Colombia-born Alvaro Rey has been with InterContinental for more than 30 years and general manager at the InterContinental London Park Lane hotel for the last seven, overseeing its renovation and bringing chef Theo Randall to Mayfair. He talks to Katherine Price about bringing Mexican chef Martha Ortiz's new restaurant to the hotel
How did the restaurant with Martha Ortiz come about?
Since I arrived at the hotel our restaurants and bars have been a real focus. A decade ago, when Park Lane was still quite formal, we introduced Theo Randall and his rustic Italian food to the heart of Mayfair. I had long wanted to bring an international chef to the hotel on a more permanent basis and spent a lot of time looking for the perfect fit.
I was touring the world looking for new chefs and when I was in Mexico someone told me to visit Martha's restaurant. I met Martha and the chemistry was instant. She represents Mexico like no other chef and she wanted to bring her food to the London market.
What will the restaurant bring to the hotel?
We just genuinely feel that Martha and her creative, authentic, and imaginative style should be represented in London and we are proud to be the conduit for it. Introducing new concepts and destinations is all very much in line with the brand heritage and we are continuing that legacy by bringing a taste of modern Mexican to Park Lane.
Why do you think Mexican food has become so popular in the UK?
This concept has been a few years in the making so it is not in response to any current trends, although we do welcome the appetite for Mexican!
Mexico is experiencing a cultural and food renaissance and this is now being embraced. There is a renewed sense of confidence in the heritage and culture. Mexico has incredible ingredients, artistry and pride and that all comes through in Martha's cooking. I think we all want a bit of colour, positivity, and passion.
Do you think it will tap into new territory in London, as a high-end Mexican offering?
You've lived in eight different places around the world - what is it that has kept you in London?
Apart from being an extremely interesting city, and in my opinion the capital of the world, there are still a lot of opportunities for the hotel, and we have exciting projects in the pipeline that will solidify that.
You were involved with the Edible Playgrounds project a few years ago, providing food-growing spaces in inner-city schools. What about now?
There are several charities that the hotel supports, including Passage, which supports homeless people, and the Patron's Fund. We make provenance a key focus of the menus so that we can support local suppliers where possible and we are invested in the IHG Green Engage scheme and work to recycle food waste.
How do you involve your staff in developing ideas for the hotel?
We have regular meetings and 'town hall'-style events. We also have the 'Wheelie Wednesday' programme, where our associates and I go out on bikes to the parks.
You need to be a premium member to view this. Subscribe from just 99p per week.
Already subscribed? Log In