Bruton Place is having a moment and one person who is driving the transformation is gallery owner Tim Jefferies, who along with his business partner Larry Jayasekara, hopes to bring back Mayfair’s village feel through The Cocochine restaurant and The Rex Delicatessen

By Selma Day

There are few people who know Mayfair as well as Tim Jefferies who opened Hamiltons gallery (in Carlos Place) back in 1983, working some of the 20th century’s greatest photographers – Helmut Newton, Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, to name a few. “And they were all alive at that time. Most of them have gone now,” he says.

Thrust into London society at an early age, Tim famously dated a string of supermodels, hung out at Annabel’s and San Lorenzo and lived a whirlwind life of glamorous parties – many of which took place at his gallery.

“We used to do these incredible crazy exhibitions – crazy in terms of the attendance. We'd have hundreds of people in the gallery for an opening – they'd be spilling out onto the street. The cops would come and try and scrape everybody off the road. They were happenings – super, super fun.”

Tim went on to marry Swedish model Malin Johansson, having two children with her before their split in 2019. Now he’s very much focused on his latest venture – The Cocochine, a restaurant set over four floors in a former mews house in Bruton Place. His business partner and head chef is Larry Jayasekara, who formerly ran Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus.

The decision to open a restaurant together came out of their long-standing friendship. “Larry and I have been friends for about eight years now and early on in our friendship, I asked him what his dream was. He said ultimately it was to have his own place. And that sat at the back of my mind – it was a point of conversation that started to come up more and more and one day he said, ‘come on, Tim, why don't we do something together’?

“I would never have thought to venture into the world of restaurants and if it had been anybody else, I wouldn't have done it. This is about Larry – he’s an extraordinary man and a really excellent chef.”

Tim and I are sitting in the private dining room on the top floor of the building – a calm, intimate space with a long dining table at one end, surrounded by seriously jaw-dropping artworks adorning the walls and dotted around the room. To quote Tim, “when you come in to this space it feels like a warm hug – like someone’s put an arm around you and you feel you can relax and enjoy the experience”.

Sharply dressed (Savile Row no doubt), Tim is the epitome of old school charm – something you rarely see these days, even in Mayfair. And it’s traditional values that Tim and Larry want to bring back.

“The world is such a different place now,” he says. Smiling, he adds: “That’s what people my age start to say, isn't it? You look back and say, ‘oh it wasn't like that back in my day’.”

Since Tim opened his gallery all those years ago, with the rise of digital, photography as a medium has, of course, changed dramatically.

“Everybody has a camera in their phone, everybody's a photographer – we’re all deluged in terms of the way photographic images bombard us through social media. And I think we’ve all become a little bit desensitised and a little less focused on the quality of the actual object.”

During the pandemic, however, even Hamiltons had to rethink its game in terms of digital outreach as no-one could visit the gallery in person. “But, ultimately, my business model is not about sending somebody a PDF – it's about them coming into the gallery, creating an environment where you can look at pictures, more akin to how they would look in a home.”

Tim hopes to recreate that same aesthetic and feel at The Cocochine.“We always said that the DNA of this building would come from the gallery. And as I have a gallery, why not bring pictures and objects into this space? It’s all about bringing something additional to the joy of eating great food.

Tim cites his great friend, the late Mark Birley, as someone he admired for his attention to detail. “For me, he is a reference point in terms of hospitality. I remember how he would be popping into this triangle of restaurants at Annabel’s, Harry’s Bar and Mark’s Club to make sure everything was just so. He had a real eye – a love of produce and a love of excellence.

“I feel that some of the bigger places now are more focused on the bottom line, bums on seats, in, out. And there’s a ‘Disneyfication’ of dining around here, which I guess has its place – but Larry and I wanted to bring something a little less loud. Again, I use this phrase ‘old school’. Smaller, intimate, excellent, quality – all of these elements come together here at The Cocohine.

“But the main reason you’re here is to eat Larry’s food. We want you to have a dining experience that we feel has been missing in Mayfair in an environment, which we feel has also been missing in Mayfair.

There's an attention to detail in every element of the design that mirrors the attention to detail in the preparation of the food. So when you watch Larry and his team, it’s forensic – the thought, the love, the care – I wanted the environment to very much reflect that. So food and atmosphere – that devastating combination.”

Now in his 41st year as a commercial resident of Mayfair, Tim has seen the area evolve but “not all of it for the better”, he says.

“Mayfair was really different 40 years ago,” he says. “The pace of Mayfair felt slower. Back in the early 80s, most of the spaces in Mount Street were antique shops, with Scott’s at its centre. Now, Mount Street has become a version of Bond Street. The street has been narrowed, so it's difficult to navigate in a car. There are many more people now on Mount Street than ever worked there in the 80s and 90s. There are more restaurants on Mount Street, so it feels more buzzy but perhaps more hectic. One of the things I miss the most is Allens the butcher – it had this long-standing place there and conferred a sort of villagey feel and that villagey feel has gone.”

Tim and Larry hope to bring some of that village atmosphere back to Mayfair through The Cocohine and the Rex Deli one the opposite side of the street. “To celebrate that sense of community is something that Larry and I are very interested in doing.

“It gets slightly blindsided by the razzle dazzle of the high fashion brands and the flashy cars. It's vibrant in one way, but that old school feel of community has been diluted slightly.”

The Cocochine and the Rex Deli are part of a transformation of Bruton Place, spearheaded by landlord BEAM. As CEO Giles Easter told Mayfair Times: “Bruton Place has always been a wonderful little diamond with so much potential, tucked off the hustle of Berkeley Square.

“Over the past few years, we have been working to revitalise the street through an ongoing programme to sensitively rejuvenate the building stock, whilst improving the amenity, tenant mix and street scape.

“With the recent additions of Chanel, The Cocochine, Lali Café, and the Rex Deli, as well as an extended Guinea Grill to name but a few, the transformation is now underway and well worth a visit.”

Tim adds: “I think the landlord have this vision of Bruton Place becoming a little like Pavilion Road (in Chelsea). So small, intimate spaces, artisanal offerings. I think they would like this to feel – again – like old school Mayfair.

And this location – we are literally just off Berkeley Square, which to my mind represents the epicentre of Mayfair. Berkeley Square is the absolute Ground Zero of Mayfair around which everything revolves.