The Matterhorn is, I don't know why, achingly cool. I wish I could wrap it up and put it in London. But it wouldn't be the same. There's something interesting about the design and the ease of the design, especially the latest incarnation. Matterhorn has been there since 1961, I believe. There's something about it being refurbished but at the same time still being completely laid back.
In London if people say they'll have a quick drink, they mean it. At a place like Matterhorn there's no pressure to move anywhere. And the fact it's got that lovely courtyard which the rain never seems to touch - it's an oasis in the middle of Cuba Mall.
I live in London but I grew up in the Caribbean. My father's Spanish but I've never really lived in Spain. I've been coming here since the end of 2002. I came first to create Milagros for the Royal New Zealand Ballet for the 50th celebration of the company and now I'm creating a piece for the 60th. I've been here for the company a good 10 times. I'm not saying I know the whole of New Zealand and am familiar with it, but Wellington I know inside out. And the Matterhorn.
Yes, there is good food to be had in London. London has changed radically since the mid-1980s, the Thatcher era. Then it was a very different country, disconnected from the rest of Europe. The influence of good European food hadn't arrived. When the UK became a more stable and established part of the European community, two hours from Paris or Brussels, those influences began taking over, very healthily, especially good food and drink.
In the 1980s it was incredibly hard to find a good cup of coffee in London. The coffee culture here is so strong. But in London a place called Bar Italia in Soho was about the only place. To get things like bagels and satay beef you had to go to the then slightly dangerous Brick Lane. Now with the arrival of very good chefs and European cuisine, and fusion cuisine from Asia there's been a reinvention of British food. You guys have gone very well throughout the years knowing it's best to use food that's locally produced. That philosophy has arrived in London so it's now taken for granted some of the best restaurants in the world are in London, if you can afford them. Now you can get a very good coffee, though there's Starbucks and all that stuff.
The balance is right at the Matterhorn, I think. It's incredibly relaxed but I know there is a mind behind the place for the music, the bar and the food to co-exist so organically. They have really great bar food, like bean dip and salt cod croquettes. They have great fish. All over New Zealand the produce is just so fresh. When you eat fish it does taste as if it is the catch of the day. I'm a fish aficionado.
There are myths around dancers and food, including that they don't eat well. I know how to watch what I eat. I've been on a constant diet since I was 40. I confront it in the mirror. The idea of looking good at 50 is not good enough. I want to look good, period, not just for 50. I stopped dancing actively at 39. Before that I never looked at what I ate. Performers burn a lot of calories.
I see that dancers have a healthy diet. It would be a crime not to eat well. The physical work is extraordinary and you have to eat well. The machine doesn't function if you don't eat well. What they give me in the studio [the dancers] is a product of good living. Dancing is not a sport but you have the body of an athlete and the mind of an artist. You have to have a lovely body that functions well and a bit of a bohemian brain that needs a level of connection and integration beyond what you need for competitive sport.
I arrived in New Zealand on January 6 and I'm going back on February 28 so I'm counting down the other way. I'm going back to do two West End plays back-to-back and then a new musical in the West End I've been sworn to secrecy about. AS TOLD TO DIANA DEKKER.
Javier De Frutos' ballet, Anatomy of a Passing Cloud, is part of the Royal New Zealand Ballet's Made to Move at the St James Theatre from February 27 to March 2.
Matterhorn, 106 Cuba St. Wellington. Phone: 384 3359 Hours: 3pm to late, Monday to Sunday
- The Dominion Post