Movers and Shakers: Dick Bradsell.
Amid a positive plethora of celebrity chefs, Dick Bradsell is the closest we have to a celebritybarman. Wherever he goes, a loyal band of followers is never far behind.By Jonathan Goodall.Cocktails have been in and out of fashion more frequently than flares, but Dick Bradsell hasstuck with them through thick and thin, quite literally. During the 1980s, cocktails scaled newheights of naffness as paper umbrellas, sparklers and plastic toys became the most importantingredients in thick, gloopy concoctions with names like Chocolate Monkey. For Bradsell thiswas the 'fast food' era for cocktails and, much to his relief, we are currently enjoying the'epicurean' phase.The drinks that are back in vogue right now are friendlier permutations of the lethal drymartini. They are elegant, clear and sophisticated drinks for super-suave sipping. Once again,London's bar scene is booming and Dick Bradsell, who has remained faithful to MistressMartini, is having the last laugh.Bradsell grew up in East Cowes on the Isle of Wight until, at the age of 18, he was packed offto London by his mother, who thought it was high time he learned how to behave. "I was anaughty adolescent. You know, a punk. I didn't wash properly and wore dirty T-shirts. Excitingstuff," he explains in his measured, meticulous manner. He arrived in London in 1977, theyear of the Queen's Silver Jubilee. It wasn't all anarchy for the young Bradsell, however, as hewent to work for his uncle, an ex-air force man who ran the not-so-swinging Naval andMilitary Club on Piccadilly. But it was here that he learned a bit of good old-fashioneddiscipline and "just about every single thing you could possibly do in catering"."I worked there for a year and went from being chef to doing front of house. But I was paid solittle," he adds. "A lot of catering is slave labour. I went from there to train with a friend ofmy uncle's to be a chef, until I realised I'd much rather work front of house and meet people.It's far more exciting."I suddenly saw that a lot people working in this industry are trainee actors doing it as astopgap. I didn't want anything else, and I realised that if you were professional and you kepton doing it you'd get somewhere, especially in clubs and the trendier bars."Bradsell got his lucky break when his flatmate, who was working at The Zanzibar Club,introduced him to some of the staff who offered to train him up as a cocktail barman. "I sawit as utterly glamourous," says Bradsell. "It was the beginning of the 1980s and the wholething was brilliant, unbelievable. In the end you really thought you were someone." And thetips were enormous, too. Not surprisingly, he stayed at The Zanzibar for four human years,which is roughly 10 bartending years and virtually a lifetime by Bradsell's standards.In these days of celebrity chefs - an utterly 1990s phenomenon - Dick Bradsell is the closestwe have to a celebrity barman. Wherever he goes, the coiffured quaffers follow, like strange,brightly coloured creatures in search of the next watering hole. This makes him something ofan attraction for entrepreneurs launching new bars. "If I'm there it's going to be - or hadbetter be - bloody good or I'm going to lose my reputation," he says.