More than 25 years have passed since Daniel Humm made tea sandwiches at London’s iconic Claridge’s Hotel.
But the chef and co-owner of Eleven Madison Park, a renowned three Michelin-starred temple to fine dining in New York City, still vividly remembers the monotonous routine of buttering slices of bread and arranging paper-thin circles of cucumber and smoked salmon. He attributes the very cooking skills that helped catapult him into rock star chef status to this repetitive work decades ago—and those memories at Claridge’s are one of the central reasons for his return to the hotel.
“Never in a million years could I have dreamed that I’d return one day to open my own restaurant in the same space,” says the Swiss-born chef.
Davies and Brook, which opens its doors at Claridge’s on December 9, is what Humm calls a sister restaurant to Eleven Madison Park, which took the coveted number one spot on the prestigious World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2017. Davies and Brook will offer the same informal hospitality that sets EMP apart in the fine dining world; it will also feature some of EMP’s classics, alongside a series of new, more globally inspired dishes. The main room will offer fine dining for lunch and dinner, and there will be a more casual bar where patrons can order snacks and libations. It will be the first restaurant to open across the Atlantic under the Make It Nice umbrella, a growing empire of U.S. restaurants that he and former business partner Will Guidara founded in 2011, which includes the NoMad, the NoMad Bar, and Made Nice.
Humm and Guidara began discussing a potential partnership with Claridge’s some eight years ago, but they ultimately decided it wasn’t the right time to open a restaurant in London because of other Make It Nice projects. At the time, it was hard for Humm to walk away, not knowing whether there would be another opportunity to work with a place that has so much personal meaning to him.
“When I went to the opening of the restaurant that did end up in the space, it was the first time in my entire career that I felt regret,” Humm says. “I felt I had passed up something that was maybe once-in-a-lifetime—I was sad that I let that go.”
That restaurant ultimately folded, and three years ago, when the opportunity presented itself again, it was a no-brainer for Humm, who amicably parted ways with Guidara in July 2019. Today, Humm believes he’s more prepared for a London restaurant from a business perspective, but he also intends to take part in the growing momentum of London’s dining culture, which he says has evolved and diversified.
That Humm could tap into Claridge’s hospitality, too, was the clincher: The grande dame, established in 1812, has all the trappings of a world-class guest experience, but one that’s supported by a personable and unpretentious team—the exact values Humm embraces at Make It Nice.
“We want guests to feel transported when they come to our restaurants, but also feel comfortable enough to want to return.”
“There’s a Maya Angelou quote that I’ve always loved, because it best sums up the effect of us doing our best work,” says Humm. “She said, ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ We want guests to feel transported when they come to our restaurants, but also feel comfortable enough to want to return. We strive to provide a service that is exacting and precise, but also warm and fun.”
The menu at Davies and Brook incorporates the global culinary influences found in London, along with inspiration from Humm’s own travels in recent years. Some highlights: Eleven Madison’s dry-aged roasted duck, along with a crispy rice salad with citrus-marinated yellowtail with pickled white carrots, jicama, and an herb pesto; a winter squab with bitter greens, lemongrass and crispy shallots; and a short rib with mint, poached endive, and a mojo vinaigrette.
At Davies and Brook, named after the cross streets of the restaurant in London’s posh Mayfair neighborhood, Humm aims to create a home-away-from home vibe where both hotel guests and neighboring residents feel they can return again and again, be it for an elevated dinner or for a casual drink and small bites at the bar. And that philosophy extends to the decor, too. Humm, an art enthusiast, personally selected and commissioned artists for the space. He tapped art world friends, including Roni Horn, who created a series of photos of Iceland called Mother Wonder, which will feel reminiscent of a horizon as it hangs on the restaurant’s walls.
While he’s come a long way from his days as a teenager at the tea sandwiches station, Humm still feels like he’s living in a dream.
“This project at Claridge’s is so special to me because I feel as though I am coming full circle in a way. This has been a pinch-myself kind of moment, to be coming back home to a place that was so formative for me. It’s so exciting: to have the chance to make my mark in a city that inspires me so much. It’s a dream come true.”