed.
He told me that people are more interested in him then he is in himself and I can understand that. Everywhere he goes people want a piece of him. Women adore him. He makes girls giddy. He is a larger than life man, with a great presence and a need for order, which surrounds him. He has done his time in the kitchen and he is not going back. He is now creating a new world order in places that he has happy to go to, serving food he wants to eat and if the world isn't offering something to his standards then he will make it so. Not alone, Marco Pierre White, is the ring master and his band of merry men and women, are like a travelling circus, jumping from inn to inn to ensure that everything is just so.
Of course, the challenge when you live under the microscope and in a goldfish bowl is that your every move and thought is subject to scrutiny. It's almost like chef tourism. What is it that makes Marco Pierre White tick? What mood is he in today? Nobody wakes up the same everyday. People are people and Marco Pierre White is a northern lad, from Leeds, who worked his knuckles off to become one of the best chefs in the world. He is incredibly successful and after operating under the rigid rules and discipline of the Michelin awards system he now has the means and where with all to do exactly what he wants, when he wants and this, from what I can see, is how it goes.
So is Marco Pierre White in love? I first met him at the launch of The Pear Tree, Whitley, nr Melksham, Wiltshire.
I am a northern southern hybrid with champagne taste and lemonade money but I like a venue with a certain, honesty, robustness, no nonsense but still has flair, style and comfort yet is not over priced. Wheelers The Pear Tree Inn with Marco Pierre White had me at 'hello'. It's the perfect naughty weekend away. Arrive on the Friday early afternoon, head straight to your room, open some bubbles. Relax, unwind - take a deep, hot bath and get ready to head to the bar for an aperitif. Order from the bar snacks menu or the restaurant menu. All reasonably priced. (For me, for my, The Pear Tree Inn debut - it had to be Eggs Benedict and steak. I am so predictable and I was not disappointed.) We opened with a soft boiled rare egg - a black headed gull from Lymington, served with celery salt and mayonnaise and a wild, light, free, crazy hedonistic parsley (yes, I can't remember then name of the parsley and I forget to take a pen and the sat nav used all the battery on my phone. Enjoy the post - it's going to be like my cooking - instinctive!) Washed down with a great selection of interesting wines. On this particular occasion I was all about the Rioja - I have spent so much time in Bilbao that Rioja for me is a wine not to be missed.
The steak was divine! Not a salad in sight and don't ask because you won't get. You are in the hands of a hallMarco-ed Marco Pierre White establishment - leave your own thoughts at the door. It is his world now, his ideals and you don't know best. Trust him, let yourself be in his hands and I promise he won't let you down. He knows best because he is The Governor, The Godfather, the main man and he is - #FACT
I was too full for dessert but I am confident there are puddings, cheese and then of course, liquors at the bar so you can be sufficiently sozzled, warm and cosy as you fall into your reasonably priced room only stone's throw away. In the morning - there'll be breakfast - I didn't try it but I know it'll be good and as sure as eggs is eggs there'll be eggs on the menu. If I give it all away then you won't go and you definitely should. Even if it's just to check out the puds and let me know what I missed.
And then I visited the Horse and Groom in Malmesbury - where? It's somewhere in Wiltshire. I just sat-naved (is that a verb?) there and it took me an hour. The Horse and Groom in Charlton, Malmesbury, had officially re-opened its doors and is a picture-perfect traditional country pub with five en-suite rooms has undergone an intensive "Marco Makeover", with every square inch (from structural changes, flooring, furniture, lighting and furnishings to textures, colours, sculptures, pictures and photographs) carefully collected by the big man himself to make the most of the pub's original features and to create a variety of eating and drinking areas to suit every occasion.
Now in both of these pubs there is lots of dry, northern humour hung on the walls and antique toy paraphernalia with a backdrop of flat, matt, deep colours. There is however, a hint of melancholy in these pubs. Perhaps, the items were bought on days of brooding and reflections of lost youth and nostalgia. However, The Rudloe Arms has been differently dressed altogether. It is many ways a homage to Marco's glory days - the great White Wall of Wiltshire is dressed from head to toe in large portraits of Marco Pierre White through the decades which he has been given and doesn't want them at home as it feels 'too narcissistic'. There are breasts galore. On the entrance hallway walls is collection of Koo Stark's shots. Marco tips his hat with Errol Flynesque, - there is a great portrait of David Niven in his pants, next to Sammy Davis Junior and Gordon's Ramsey's head on a platter, like John the Baptist. There is colour dotted everywhere and a collection of ostrich eggs boxed in glass hangs in the hall.
The games room is fun filled place of antique bar football and pool tables and big neon signs declaring 'ALOHA'. "Aloha" declares a jovial Marco as he walks into the room.
But for me, the proof of the love pudding, which of course, is in the eating, is the centre piece on the games room wall. It is the 6ft neon, smiling daisy, only a man in love, beaming from the inside out could have bought such a piece.
So, therefore, I would say that Marco Pierre White is in love, but what's wrong with that. Love is a very splendid thing.