On the Friday afternoon of our mini early spring heat wave just over a week ago, a group of journalists, bloggers and some cast members of Made in Chelsea congregated at the superb World’s End Market restaurant in Chelsea to sample some of the delicious food off their new menu and hear about plans for this year’s Grand Prix Ball at The Hurlingham Club, which will be taking place on Wednesday 4th July on the eve of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Oh, and ‘The Stig’ from Top Gear put in an appearance.
On arrival our hosts prepare a small selection of wonderful cocktails from their cocktail list at the large bar. Whilst we chose the refreshing ‘Penicillin’, which is a concoction of Jonnie Walker Gold Label Reserved Scotch Whisky, Laphroaig 10 single malt whisky, lemon juice and ginger-honey-pimento syrup, other guests chose ‘Aviation Lesson’ – a rhubarb infused Tanqueray Gin with Maraschino Liqueur, Violette Liqueur and topped with Perrier-Jouët Champagne. Others opted for the ‘60 Days Barrel Aged Smoked Vieux Carre’ made with Courvoisier VSOP, Lagavulin 16, Bulleit Rye, home infused Vermouth and selection of Italian Amaro.
Before we sat down for lunch, our delightful host Sergey Men, who is managing director and co-founder of the restaurant, tells us that they have recently expanded their exclusive meat menu in partnership with world-class meat connoisseur José Gordón and now offer unique cuts of Spanish meat which he describes as “The best steak in the world”.
Once seated we are treated to a mouth-watering selection of starter dishes which include a Super Salad with quinoa, rocket and pumpkin seed salad topped with a lime dressing. A delicious plate of Beef Carpaccio follows, accompanied with a mixed salad and parmesan dressing and is seriously good. The Green Gaspacho with salmon tartare is perhaps my favourite but others sang the praises of the Pan-Fried Chicken Liver served with caramelised apple and sage.
Our main dishes are a perfectly cooked Baked Seabream with cherry tomatoes, rice and dill and Asian Style Grilled Beef with a rice noodle salad and were also drawn to the Chermoula Chicken with nutty couscous.
The highlight of our lunch though, is the selection of meats which includes a Cecina De Buey premium cured ox leg, which is 3 years matured, a Carpaccio from entrecote, which is premium ox, 180 days matured covered in olive oil and sea salt and finally, a fabulous Chuleta De Vaca premium ox bone-in rib eye steak, dry aged for a minimum of 100 days.
Well and truly sated and plied with cocktails, and before our guest speaker for the lunch, Perry McCarthy, who was ‘The Stig’ on the first two series of Top Gear, removes his crash helmet and regales us with stories of taking stars in the reasonably priced car around the Top Gear test track, entrepreneur and adventurer, Jonny Dodge, founder and CEO of GP Management, tells us about this year’s Grand Prix Ball and some of the exciting things he offers clients through his group of companies. Many would call him an adrenalin junkie and clients of a similar ilk can enjoy adventure travel, celebrity experiences, yacht, jet and unique experiences and yes, space tourism, teaming up with Sir Richard Branson and his ambition space programme. In fact so excited about the prospect of space travel, Jonny informs the two of us that he was really hoping to be the first person to get married in space, but that sadly was not to be.
And so onto this year’s Grand Prix Ball, which will be the eighth to be hosted at the beautiful 42-acre Hurlingham Club in Fulham. The evening will start on the red carpet as guests and celebrities arrive and mingle with glasses of champagne amongst some historic racing cars and more exotic modern machinery before a spectacular Formula One demonstration by former F1 driver and commentator David Coulthard, who will be waking everyone up at this quiet Fulham neighbourhood with the deafening roar of the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB8 as it navigates the narrow paths of the club’s grounds. A fabulous three-course dinner will then follow surrounded by F1 guests past and present. As was the case at last year’s ball, towards the end of the evening a live auction will take place where guests will get the opportunity to bid on special motor sport-related lots, with all proceeds going to the spinal cord research charity Wings for Life.
