How I got here

22 July 2004
How I got here

Robertson, 28, has followed his own Dick Whittington-esque approach to his current job - minus the cat in boots. Having graduated from Edinburgh University in 1998 with a law degree, he nailed his colours to hospitality's mast by declining a lucrative role at law firm Norton Rose. "I knew I would make an OK lawyer, but never an outstanding one, as I aim to do as a restaurateur."

Having worked in the nightclub industry and held a bar job for two years while studying, Robertson was certain of what he wanted to do, if not exactly how to do it.

Arriving in London that summer, he plumped for one of the bigger restaurant groups, in this case Conran, and was soon a floor waiter at Coq d'Argent. However, Conran wasn't then the giant it is today, and it didn't offer the comprehensive careers package it does now. Roberston did learn the basics, such as laying tables and mixing cocktails, but after his manager let him know that it would take 18 months of work before he made head waiter, the ambitious young professional decided to move on.

"I found running the whole thing daunting," says Robertson, "but I always had Baldelli available on the end of the line to give me advice."

While at Titanic, Roberston met the other future owner of Lanes, Hamish Smith, and the two stayed in touch even after Smith had moved on to restaurant chain Fish. Smith eventually returned to the White fold, and Roberston recognised an attitude in common with his future restaurant partner: namely, they were both working to learn the skills they'd need to launch their own restaurant.

Lanes restaurant opened in September 2003 in the heart of the City of London. Roberston and Smith operate front of house and Hayden Smith prepares the restaurant's modern European cuisine in the kitchen. So far, the site has traded well, and the partners haven't had any nasty surprises threatening to derail their fledgling enterprise.

Both spend about three hours a day catching up on paperwork and correspondence, but Roberston says the endless procession of suppliers attempting to sell him stuff can get on his nerves.

Despite opening only five days a week, the days are long. "The hours are devastating, certainly when you start out in this business at the bottom of the career ladder," says Robertson. "You have to love it to do it well."

Career highlights

April 1999 Joins the MPW empire as head waiter at Titanic

March 2002 Becomes general manager of Quo Vadis

September 2003
Launches his first restaurant, Lanes

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