5 minutes with… Scottie Bhattarai

CEO of Isabel Mayfair, Scottie Bhattarai speaks to Brummell about his life working in the hospitality industry and his plans for the future

Food and Drink 17 Nov 2023

5 minutes with Scottie Bhattarai

What can diners expect from Isabel Mayfair?

Many things! Isabel Mayfair is a layered experience and we focus a lot on addressing the different senses. Of course, we’re a restaurant and bar so we design our food menu in a way that encourages the bringing together of people. Many of our dishes work best when shared and there is a vibrant Mediterranean spirit running through everything we do. Our cocktails have always been a draw as we allow a great deal of creativity in their inception. We have a fantastic new in-house mixologist who is rolling out a new cocktail menu for the season, which is full of theatre and exquisite taste. We only use the best, most premium brands in our cocktails.

The interior is so important in setting the stage and we have a beautiful environment in which to work. Every detail has been considered and, while the space is set, it has a transformative effect throughout the day. It can feel cheerful, elegant and light at lunch, or intimate and glamorous for cocktail hour. Then late at night it can feel decadent and hedonistic, as the dinner service runs into drinks and, more often than not, dancing. That’s one of the things about Isabel – it might appear to fit comfortably among the Mayfair dining institutions, but beneath the surface it’s really quite fun and full of life.

What inspired you to work at Isabel Mayfair?

I’ve worked at many incredible places and I have had the good fortune to play a part in their story, but I guess one of the things that attracted me to Isabel Mayfair was the potential it had. Working towards achieving that potential has been a most rewarding experience, but really seeing the team excel and the customers enjoying the experience we create has been proof that we are heading in the right direction.

Scottie Bhattarai
Scottie Bhattarai

Is there a signature dish at Isabel Mayfair that customers must try?

Our blackened chicken with Cajun spices and jus is a hero that’s on the menu all year round and customers love it. It brings together lively Latin flavours and is perfect for sharing. The same goes for our tuna tartare with ponzu, avocado, wasabi and lime. It’s the perfect balance of traditional “European” presentation, but has a modern combination of ingredients. We strive to use only the best ingredients and produce in all our dishes, and our team of chefs, led by head chef Patricia Lago Vigil, spend considerable time working closely with suppliers and sourcing the best ingredients.

How did you discover your passion for hospitality?

When I first came to London it was to study to be an accountant. Alongside my studies I was working in hospitality to make money; first back of house and then gradually working my way through most of the positions in a restaurant. It was here I discovered my passion for this industry. When I finished my studies and got a job in the City – behind a desk – I just knew it wasn’t where I was meant to be, so I pivoted and took all the business learning I had acquired through study and went back to work in hospitality, in management.

You have quickly worked your way up through the ranks in the hospitality industry and landed the job as CEO of Isabel. What is your secret to success within the industry?

Simply put: people. The people make this industry and it is, indeed, an industry all about people. My ethos is to place people at the heart of everything I do.

"The interior is so important in setting the stage [for the food]"
“The interior is so important in setting the stage [for the food]”

What do you think of the London bar and restaurant scene?

It’s so dynamic and diverse, always evolving, always changing and always exciting. But there is equally as much energy in the bar and restaurant scene outside London, especially in Manchester, where I am opening my next restaurant early in 2024.

During your successful career, have you ever experienced doubt or uncertainty in your abilities? If so, how did you overcome this?

The Covid pandemic was the biggest challenge for all of us. During that time we were really under pressure and had to make many hard decisions that were high-risk. My risk was keeping as many staff on payroll for as long as possible, not only to show our support for them during the awful period we all went through, but demonstrating how much we valued their contribution to the business and how invested we were in them. I knew we would come out of the pandemic and, when we did, we would need our staff. Many businesses had to let go of staff, and when they reopened they struggled with service, continuity and quality. But we were quite well cushioned when we reopened because our team were there and they were ready, and that benefited the business. So we bounced back more quickly and more successfully than before the pandemic. It was a risk, and it was a very uncertain time, but I just felt instinctively it was the way to go.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received in your career, and why?

Be nice to your colleagues. If they speak highly of you, you will be noticed by the stakeholders and decision makers above you. I have always had a great rapport with all my colleagues at all levels, whether they are a kitchen porter or a GM. I support them in every possible way and genuinely care for their wellbeing in general and happiness at work. It doesn’t have to be work related, but once you show you care they will give their best shot for you.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Spend it with my family. I have two wonderful young daughters and I like to spend time with them.

What’s next for Scottie Bhattarai?

Early in 2024, I will be opening a new restaurant brand in Manchester called MAYA. It’s been a few years in the making and our aim is to bring a new energy to the vibrant landscape of Manchester’s hospitality scene.