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A life in architecture

Stephen Bull

A truffle risotto served up in a crumbling Italian palazzo brought about restaurateur Stephen Bull's gastronomic epiphany. He was 27 at the time and working in advertising. At Oxford he had been among the first intake of students at Arne Jacobsen's St Catherine's College, Oxford - a building he could never warm to.

Bull's London restaurants are known for their spare interiors as well as for their high standard of cooking. Designer Peter Collins set the tone with the first London Stephen Bull in Blandford Street. The Clerkenwell restaurant in St John Street - Bull's favourite because of its informality - was designed by Allies and Morrison, and Virgile and Stone has done the latest in St Martin's Lane. Bull admires its Mezzanine Restaurant at the National Theatre - the only part of the South Bank complex he approves of, Terry Farrell's Embankment Place across the river (pictured) being far more to his liking.

At heart, Bull is an Arts and Crafts man. He admires the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, designed by Maurice B Adams and completed in 1898. But he reserves his warmest praise for Royal Holloway College in Egham (1886). The architect William Crossland took the Chateau at Chambord as his model and Bull relishes the result, a riotous confection of ornamentation for the sake of it - the architectural equivalent of that aromatic truffle risotto.

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