A very modern collection

My introduction to Jillian McLean's award winning venues was via the web site for The Anthologist. Words like 'culinary theatre', 'book the chefs table' and 'the perfect antidote to the city' combined with some great looking food and interiors caught my interest and it was put on my 'must visit when in London' list. I wasn't disappointed. Firstly, I love the thinking behind Jillian's company name, Morgan and Drake. Sir Francis Drake was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe and Captain Morgan, was a Welsh buccaneer. A pioneer of the hospitality industry, Jillian is an adventurer who set off on her own voyage in 2008 to build a group of independent, innovative bars in central London with a strong customer experience focus. Her first venue, The Refinery, opened in September 2008 in the landmark Blue Fin Building, Southwark. The Parlour in Canary Wharf followed in 2009 and The Anthologist on Gresham Street has delighted City suits since opening the doors back in April this year.

This October I was so pleased to take a tour through this venue with Jillian and we talked about the latest trends in hospitality in a city that has come a long way in the food stakes in the last 10+ or so years. Research is always at the foundation of any good business and Jillian invests plenty of time travelling the East and West Coast of America, in addition to tapping into think tanks with the likes of McCann Erickson and The Future Foundation, to establish new benchmarks for customer service and dining experiences. Spend 10 minutes on the floor with her and you will see why she is the first solo woman to win a Catey Award (Caterer and Hotelkeeper's Pub & Bar Award 2010). A warm welcoming smile, hands-on attitude, and an obvious enjoyment gained from being with her staff and customers is my immediate recollection (some people just have hospitality embedded in their gene code - they live it, breathe it, love it).

Wholly responsible for concept, development, launch and the running of all venues; in addition to an eclectic beverage offer Jillian places a strong emphasis on provenance and seasonal ingredients. An open kitchen, deli and chefs table combined with a wonderful selection of seating spaces to choose from depending on your mood (and of course fabulous loos), make these bar/cafe/restaurants a stand out. Venue number four, The Folly, opened last month and can be found on Gracechurch Street. I will be taking another very quick trip through London in mid-March and look forward to visiting the three other venues if time permits. In the meantime, Jillian and her team are heading to Oz in a few weeks time for some sunshine and inspiration (let's hope the torrential rains stop and the sun does finally come out for summer!). I have compiled a list of some of Melbourne and Sydney's finest drinking and dining spots for them to visit. I'd love to hear suggestions from readers too.