Obituary: Mark Renzland

Mark Renzland, restaurateur: born Colchester, Essex 14 November 1956; died London 29 November 1995.

Refer to "the twins" and anyone in the London restaurant business will know you mean Max and Mark Renzland. They came on the scene in 1989, when they opened the first of their three restaurants, Chez Max in Richmond. Chefs and food writers, the likes of Jeremy Round, Elizabeth David and Simon Hopkinson, were almost immediately through their door and enchanted by the twins, the food and the place itself.

Max tended front of house. Mark cooked. They loved the dash, steam and clatter of restaurants. There were frequent queues and confusion, as if they actively preferred chaos. Certainly a loyal band of customers did not come for smooth service. Both twins were giddily passionate about French bistro food, a dozen quivering oysters, the perfect roast chicken, juicy terrines with gherkins, rabbit in mustard sauce with lentils, the densest and richest pot au chocolat, perfectly ripe little cheeses. There was no little hilarity involved in serving it. Customers realised only gradually that the French accents of the Renzland brothers were phony, that they were half-German, half-English, that they were, in fact, from Colchester.

The fittings, however, were authentic. The tulip-shaped lamps, the art nouveau bentwood frontage, even the ashtrays were lovingly collected by the brothers, piece by piece, in France. Produce was shipped in from Lyons and Rungis market. Even the red wine sauce was made with the best burgundies. Their enthusiasm exceeded their means, and it was not long before the first Chez Max closed abruptly, when HM Customs and Excise seized the fixtures and fittings for non-payment of VAT.

During the early Nineties, their smiles dropped. Spurned by angry suppliers and rebuffed by various investors, they spent more than a year in the cold. Then, by 1992, they re-emerged with a quixotic restaurant share in Hampton Wick. By day it was a greasy spoon called Bonzo's. By night it was "Le Petit Max": an unlicensed bistro serving better French food than one finds in France. Again, Mark cooked and Max managed.

In 1994, they opened a third restaurant, again called Chez Max, on Ifield Road in west London. Again, it was charming, but the strain began to show. In place of their mischievous charm some customers began simply to sense mischief. There were long delays, cheeky excuses. However, the food, again, was perfect. One former colleague says, "They had their shortcomings down to an art form at Le Petit Max. They became attractions instead of faults. What happened, when they took their second one, not only did Chez Max not come off, but Le Petit Max suffered as well."

Certainly Mark Renzland lost his way towards the end. His ebullience faded. Unlike his brother, he could not control his weight. He became prey to melancholy. What had begun as a passion became a job, one of the most difficult there is involving long hours, heat, stress and loneliness. When he died late last Wednesday, it was just as family, friends and colleagues were begging him to take a long rest. Restaurateurs mourning his death might consider doing two things: restructuring their rotas so chefs have more livable hours, then toasting Mark Renzland with something exceptional. A 1961 Hermitage La Chapelle would be appropriate.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Recruitment Genius: HR Advisor

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our Client has been the leader ...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project