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Taste Test:

June 8, 2012

Cool Rider

W Atlanta Downtown’s resident tastemaker weighs in on his high/low picks for travel, sips, rides, style and more

By Nancy Staab

  • Portrait and all Polo photography by Tim Redman

Pablo Henderson wears many hats including Brit expat, competitive Polo player, businessman, former nightclub impresario, and culture consigliere/marketing manager at the sleekly modern W Atlanta Downtown. So what does this bespoke bloke favor in his downtime? Read on for this Brit’s eclectic picks.

W Atlanta Downtown Marketing Manager/Polo Player Pablo Henderson at Atlanta Polo Club, Vinings W Atlanta Downtown Marketing Manager/Polo Player Pablo Henderson at Atlanta Polo Club, Vinings

London-born Pablo Henderson certainly cuts a dashing and cosmopolitan figure on the local business and social circuits.  The French-speaking, French Lycée graduate came to Atlanta via Emory University and has since made his name in the city with several upscale, marquee nightclubs (Goldfinger, Karma and The Mark). His last club venture, The Mark, had an over-the-top décor by Michael Hilerman (think: glossy custom wallpaper and designer chairs) and was often frequented by the likes of Lenny Kravitz, Christina Aguilera, Denzel Washington and Prince when in town. Now, you are more likely to find this married man and father of three on the polo field. Or if he is bellied up to the bar, it’s to consult on signature sips at DRINKSHOP (conceptualized by the NYC godfather of speakeasy-chic Sasha Petraske) within the gleaming tower of W Atlanta Downtown. (www.watlantadowntown.com)

As Marketing Manager of W Atlanta Downtown, Henderson has a sexy modernist den as his enviable professional playground. There’s the jaw-dropping infinity pool and WETBAR with views of the Atlanta skyline—host to poolside yoga sessions and late-night musician parties alike; a pampering Bliss Spa, a rooftop heli-pad for statement-making entrances and exits, DRINKSHOP—home of craft cocktails (no pre-canned mixers here, even the ice is hand-chipped) and intimate music acts; the decadent BLT Steak restaurant; a state-of-the-art gym with floor-to-ceiling city views; drool-worthy guest rooms; a playful, contemporary lobby lair; and, coming soon, an organic garden for seasonal treats.

It’s fitting that Henderson found his professional home at a hotel, given his wanderlust predilections. Henderson served in Guyana from 1991-1993 and Ethiopia from 1993-1994 for The Carter Center (where he still volunteers), and has traveled from China to Brazil in his downtime. Read on for this avid polo player’s other passions, including boxing, Paul Smith, cigar cutters, documentary films and the sartorial choices of Charlie Chaplin. Like we said, this chap has mad, or perhaps in the British parlance, daft style!

 

HENDERSON’S HIGH/LOW MUST-HAVES

 

Porsche 911 Targa Porsche 911 Targa

MODE OF TRANSPORTATION

High:

I still own the first car I ever bought, shortly after graduating from college in the mid-90’s–-a black 1971 Porsche 911 Targa, but I’ve always wanted to own a Land Rover Defender 90.

Low:

When I travel, I like to experience local modes of transportation to get a feel for the people and everyday life.

 

ACCESSORY

High:

A watch says a lot about a man. I’ve had many watches over the years but none that mean as much to me as my 15-year-old Omega Seamaster. I wear it every day and feel naked without it. I once had to pawn it for a loan when money was tight, so it also serves as a timely reminder of what hard times can look like.

Low:

I sometimes stick a cigar cutter in my suit in hopes that it might just be one of those days and on a few rare occasions it has been.

 

Shirt by Paul Smith Shirt by Paul Smith

FASHION LABEL

High:

I believe high fashion is costume and fantasy. I dream of living in a world or playing a role where I have to wear Valentino daily.

Low:

Paul Smith-- some of my most treasured possessions. I also hear that he is an amazing person. The San Francisco & Manhattan stores are like a taste of my own Notting Hill when I’m homesick.

 

 

FOOTWEAR

High:

I’ll probably never own a pair of shoes as expensive as my riding boots.  Although you can’t play Polo in anything other than brown riding boots, I just enjoy being transported to another world when I put them on.

Low:

I’ve always found the Espadrille fascinating. It’s interesting to see it becoming popular again but it’s never been out of fashion. Right Sonny Crockett?

 

NIGHTLIFE

High:

In some cases a recession can do wonders for a town’s nightlife but Atlanta has not found such inspiration, so I’ve basically dropped out and save such excursions for cities with more of a penchant for exuberance. Drai’s at W. Hollywood is a good example.

