The plan was to meet up at Whitelock’s with my customer Dunphers, have a quick pint, and then head home.
But as many of you will know, warm ale, old friends and good banter can cause the best laid plans to go awry..
After several libations, we decided to head to my favourite restaurant in Leeds, Sous Le Nez.
It’s French and has been the premier dining establishment of choice, for the Leeds business community since its establishment in 1991.
There are few pleasures in life I enjoy more, than heading down the steps into their warm, softly lit, subterranean temple to wine-soaked joviality, and mouth-watering bonhomie.
Divested of overcoats and seated in a wood-panelled corner, like a baby in the womb, I wallowed in a glowing atmosphere of shared conviviality.
I could wax lyrical about the wonderfully unctuous ox-cheek wellington, or, the wine list, but my friends, the thing that takes Sous Le Nez to a different level is the service.
If there was one thing about my (and indeed any) business that I consider the most important, it is this – S E R V I C E.
Really looking after people and delivering a tremendous experience. Going above and beyond the call of duty to make them feel special, spoiled and utterly valued.
Whilst the end product has to stand-up on its own merits, it is the journey you take and the customer-focused mind-set of those who deliver it, that is key.
As a creature of habit, there is something about familiarity that I find deeply comforting.
Dale Carnegie said, “A person’s name is to him, or, her, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
So to be welcomed, like an old friend, by a cheery faced Richard saying, “Ah, James! Good to see you, we’ve got your usual table ready,” immediately puts me in a frame of mind to have a wonderful evening.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t come here every week (sadly). More like a couple of times a month, but enough to have established a good rapport with the team.
Their warmth, enthusiasm and desire to delight their customers is genuine and from the heart. It’s not sycophantic, or schmoozy.
After we’d chosen our food, Frank, their assistant general manager who runs the cellar with Nico, was at my side with the wine list.
Now I love the Michael McIntyre sketch about restaurants, and the ‘pantomime’ surrounding the selecting and tasting of the wine.
When it comes to vino, I’m an enthusiast, not an expert, and so am very happy to be led by Frank.
I give him a rough idea of what I’m comfortable spending, and based on what we are eating, let him decide.
From the Loire Valley, he is passionate about his home turf. He has selected bottles of Sancerre and Chinon, that I’ve enjoyed as much as grander, and certainly more expensive, wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux.
It is his experience and knowledge that I’m buying – a very important part of any service – very similar in fact, when a customer comes to me for a new bespoke garment.
Our relationships with our customers is built on trust and respect, with an ability to understand their taste, budget, and the confidence to know what is best for them.
I deal with global cloth companies that are the Chateaux Petrus of the world of textiles. Whilst the quality is top-notch, they certainly know how to charge for it, and that’s fair enough. After all, a man who “knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing,” is missing out in life!
Sadly, many of us lack the financial firepower to quaff the finest vintages on a daily basis, and so venturing down a path less well-trod can bring surprising rewards.
Over the years (and certainly living in Yorkshire, the heart of the British textiles trade) I have built up relationships with smaller businesses, often under the radar, who, like smaller independent wineries, have fantastic fabrics at very reasonable prices.
A length of cashmere from Loro Piana is a thing of great beauty (and cost), but check out Joshua Ellis based in Batley, or, the ‘Everest’ bunch from Standeven of Bradford – both of which offer exceptional value-for-money.
The food, as ever, was stomach-purringly wonderful, fit for a modern day ‘last supper,’ and if Jesus does rise again and pop into Leeds, he should have a chat with Frank, before adding-value to any water.
Like a Duracell bunny on Ready Brek, I left with a spring in my step and a glow in my heart.