Friday, August 29, 2014

Ask the Locals: Wilton Morley of Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 6:02 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Wilton Morley is the co-owner of Mad Dogs and Englishmen, a South Tampa pub and restaurant inspired by Morley’s native England, his theatrical roots and London in the swinging ’60s.

A 62-year-old Seminole Heights resident, Morley grew up in show business. He is the son of the late English actor Robert Morley, an Oscar-nominated character actor who perfected the art of comic bluster in a 60-year career on stage and screen. Wilton's grandmother, Gladys Cooper, was also an Oscar-nominated actress, remembered fondly as Mrs. Higgins to Rex Harrison's Henry in My Fair Lady.

As a 20-something, Morley staked out a career as a theatrical producer in Australia, where he cast the hotheaded, unknown Russell Crowe in one of his first theatrical roles. After living for a brief spell in Italy, Morley moved to Tampa, where he fell in love with the sun and easy living. In 1991, he opened his South MacDill watering hole with Rick Craig, a retired U.S. Marine colonel.

Favorite neighborhood restaurant: The Rooster & the Till. “I like the way it’s set up, with the chefs behind this long bar. They talk to you while you’re sitting there. It’s an interesting place to have in Seminole Heights.”

Favorite steamy nightclub: San Carlos Tavern. “It’s got a Havana kind of feel with fascinating salsa dancers. It’s a well-kept secret. You wouldn’t expect a salsa dancing nightclub next door to the Rooster & the Till.”

Favorite place to buy a tailored suit: Bespoke & Co. “Those of us at the bar call the owner [David Kahn] the Tailor of Panama. He’s the kind of guy who gets out a good bottle of wine when you walk in the door. It’s a very English business.”

Favorite regulars at Mad Dogs and Englishmen: Russell Crowe’s parents, Jocelyn and Alex Crowe. “They pop in whenever they come to Tampa. I gave Russell his first two jobs in theater when I was a producer in Australia and I’ve remained friends with his parents ever since.”

Favorite staycation destination: Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando. “Several nights a year my children and I will drive to Orlando to stay at the Portofino. We don’t do any of the theme parks. We just hang out at the Portofino and come back on Sunday. They love it.”

Favorite hidden park: Epps Park. “It’s right where I live and nobody ever goes there. Sometimes you’ll see people walking dogs in the morning, but mostly it just serves as the garden in front of my house. My son occasionally fishes there.”

Favorite theater venue: Straz Center for the Performing Arts. “I’ve gotten really lazy when it comes to theater. I usually take my kids to see the big Broadway musicals. They love that stuff. The last one we saw was Evita.”

Favorite breakfast haunt: Cook’s Kitchen. “They do a really good English breakfast. It’s run by Sally Cook, who used to cook for Fergie [Sarah, Duchess of York].”
 
Favorite wine and cheese bar: Cheese Please. “I’m very fond of cheese and in particular his cheese. The guy who owns it, Michael [Jones], calls everyone mama when they walk into the shop. He’s quite a character. He’s very high camp, which of course I like because I grew up in theater.”

Favorite Mad Dogs dish: Espresso rubbed New York Strip Steak. “It melts in your mouth. We get the meat from someone very good and I’m not saying who.”

Favorite summertime drink: Shandy. “I like to have a Harp beer with a little bit of lemonade in it. I’m not much of a drinker, so it takes the edge off. In England we call it a Shandy.”









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