‘I have never looked back to France’

Albert Roux co-founded Le Gavroche in London

Albert Roux, 74, opened Le Gavroche in 1967 with his brother Michel. It was the first UK restaurant to be awarded three Michelin stars, in 1982, and is now run by his son, Michel Jr. Roux has since built up his brand and now also sits on the management team of Inverlochy Castle Management International, a consortium that owns some of Scotland’s leading hotels and restaurants. He lives with his second wife, Cheryl, in London and Kent, south-east England.

Where do you call home?

During the week we live mainly in our London apartment. I call it a pied-à-terre: it is a three-bedroom mews house in a quiet street, not far from Hyde Park. Our home is an Edwardian house on the Sussex/Kent border. It has six bedrooms and is set within 16 acres of woodland.

What is the difference between your London home and your country home?

Our London home is comfortable but is not furnished to the same level of luxury or as well dressed as our home in the country. We entertain at our country home but when we are in London we tend to go out to restaurants with friends.

How did you come to find this place in the country?

My wife had lived here for many years. When we got married I moved here.

What do you love most about this place?

It is set in acres of peaceful woodland and I love walking in the countryside with my dog and enjoying the wildlife and beautiful flowers. I love flowers but I prefer to see them growing. As Hemingway said: “I love children but I don’t go around cutting off their heads”. I don’t shoot and I love to see the wildlife in its natural habitat.

What have you done to make it your own?

I created my own meadow. It took about a year and a half to plough the field, leave it fallow and clean the soil so that it is completely organic. Now the meadow slopes on to a small pond and the animals can freely visit the water without falling in. I did this as a reminder of my childhood. I love the freedom of the countryside.

How is your country home decorated?

My wife is an interior decorator and has worked in property for a long time. She decorated each room here in a different theme. There is an African room, a Chinese room, a French room, a Middle Eastern room, a Moroccan room: each has its own elements and is completely unique. All of the six bedrooms have en suite bathrooms with baths and showers. There are many antiques throughout and we have a beautiful grand piano on the ground floor that my wife often plays.

What was your childhood home like?

We lived in a small flat above my father’s butcher shop in Charolle, Saône-et-Loire, where the Charolais cattle come from. Our home was tiny: myself and my two brothers shared a room and there was one other room besides the kitchen, which had a little wood-burning stove. My parents bred pigs on 10 acres of land nearby. We used to have to cultivate all the feed for them. Potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, wheat for winter feed. We’d fill bags of chestnuts, acorns and stinging nettles for them. The feed would be mashed together in warm water in huge big troughs – it was really, really hard work. When my father left, my mother brought us up on her own. She always did a fantastic job with us and inspired me to cook.

How long has Britain been your home?

Since I first moved here as a teenager I have never looked back to France. I have also spent a lot of time in Scotland and now the majority of my restaurant businesses are there. I’m just about to open a new restaurant there, Greywalls in East Lothian. Sometimes I feel like Scotland is my second home. If I were to live anywhere else, it would be there.

What is your favourite room in your house?

The African room: I love its dark colours and earthy feel. My wife was brought up in Zimbabwe and she still has a great love for Africa. Aside from that I love the sitting room and to be able to sit in front of a blazing wood fire in the winter time.

What is your kitchen like at home?

We have two, one is an industrial-style kitchen with a six-burner cooker and a huge larder. I can comfortably work with six of my team here. A good oven is the best thing any cook can have. The other kitchen is a lot smaller and has just the basic things you would need.

Where else have you lived in the UK?

I used to live during the week in Chelsea, and had a country home in Petworth, West Sussex.

What do you think are the differences between living in France and Britain?

I much prefer life in Britain: the people are more tolerant, less excitable than my compatriots. Politically I feel they are far more intelligent than the French. I tend to keep away from France now.

What is your favourite piece of furniture in your home?

My bed. I love my bed. It is a modern bed, huge and I have a great mattress – very hard. I love sleeping.

What are your favourite works of art in your home?

One is a painting by David Donaldson, the late Scottish artist and limner to the Queen. It is called “A Wee Delicacy”. I love it for its simple charm: it is a self-portrait of the artist eating a fish supper from a newspaper. Fish and chips is one of my favourite meals. Another artist I love, whom I have been collecting for more than 30 years, is the Irish watercolourist Pauline Bewick. She has a beautiful way of rendering nature.

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