Low:

I’ve re-interpreted my personal definition of nightlife based on what I have access to and something more artistic has emerged from the darkness: Old Fourth Ward Lantern festival, Castleberry’s FLUX, Elliott Street’s Iron pour

 

Natalie Portman Natalie Portman

CELEB CRUSH

High:

Paul Newman: $300+ Million in charity donations, race car driver, film director, actor and entrepreneur.

Low:

Natalie Portman: because I’m a brains and beauty kind of guy…

 

SIP

High:

I don’t always drink liquor, but when I do, I prefer Grand Marnier. Neat in a shot glass as a shorty or in a Cognac snifter.

Low:

I lived in Guyana for some years and had the privilege of being offered “Cachiri”, an Ameridian drink made from the fermented spit of women in the village. I’ve always believed that the context makes the cocktail, not necessarily the contents.

  

Garmin 610 Forerunner Garmin 610 Forerunner

GADGET

High:

My Garmin 610 Forerunner is the ultimate gadget for the avid runner/athlete.Heart rate monitor, stopwatch and GPS on your wrist-- the Garmin downloads your workouts to the computer and provides average speed, distance and route data. An essential tool in my Marathon training.

Low:

Skype-- I don’t use it enough but the ability to see and speak with family on the other side of the world is technology that was once thought of as space-age and is now readily at our fingertips, for free.

 

SPORT

High: 

Obviously I’m obsessed with Polo, but the two main sports that I was exposed to in London were football and rugby.

“Football is a gentleman's game played by ruffians, and rugby is a ruffian's game played by gentlemen”. This speaks volumes about my upbringing in England.

Low:

Boxing’s rich history and the tales of triumph and tragedy have always appealed to me. I pursued an amateur boxing career at one point but my trainer warned me: “Too much heart and too little talent will get you killed Pablo,” so now I just enjoy watching the big fights.

 

Miller Harris Cologne Miller Harris Cologne

SCENT

High:

Scent is a very delicate thing to play with because it taps into the subconscious.  I do, however, have a bottle of Miller Harris that my brother bought me based off notes to compliment my personality traits. Scary.

Low:

Antonio Puig’s Agua Brava is a great budget scent and very masculine. And sometimes I like it when women wear men’s cologne.

 

 

MOVIE

Bob Marley Bob Marley

High:

I don’t normally buy movies, but I do own a few classics-- Chariots of Fire and Schindler’s List. Inspiring stories told beautifully.

Low:

My real passion is for documentaries.  I love the various forms of documentary storytelling--from Little Dieter Needs to Fly to the recent Marley.

 

 

WEBSITE

High:

LuxuryDaily.com combines two of my favorite things in one place- Luxury and Marketing.

Low:

Pinterest.com. I just like being able to curate my ideas visually in a quick, convenient and malleable way.

 

APP

High:

Starwood’s SPG App is by far the most comprehensive App in the realm of hospitality/loyalty/travel. I find myself using it for both work and pleasure and look forward to further innovations with the App.

Low:

Nike+ GPS. I run several times a week and usually with music playing so I love the integration of my various playlists with GPS tracking of my routes and ability to share on social media. Running is an individual sport that is very community-centric, so I really enjoy getting support from my fellow runners.

  

 

MUSIC

The Whigs The Whigs

High:

Sir Paul McCartney-- not even my favorite sound to listen to (Bob [Marley] is on most days) but because none of the artists today can even hope to have a career, a life and a brand like his.

Low:

Athens band The Whigs have really impressed me, but the thing about being married for over a decade is that your sound takes on elements of your “better half” so on the opposite side of the musical spectrum, I always try to catch an Amos Lee concert with my wife when he is in town.

 

MAGAZINE

High:

The St. Regis produces a magazine for hotel guests with lots of local content called BeSpoke.

Low:

Garden & Gun–-I love the Southern focus and the promise of things I’ll find in my own backyard.

 

 

BUSINESS IDOL

High:

Sir Richard Branson--he brings it all together with balance. I see a lot of people/brands try so hard but he makes it seem effortless.

Low:

Former President Jimmy Carter is my hero both in business and in life.He was so poor that he lived in public housing, taught himself how to make the family business successful by reading agriculture books at the library, became 39th President of the United States then devoted the rest of his life to helping others.

 

 

Prince Charles Prince Charles

STYLE IDOL

High:

Prince Charles is always impeccably dressed for any occasion. Probably the best tailored man in the world. A style that even the wealthiest men in the world are unable to replicate because it comes from hundreds of years of tradition and craftsmanship.

Low:

Charlie Chaplin. Off and on the screen.

 

 

HOTEL

High:

As a global brand, nobody does the luxury experiential hotel quite like W Hotels, always new and next.

