Harveys for Marco Pierre White

Harveys for Marco Pierre White

Out of Memory series No.1: Harveys

Go online and attempt to find images of it. There are plenty of images culled from the White Heat book but none, or very few, exist of the interior. Or of the exterior. We live in an era where enigma is an endangered species. The lack of evidence that Harveys ever existed adds to the cherish of its memory. It is quite fitting that something that is pulled out of the imagination in its design returns to the collective minds of those who experienced it. Harveys was devastatingly beautiful but, and this is to do it no disservice, it is even more glorious when recalled through the filter of romantic nostalgia.

In short, it opened in 1987 and the end credits rolled in 1993. Had it closed a couple of years earlier a shorter, more beautiful, movie, would have been made.

The really critical period for the restuarant was between late 1988 and late 1991. Here, it transcended being simply a restaurant and was London’s byword for: expensive; exquisitely fed; dangerously fuelled on astronomically rare wine; high drama. The customer ejections, the amourous farce of a flirtatious Marco, the unruly hair and the tantrums. These kept the tabloids delighted. The real reason was discretely reserved. It was a gorgeous room that served, with impeccable charm, food that had never been tasted before in London. Restaurants were, at this point, not cool. Wandsworth was definitely not cool. Yet here was this pale phenomenona.

Harveys looked unlike any expensive London restaurant before it had looked. Not shockingly so, not willfully unorthodox, just different, especially once the David Collins' interior had settled in. It felt like a restaurant that hadn’t been introduced by your parents. This was the era of Bob Carlos Clark portraits and of legendary expense accounts.

I went with a young Heston Blumenthal for dinner. He was already an old friend of Marco. This meant we got not only the full menu but also the exhaustive philosophy of Yorkshire’s greatest delivered on a steady beam of Marlboro Red smoke.

We were there the night the famous shot of Marco, unusually neatly shorn, is kissing a blow dried, back combed debutante while her friend waits turn. Marco is kissing whilst serving oysters on tagliatelle. The exact dish he is finishing was for me. I think. Who’s going to contest it? That’s the beauty of a restaurant whose history has blown into soft albino dust.

I vaguely remember a Pet Shop Boy, Richard Rogers and Billy Connolly being in the room at the time. I remember Marco commenting that there was nobody interesting there that night.

The mirror. It became an unlikely icon. We watched Janet Street Porter check her lips in it. We said they should put a concealed camera inside the mirror which would capture everybody who looked into it. The resulting photographs could then be turned into a book. The egos were beginning to flex on the high diving board.

I went again. You know what they say about intoxication, "Never as good as the first time." By this time, around '92, it was excellent. Better, objectively, than the first time. It was slick and confident. Something had escaped though, that lethal frisson had been subdued. The two stars needed to be handled with a responsibility.

And then it was gone. Harveys was no more. It remains only in loving memory.

Studio Frith is a graphic design Studio based in London.

Graham Erickson is a freelance editor and writer living in London.