It was now time for our guest speaker to take to his feet and Perry McCarthy did not disappoint, and here are just some of the wonderful anecdotes that had us all laughing with.
On how he became ‘The Stig’ but the BBC originally wanted to call him ‘The Gimp’
We had this big launch party in West Ham and a lot of friends from Formula 1 were there and this is back in 2002 and Jeremy Clarkson was there and he said: “Look Top Gear has been off air for quite a long time and we are going to bring it back and we have got this idea for you and you are going to be dressed in black because the first Stig was all in black and black leathers, black gloves and black visor and we are going to call you ‘The Gimp’. Thankfully they ended up calling me ‘The Stig’.
But the funny thing about being a secret is that the lawyers of the BBC turned around and said, “you can’t tell anybody” and I said “well, I am not going to.” But I said, “I have got to tell my wife.” But they said: “you can’t tell your wife.” And I said “No, no I have got to tell my wife” and they said “why” and I said “Mate, you try sneaking out of the house at 6 o clock in the morning dressed from head to foot in black leather! And they said, “all right you can tell your wife.”
After the Top Gear Star in a Reasonably Priced car segment, I would take celebrities in a really fast car as a thrill. Jamie Oliver turned up in a VW Camper Van and I took him around the track flat out while in the back he made a salad and by the time he got back that was one tossed salad. But he also said: “Perry do me a favour, would you take me out in my brand-new Maserati GT?” And I said no problem son jump in and all of a sudden, I have going flat out but made a mistake on the final corner and had this brand-new Maserati straight off the track and I hit a big pile of stones that pepper sprayed the side of the car and we took off into the air and smashed into the deck at 100 miles an hour and, when I have tried to control it, he is sitting in the passenger seat and he’s gone “F… Off. Well it sounded like that.”
On having Jodie Kidd on the show
Unfortunately, the same thing happened a week later, when Jodie Kidd the super model was the guest that week. She is great fun and I have known her for a long time and we were sitting in the car afterwards when she said “Perry, will you do me a favour? “And I said, “Of course Jodie” and she said: “Will you take me flat out and sideways” and I said, “I would love to darling.”
She had a brand new Maserati GT as well, so off we go and I was of course showing off with Jodie in the car – going flat out – and pretty much on the money for every single corner and I made the same mistake on the final corner again and went off track, but remembering the pile of stones there, I drove over them and hit an even bigger pile and the car took off into the air and smashed back down onto the track. Having apologised profusely about wrecking her new car, Jodie said “Don’t worry my Maserati is in a garage in Monaco, they have just lent me this one for the day!”
On working with Jeremy Clarkson
Jeremy is a great journalist. He is always punchy and knows that I have got a big mouth and so he doesn’t come at me too much because he knows he will get it back. Anyway, he has a great sense of humour and told me the following joke.
The Germans wanted to test the integrity of their Mercedes and so to check that the door seals were working correctly, they placed their cat inside and closed the doors and if they came back in the morning they knew the door seals were working correctly if the cat suffocated. He said that Alfa Romeo tried exactly the same thing and said they knew if the car had been built properly if when they came back in the morning that the cat hadn’t escaped!
On how The Stig was a secret to only some celebs
I knew a lot of celebs who came on the show and recognized my voice. But when Sir Michael Gambon came on the show, I didn’t know him and all through the day I tried to disguise my voice behind the crash helmet, but at the end of the day he turned to me and said, “Yeah thanks for today, that French accent of yours is a bit dodgy!”
The World’s End Market at The World’s End Distillery, 459 King’s Road, Chelsea, London, SW10 0LR
Tel: +44 (0)20 7352 2150
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man On The Ground, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer. Olivia Buxton has been working as a national newspaper journalist for the past 20 years and has held executive positions including that of Deputy Editor at Daily Express Saturday magazine. She currently writes culture and entertainment interviews for Mail on Sunday Event magazine, Mail on Sunday Health, The Mirror, The Sun and Closer Magazine.
Photographs by Simon Burrell