Meet Britain's best dressed waiters: The most stylish people in your favourite restaurant are taking your order

From sophisticated, utilitarian chic at Spring to slick, made-to-measure suits at the Savoy, Oscar Quine reveals the uniforms that are turning heads

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Retro future

Seen in: Spring, London WC2

Modelled by: Abbie, Sanju, Mattia & Atanas (see gallery below)

'The uniforms for Spring were made by a shop called Egg in Knightsbridge. Skye [Gyngell, the chef] is friendly with Maureen Doherty who owns the shop. Uniforms are usually pretty standard: either catalogue or bespoke, so it was an interesting project.

The younger staff designed everything in their spare time. They loved the idea of designing a uniform. We met with them and they asked about the different staff positions and for a list of their duties: whether they had to bend, who'd be carrying things, what they needed to carry, whether they had docket pads or corkscrews, etc. It was a very collaborative process. It took about a year to get it right, from those initial meetings to fruition.

I can't bring myself to say how much they cost, but it was a lot. We have about 35 floor staff we had to kit out. It was a substantial investment, I'll say that.

At Spring, all the colours are so simple, it's a very clean palette and we wanted to introduce little flashes of colour. When the hostess seats people, or our waiter is serving you, there's this pop of yellow or green or cerise. The rest of the décor is restrained in a way, so the uniforms uplift things."

Marie Jackson, director of operations, Spring

 

Shoes

"They each have two pairs of pumps by a French brand called Bensimon. The girls get a pair of high-heels too, which they asked for. They wear the pumps during the day and the heels in the evening."

Jerseys

"White is generally front of house and dark blue signifies the bar staff. The stripy tops are nice, thick cotton jerseys. We went to Egg and they laid out all the stripy jerseys. We sat with the wallpaper and the colours of the sofas and just put the jerseys on top of that."

Dresses

"The girls on reception wear the dresses, which come in green, yellow, grey and white. They are very much the Egg shape. It's sophisticated, utilitarian chic and they have a lovely little slash neck."

Waistcoats

"There's an element of tradition to the waistcoasts. But they're not ghastly claret red and cinch-backed like in a country house hotel. The buttons are covered – it's about nice attention to detail."

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Cold comfort

Seen in: The Ethicurean, Bristol

Modelled by: Jack (above)

'The restaurant is set in a Victorian walled garden in Somerset. We grow pretty much everything on site. My business partners, Iain and Matthew Pennington, do the foraging.

Generally, the staff can wear what they want, along with a work apron. There's never been a particular hierarchy, even in the kitchen. We come up with all the dishes through big group discussions and it's the same with the drinks. Reflecting that, staff are encouraged to wear what they want but there's an overarching style that everyone tends to adopt. That just says more about similar interests and aesthetics. If anything, I'm probably a little bit smarter than most but only because that's me.

For those who do wear the uniform, everything is made in the UK and is bespoke. We worked with David Minns, of Brown in Town, who calls himself 'Bristol's local tailor'. We wanted to design something using all-British materials that was a mix of modern and classic to reflect the ethos of the restaurant. David and I designed the clothes based on my job so they're totally functional and utilitarian with elements of very classic design because – the garden, the location – everything makes this a classic place. It's built from red brick, there are arches in the garden and we have these beautiful box hedges. The menu is modern, using a lot of fermentation and curing processes, but with historical elements from English cooking."

Jack Adair-Bevan, Co-owner, The Ethicurean

Harris Tweed waistcoat

"Because it's made-to-measure, it's smart while giving easy working movement. It has three functional working pockets, which means I can keep my bottle opener, a pad and other bits and bobs to hand during service."

Trousers

"The trousers are high-waisted fish-tail backed and they're braced.They keep my kidneys warm. We do go outside quite a bit. Just before service, we're picking herbs for cocktails and garnishes. We get snow here in the Mendips. They're pleated so it's easy to get your hands in the pockets."

Shoes

"I was never allowed to wear trainers when I was a kid, so I've always worn shoes and I find them more comfortable."

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Mayfair casual

Seen in: Café Murano, London SW1

Modelled by: Eleonora (above)

'The staff all take great pride in their uniform. I've never worked somewhere where they spend to this degree per person. It's about saying, 'We want you here, we want you to look good and to look after yourself'. And they do; they all make an effort. "If you were to go and buy a shirt from Turnbull & Asser, they're somewhere between £150 and £180 each. We give each of the staff three, so it's quite a lay-out. We don't pay quite full price and we look at it as an investment. We accounted for the cost of replenishing shirts but I had a look at the collars and cuffs of a couple of the guys who've been here for ages – and these shirts get washed a lot – and they're in absolutely pristine nick.

I have some myself, but I don't wear the same blue as everyone else. I wear white. It's nice putting on something that you know is a really premium item.

We want to provide the whole package. We know the food is excellent and we want to be in the position to offer really good, personable hospitality to our guests. That doesn't happen when people feel like they've been dressed up to the nines in something they're not comfortable in.

I think staff in restaurant uniforms can often seem overdressed. When uniforms are conceived, it's often for the dashing six-foot waiter and the size-six waitress, and that's not real life."

Zoe Charlton-Brown, General Manager of Café Murano

Churchill bow ties

"We gave the staff the option to wear long ties or bow ties. We assumed, pre-opening, trying to get people into bow ties would be difficult. But in fact, 90 per cent of staff wanted bow ties and they get a little bit dejected if they have to wear a long tie."

The shirt

"It's the first time that Turnbull & Asser have made a ladies' shirt. Pale blue suits the atmosphere of the restaurant. We didn't want anything super formal. They're called the Slim Jack and the Slim Jane – which is the female shirt made bespoke for us."

Shoes and jeans

"They wear their own jeans and brown brogues. We wanted to create a smart-casual look. There are a lot of guests who come relatively well-dressed to the restaurant, but then there are a lot who don't. As a mid-range restaurant, we didn't want staff to come across as stuffy."

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Savoy thrill

Seen in: American bar at the Savoy, London WC2

Modelled by: Erik (above)

'The uniform was designed and fitted by specialist uniform supplier, Studio 104. Cult TV show Mad Men was the design brief and inspiration behind the bespoke uniform. The design team drew from the radical era of the Sixties, resulting in slick, fitted suits and a monochrome palette, encompassing the iconic white jacket that has become part of the American Bar's heritage"

Erik Lorincz, head bartender, The American Bar at The Savoy

The jacket

"The designer took the time to understand each individual requirements. For me, they created a made-to-measure jacket with silk lapels; my only stipulation was that I needed something that allowed extra movement in the arm area for cocktail shaking."

Details

"We designed a matching, mini cocktail shaker pin badge and cufflinks in a matt silver. The attention is in the detail!"

The look

"They created something that is both comfortable and flattering. It is timeless. It doesn't feel or look like a uniform!"

Pockets

"The internal pockets were specially designed to fit a Savoy pen and business card and specially lined in polyester for strength."

All portraits by Rick Pushinsky

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