It seems apt that Rolf Heiniger discovered there was a vacancy at Gaddi's while browsing through antiques along Hollywood Road. Thirty years later, his knowledge of the history of upper-crust Hong Kong is as strong as his passion for Chinese antiques. Anyone who has heard of Gaddi's, the jewel of The Peninsula's crown, has heard of Mr Heiniger - and even though the restaurant was there long before he was, the two names have become inextricably entwined. In the British Empire's heyday, the restaurant was famed in the upper echelons of British and European society as the 'best French restaurant east of the Suez'. Even today, despite the hotel's multi-million dollar face-lifts and invasions by modernist interior designers, Gaddi's remains formal, gracious and timeless - a bit like Mr Heiniger, really. 'Gaddi's is my wife,' he says, not entirely in jest, of the elegant dining room which has played a central role in his life since the day he crossed its threshold as maitre d'hotel on September 15, 1966. 'I was working as chief steward on cruise liners at the time,' he recalls. 'I had travelled extensively all over the world, yet was constantly drawn to Hong Kong. On this particular visit, I bumped into a Swiss lady in an antique shop who lived here, and I asked if she knew any hotel managers as I would love to work in Hong Kong. 'She smiled and told me her husband was general manager of The Peninsula, and that there was a vacancy at Gaddi's. The rest, as they say, is history.' When he took over the reins, the restaurant was being overshadowed by the Marco Polo restaurant, situated in an extension of The Peninsula. However, it did not take long for Heiniger to rebuild Gaddi's reputation, which soon had the Hong Kong - and international - elite flocking, just as they had a generation before. 'Gaddi's has just got better and better over the past 30 years,' he declares, waving the half-moon spectacles which either perch on the end of his nose or are constantly to hand when making his menu recommendations to diners. He admits a maitre d's relationship with his chef is paramount to the success of any restaurant; with Julian Bompard, Gaddi's chef of 14 months, he has found a soulmate, 'the best chef I have ever worked with'. 'We complement each other and work together excellently, it is a wonderful partnership.' Over the years, Mr Heiniger has become host, adviser and friend to his guests. He has memorised the favourite dishes of hundreds of guests, their favoured tables and choice of wine. 'They will say the main thing which has really changed over the last 30 years is the cuisine,' he says. 'The menu now is more health-conscious, with less heavy creams and sauces which is what diners want.' The skill with which he works the tables, a word here, a gesture and a joke there, makes one wonder why he has not opened his own restaurant. 'No, never,' he says firmly. 'With your own restaurant you get caught up in the mundane day-to-day running and administration. My place is out here, at the front of the restaurant. I am not one for sitting still and I will get bored if I am taken away from all this.' Working in the five-star hotel industry also has its benefits. Heiniger has made friends all over the world, which enables him to travel every September, taking in numerous countries, countless cities and, of course, hundreds of restaurants. 'It is good to go and check out the competition, but everywhere I go, when I return I realise there is nowhere quite like Gaddi's,' he says. There certainly are not many with a wine list to match Gaddi's. It features hundreds of labels, and Mr Heiniger knows the characteristics of them all. 'That is an important part of my job,' he says. 'It is a pity the tax on wine is so great and so many of the wines are very expensive.' This seems a minor problem to many of Heiniger's regulars, however. He admits he regularly sells bottles of Chateau Petrus at $58,000 a bottle, the most expensive on the wine list. Mr Heiniger will still be away in Europe when the day of his anniversary dawns on Sunday. 'It will be a poignant day for me but I really do want my anniversary to be low key, I really don't want any fuss,' he says. The Peninsula has other ideas: a dinner and cocktail party are planned for his return and staff are sure he will enjoy every minute. 'He says he doesn't want any fuss, but I think he would be very disappointed if we didn't take a blind bit of notice of him,' a member of the hotel management says. As for retirement, will the 30-year anniversary herald a new phase in the life of the man known as 'Mr Gaddi's'? 'Of course I will retire some day, but that day is not yet,' he says. 'For the moment, I am having far too much of a good time.'