Low:

As a child, my family would stop in Barcelona on the way to our holiday home in Menorca. The Colon Hotel, Barcelona, is where we would stay--often in the same room with a balcony facing the Gothic Quarter. Older small hotels like the Colon represent something special that is slowly being lost, from the warm scent of Catalan croissants to the genuine warmth of a returning “Bienvenidos,” little things make a big difference.

 

 

TRAVEL DESTINATIONS

Tokyo Tokyo

High:

I love to travel and the thrill of visiting new places is only closely followed by the return to places I wish to know even better. Buenos Aires, the Paris of South America, is at the top of my bucket list along with Tokyo. But China and Brazil are places I would like to explore some more.

Low:

I don’t know if I’ll live the rest of my life in the United States so while I’m here, I would like to become more familiar with Northern California and parts of Colorado. As for the East Coast, I once took a silent retreat in The Berkshires and long to return one day.

 

SHOP

High:

I’m not in a position to shop the way I once was accustomed to but I still enjoy the art of window shopping and no city does it like London:  Liberty, Habitat, Selfridges, Joseph and Harvey Nichols come to mind.

Low:

While many have focused on online sales, some retailers do the interior shopping experience exceptionally well: Anthropologie, Ralph Lauren and Faconnable, to name a few.

 

 

RESTAURANT

Langan's Brasserie, London Langan's Brasserie, London

High:

Some experiences can only be enjoyed during very brief and specific times in your life but they set the standard for the future. My father, a pianist, used to play at Langan’s Brasserie, London. On special occasions I would be invited to dine at the restaurant. At the time, Michael Caine, fabled restaurateur Peter Langan and celebrity chef Richard Sheperd owned the hot spot.  I felt like these guys were doing it long before those who’ve recently gained T.V. notoriety. David Hockney designed the menus…need I say more?

Low:

My dear friend Riccardo Ullio’s Fritti is near to home, a place that I can go alone or with the entire tribe and the quality is always superior yet affordable.  Best bread pudding in town – Budino di Pane.

 

DISH

High: 

Food for me is very nostalgic and while I’m always open to finding new old favorites. I’ve found that much of what I like most about a dish revolves around the place or the people.  Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern called Shark and Bake (a native, street food dish from Trinidad & Tobago) the best fish sandwich and I have to agree.

Low:

I seek out a good gastro-pub experience or cultural equivalent anywhere I travel, but when I do stumble upon a local public house, I look for mushy peas as an indicator of authenticity.

 

SWEET

High:

One of my favorite things to do is go to a top restaurant and just order desert…several.  One most recent and particularly decadent visit was to ONE. Midtown Kitchen.

Low:

A traditional French desert my mother makes but I’m fortunate to find in the strangest of places is Trader Joe’s Clafoutis. Unfortunately, it isn’t prepared Limousin style with the cherry pits included.

 

 

Graycliff Purple Label Cigars Graycliff Purple Label Cigars

GUILTY PLEASURE

High:

I love a good cigar, but my wife disapproves, so the term “guilty pleasure” is very apropos. If I don’t cover my tracks completely, my wife will smell it from a mile away.  Cigar of choice: Graycliff Purple label (but they can be hard to find without planning ahead).

Low:

A quick stop at Paolo’s Gelato for a few pieces of Marzipan can turn around even the worst of days.

 

MUSEUM

High: 

As a child, I would skip school and spend the day at the Natural History Museum across the street.I’ve always loved the building itself. The type of structure you could never replicate today. I think it was there that I first met Darwin.

Low:

I love modern art museums, as should anybody with even the mildest interest in design, branding and pop culture. The Tate Modern is by far the most impressive but the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, New York’s MoMA and the Museum of Design Atlanta are all favorites.

 

 

DESIGNERS OR ARTISTS

Artist Greg Mike Artist Greg Mike

High:

Tricia Guild is a longtime friend of our family and somebody I’ve always admired for her entrepreneurship, generosity and  uncompromising style.

Low:

Greg Mike is a local artist I’ve seen evolve over the years and I’m excited to see where his artistic journey takes him.

 

LUXURY

High:

I love a good deli hamper. The deli hamper from London’s Harrods is like having the world brought to your fingertips. Zabar’s in New York also gives me that same feeling.

Low:

Farmer’s Markets--eating good, locally grown or produced, healthy food has unfortunately become a luxury. The Grant Park Farmer’s Market is one of my favorites, every city has an equivalent worth seeking out.

 

CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT

If I’m away from home, I always have photos of my wife and three children with me. Can’t live without them.

 

A pensive Pablo before a Polo game. A pensive Pablo before a Polo game.