Words by: Ian Cameron
Chris Edwardes, renowned mixologist and former head bartender at The Groucho Club, and his wife Amanda Blanch, were forced to close their boutique hotel in Brighton after the nightclub they ran in the city folded. Now they have started a new life in Ibiza, where they live 50 metres from the sea, and run Hidden bar.
We had won awards for our hotel in Brighton, Blanch House. In fact we were doing so well we embarked on a nightclub too, the Hanbury Club. It was in a former mausoleum, with a domed roof, lovely place. Only thing was, Brighton was simply the wrong place for a burlesque cabaret. London would have been a far better location. Over the next two years, between 2008-10, my life was hell. We'd borrowed £500,000 from the hotel to fund the club, but it was losing money and then it went under. It was the most stressful period of my life.
I had to find £8,500 in interest every month. I was literally juggling money - we'd been totally blind-sided, and had risked our future and our retirement. Then we found a buyer [for the hotel]. It looked like the deal would get us out the shit, but then the buyer dropped their offer by £500,000 on the day of exchange. We didn't want him to have it at that price so we decided to give the keys to the bank.
We've been here in Ibiza for a year and a half now, and our lives have turned around. We started all over again, just on a smaller scale. If it wasn't for all the shit that happened we wouldn't be here. It's paid off. I think we're happier and we have a better balance between work and life. And we live two minutes from the beach.
Obviously it's not all a bed of roses. When we arrived here, all the furniture was in skips, and, being honest, it's been something of a struggle. The thing about living in Ibiza is that you earn all your money in a very short period - there are two paces of life, summer and winter. The first two winters were particularly hard. Some work I did with Beefeater got us through the first winter, and then in the last one I did some bartender training at Ushuaia and knew we were going to be alright.
Hidden is in Cala San Vicente, on the north east coast of the island. I first saw it while I was walking our dog Poulux. We've got an outdoor bar, crazy golf, outdoor ten-pin bowling, and we're two minutes from the beach. The beauty of being here is that when it's quieter I get to turn my kitchen into a laboratory. At the moment I'm trying to perfect my own vermouth. I've made a tequila-based vermouth using agave syrup - I'm hoping to sell a few bottles in a few bars.
We've had a constant flow of visitors from London, too many people to mention, but I'd highlight Sue Leckie, who has been out loads, Max Warner, Dan Warner and Claire Smith. We've got this place for five years, after which it will be redeveloped. That gives us just enough time to build the brand, and in the meantime we just need to keep on top of things - there's a fair amount of maintenance here. Our daughter India came over here to learn how to tend bar over the summer, though is now back in London at Foxlow. And our son Jake - now working at Hawksmoor Seven Dials - has also been over a few times.
Drinks culture on the island has changed massively in the past three years. When we came over to the island originally it was to set up the bar for Aura, and we couldn't get a whole load of things that you'd think were standard. Angostura was the only bitters you could get. We realised Ibiza did clubbing culture really well but not bar culture. After Aura, Charles Vexenat came over to open his absinthe bar, a mezcaleria has opened up, Experimental Cocktail Club is here, the island is generally attracting a lot more good bartenders and the availability of products is much better. I've even found a supplier in Barcelona that's like Jerry's in Soho.
The life lesson of all this is if you find the opportunity to try something exciting, then jump in with both feet. If it doesn't work, try something else. And don't make work your whole life. Be ambitious, creative and have fun.