With BAFTA 195 Piccadilly's executive head chef, Anton Manganaro, and front of house manager, Graham Lloyd-Bennett
For the first two weeks of November, BAFTA is reopening its doors to members only, to take an exclusive tour of our redeveloped and rejuvenated HQ, BAFTA 195 Piccadilly, before its official public launch in early 2022. To whet your appetite, we’re providing a little hint of the delights that await members through a series of mini-interviews with some familiar BAFTA faces.
To kick us off, two BAFTA 195 veterans (at 16 years-plus service each), Anton Manganaro (pictured left) and Graham Lloyd-Bennett (right) reveal what the new members’ bar and space has to offer, among other fun missives... Interview by Toby Weidmann
BAFTA: Just to put our mind at ease, let us know what you did last summer.
Graham: I started off thinking this is great, time to enjoy some lovely downtime, but that soon ran out. I ended up doing a little bit for the local community.
Anton: I took up cycling, which I’d never done before. I started on my daughter’s bike, wearing a skateboarding helmet. Now, I’m full lycra, padded pants and whipping round Richmond Park every weekend.
Name one film, game or television show you devoured over lockdown.
Anton: So many, but Star Trek: Picard, I loved that.
Graham: I’d never watched an Avengers movie all the way through, wasn’t really my bag, but because I had the time, I watched them all, in order, and relished every single one.
Anton: Did you cry at the end?
Graham: No. I was moved when Tony said he was going, but I didn’t cry.
Anton: [Laughs] I cried.
What was your first thought upon re-entering BAFTA 195?
Anton: Simply, ‘Wow!’ When you see the members’ space, you won’t believe it. It’s probably one of the best rooms in London... The members have a space away from all the events and screenings now. It’s their own area, to entertain, to relax in. And, because of the new glass roof, it’s so light, too. It’s just a lovely space to be in.
Graham: I agree. It feels like, finally, we have somewhere that’s new and polished and of a calibre that BAFTA needs and what the members wanted. It’s very impressive... I can’t wait to see their reaction. This floor is independent, so members also have their own bathrooms, which are right next door to their club. And they’re not boiling hot, like the old ones. [Laughs]
Anton: There’s also a hatch that opens directly into the kitchen, so members can see their food being freshly prepared, which is very modern.
Graham: The club and kitchen being on the same floor is brilliant in my opinion, because we have instant contact. We can see and read the room. That’s really important.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Anton: ‘American Pie’.
Graham: Billy Idol, ‘White Wedding’.
How has your role changed?
Anton: It’s become bigger. I’ve three kitchens to manage now, over four floors... When I was training as a young chef, I was told you’re only as good as your last meal. That’s always stuck with me. There’s no sitting on your laurels. There’s no thinking, ‘We did it yesterday, so today will be fine.’ Every day is a challenge to make sure the same standard is met by the whole team.
Graham: I now look after the whole of the front of house, which is five floors if you include the roof terrace. It’s a massive undertaking but I’m very excited about it. Kamel (Lakhdari) is going to be looking after the members’ club – he’s desperately excited to see the members back, too... We want everyone to leave with a smile on their face.
How long is a piece of string?
Graham: How big is the thing it’s wrapped around?
Anton: Depends on the side of beef.
How do you select your menus?
Anton: We treat our ingredients very carefully. We purchase locally, where we can, especially from the UK. So it’s sustainable and low mileage. We find suppliers that take as much care in buying their produce as we do in preparing it... I don’t want a boring menu, only filled with classics. I want to have some fun and create dishes that are a bit different. Vegan and plant-based foods are really on trend at the moment, but we’ve been doing that for years. I love creating those dishes because you really have to think about what you’re doing, to make sure you have the right balance and textures on the plate... It is a passion. Hopefully members see that when they eat and drink here.
Graham: Space is always limited in the bar so our choice has to be on point and well considered, to offer a broad range with a wide spectrum of flavour profiles. There’s a good diversity, I think... One new wine we have is an Artuke rioja, which is amazing. It’s just so elegant and smooth and rich.
What items do you always have on you?
Anton: My grandmother’s Parker pen. My marker. A Sharpie. My kitchen keys and my mobile.
Graham: I always have a pencil because I lost my grandmother’s Parker pen most likely. [Laughs] I have my keys, which has a little penknife on it, and I always have a lighter.
There’s a story behind that pen, we know it... How does your work incorporate sustainability?
Anton: We’re very mindful of where we buy from. We look at air miles. We look at recycling. We look at packaging... All our food leftovers, the peelings, trimmings and so on, gets turned into compost. We have very little waste.
Graham: We have been using corn starch straws for years, which are fully recyclable. We recycle all the bottles, glass and tins. We use recycled paper napkins. We use recyclable bamboo toothpicks to keep sandwiches together.
Sum up your thoughts on BAFTA 195 in three words.
Graham: Impressive. Proud. Challenging.
Anton: Classic. Exciting. And challenging.
Graham – Anton Manganaro, prodigy or lunatic?
Graham: I think all lunatics are prodigies to some extent. Hugely talented.
Answer the question, Graham!
Anton: Yeah, come on! I know what I’d say.
Anton: I’d say lunatic for you. [Laughs]
Graham: Fair enough. [Laughs]
Anton: I think we’re both lunatics. I was here at 7am yesterday and left at 11 at night. Then I was back here this morning at 8.30. You have to be a lunatic.
Graham: That’s true. You can’t do this job if you’re not a bit of a lunatic. OK, we’re both lunatics.
What one message would you like to send to BAFTA’s members?
Anton: Hello again!
Graham: We’ve genuinely missed you. We’re genuinely pleased to be back. We can’t wait to see you. And that’s from all of us... We’re embarking on a new journey and we’ll need to do it together, both the staff here and the members. But, it is great to be back!
To book your place on a members' tour of BAFTA 195 Piccadilly, log in at www.bafta.org/members.