The villa matchmaker: Nick Cookson of Villa Collective

Dominic Jeffares

6 February 2020

With the demand for holiday villas quite literally through the roof, Villa Collective's Nick Cookson has a lot to smile about. The travel impresariodiscusses his favourite haunts, the perfect London day and where Harry and Meghan should book for their next getaway

6 February 2020 | Dominic Jeffares

What are the 3 most important things to look for when booking a private villa? 

  1. Good mattresses, pillows and linen - you can have the best villa in the world but what's the point if you can't sleep well?
  2. Bathrooms. we all know photos can be misleading, so if you don't know or trust your agent then bathrooms photos are often a giveaway. If the bathroom fittings are old, the rest of the house is likely rundown too.
  3. Privacy. The main reason for booking a villa holiday over a hotel is privacy so the last thing you want to find out is that the pool is overlooked by a neighbouring house. Always ask the agent, and Google maps satellite view can be a useful tool.
Villa Cetinale, Tuscany, Italy
Les Mas de Chabran, Baux de Provence, France

You have to live in one country for the rest of your life. Where do you choose and why?

I'm afraid I'm going to cheat here and say summers in Greece and winters in the UK. The Mediterranean is the most beautiful place the world for half the year, but it's not built for rain as the UK is. Greece wins because it's best for the sea, and I love the sea.

Masseria Olivo, Puglia, Italy

Describe your idea of a perfect Saturday in London.

Run the river loop between Barnes and Putney bridges on a sunny winters day, breakfast and juice at Whole Foods. Home for a shower and catch up on current affairs with The Week. Lunch at Frantorio followed by a trip to Stamford Bridge to watch Chelsea win convincingly.  Make a client happy by booking them the perfect villa.  A good movie and an early night. 

What are the material possessions you can’t do without? 

Phone (can anyone?), CQP trainers, portable dual screen for my laptop when travelling.

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Have you ever had any outrageous requests from customers?   

A client once requested a burger from a particular restaurant chain in London. We hired one of the chefs to fly out for an evening to make burgers.

Three luxury brands you love and why?  

Aston Martin, because they are the most elegant of sports cars aren't they? 
Victorinox shoulder bag for work trips. They are very well designed and practical – the Swiss Army pocket knife of bags! 
Love Brand swimming trunks, which was set up by an old school friend. They have the best prints. 

How do you let loose in London? 

Pubs are so quintessentially British and I love them.  Some beers in Lore of the Land in Fitzrovia with friends followed by an evening at 5 Hertford Street.

Lore of the Land, Fitzrovia

Your go-to restaurant in London? 

My good friend Francois O'neil is launching Maison Francois in St James this May. It's the third restaurant he's been involved in with the last being Casa Cruz in Holland Park. My restaurant preferences tend to follow him.

Casa Cruz, Notting Hill

Worst things about being a Londoner and the best? 

Worst: The weather, the traffic and the tube at rush hour. Best: the diversity, pub culture and our sense of humour.

Your last extravagant purchase? 

I upgraded my much loved Golf GTI Mark 5 for a BMW 235i.  Two great London cars.

Which villa would you recommend Meghan and Harry to hide out in? 

Masseria Olivo in Italy. With six housekeepers, two chefs, two gardeners and 24-hour concierge assistance, they shouldn't be missing palace life too much.

Masseria Olivo, Puglia, Italy
Masseria Olivo, Puglia, Italy

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