From Cahoots to Mr Fogg's Tavern:Charlie Gilkes shares the design secrets behind his offbeat bars

Bar, restaurant and club owner, Charlie Gilkes reveals the inspiration behind his quirky design hotspots and his favourite places to shop and visit in London...

Charlie Gilkes, owner of bar, restaurant and club company Inception Group, is on Tatler magazine’s list of “people who really matter”. He brings a buzz to his venues with imaginative design and a helping of eccentricity. Fellow Old Etonian Prince Harry was among the guests at Gilkes’s glitzy wedding in Italy to Anneke von Trotha Taylor in 2014.

Here, Gilkes, pictured in his Mayfair Gin Parlour & Salon, reveals why you have to go off the beaten track for the finds that make stunning interiors.

WHERE I LIVE

Last year I moved into a terrace house near Battersea Park, so now I look forward to barbecuing at the weekends. I grew up nearby, so it feels like home — and Bunga Bunga, our pizzeria and bar, is just down the road. The redevelopment of the power station is exciting and will add to the bars and restaurants on offer. We love walking our eight-month-old Goldendoodle, Bertie, in the park.

TREASURED PIECE OF MEMORABILIA

I have a Gilkes grandfather clock made in the 18th century by distant relatives, which my parents gave me on my 30th birthday. It looks great and keeps perfect time. My surrogate grandmother, Mudgie, was a keen collector and got me interested in antiques from an early age. I have always been drawn to busy, eclectic interiors with lots to look at.

DREAM PROPERTY

My favourite building in London is the Royal Albert Hall, which would make an incredible home. As well as the main auditorium there is a labyrinth of corridors, hidden rooms and treasures, as well as the most amazing roof terrace that looks out to the Albert Memorial.

DESIGN ICON

The late David Collins designed some of the most iconic bars and restaurants in London, including the Blue Bar at the Berkeley hotel, and The Wolseley and J Sheekey restaurants. His style was innovative yet beautifully classic.

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Beautiful: hand-painted De Gournay wallpapers

WHERE I ESCAPE

My favourite view of London is from the bridge in St James’s Park. There’s Buckingham Palace one way and Horse Guards Parade and Westminster the other, and there’s a lovely café hidden in the park, which is great for brunch. Richmond Park is my other favourite place for a long walk, combined with lunch at The Victoria, a restaurant and pub in Sheen.

MUST-VISIT VENUES

I absolutely love Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, a unique restaurant in an eccentric vintage greenhouse. It influenced our Hendrick’s Botanical Garden at Mr Fogg’s. I was also struck by the Twenties Art Deco design of the new Beaumont hotel in Mayfair. The Antony Gormley suite is particularly striking.

FUN NEW DESIGNERS

We work with architects d_raw and also Cheeky Tiki, who started out designing Tiki bars and now help us bring many of our concepts to life. They help us refine our ideas and also help take them further creatively.

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Buzz: Kingly Court in Soho (Katy Davies)

BEST LONDON MARKET

Just outside London, Sunbury Antiques Market, held on two Tuesday mornings a month at Kempton Park Racecourse, sells furniture, silver and other objects. Get there with the dealers at 6am. We’ve bought everything from a station clock to a stuffed crocodile.

FABRIC FINDS

Walton Street in South Kensington has a brilliant little shop called Percy Bass, which sells a huge range of fabrics and materials. You need several hours to trawl through the hundreds of samples, but the time flies.

MOST COVETED DESIGN OBJECT

My wife Anneke is marketing director of de Gournay, which makes the most beautiful hand-painted wallpapers. We would love a room of it one day. It will probably be our biggest design extravagance.

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Fine fabrics: Percy Bass in South Kensington

SECRET SHOP

There’s a great salvage yard in an old railway station in Lewisham called Aladdin’s Cave. We found much of the furniture for our first bar, Barts, there. Visits to salvage yards are hit and miss but you can stumble upon some amazing things.

WHERE TO FIND ME

I love the buzz and excitement of Soho. Renovated Kingly Court, where our bar Cahoots is, is amazing. It is great that the area has encouraged interesting little boutiques, bars, coffee shops and restaurants. It has the feel of a village.

LATEST DESIGN PROJECTS

Mr Fogg’s Tavern in St Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden, is a spinoff of Mr Fogg’s Residence, our Victorian cocktail bar in Mayfair. It’s a traditional tavern with home-brewed ales and barrel cider. Upstairs, we’ve just opened the Gin Parlour & Salon, which serves cocktails.

Last year, my business partner Duncan Stirling and I opened Cahoots, a Forties-style late-night bar in Soho. It recreates a Tube station used as an underground air raid shelter. There’s even a whole Tube carriage inside.


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