A NIGHT AT OPIUM is far beyond the average punter's wildest dreams. With a GBP45 (HK$576) entry fee and menu prices to match, the sumptuous London club which opened in 2000 is a magnet for the glitterati. Big names attracted include Hollywood heart-throb George Clooney, who adores the lobster. Others hooked on the food and feel range from Kate Moss, Jade Jagger and Stella McCartney to Joaquin Phoenix, Billy Zane and the French chill-out maestros, Air. Opium belongs to the Breakfast Group, which, according to its visionary Kowloon-born owner Eric Yu, is the biggest independent 'bar/club' company in London. Under the group's umbrella, there are 10 establishments mainly, like Opium and the design-award-winning Saint, scattered around Soho. 'I would love to do something in Hong Kong some day,' Yu declares, seated in a corner of Opium. 'I still regard Hong Kong as my spiritual home and my birthplace. However, I do think I know the market in England, and London in particular, much better than I know the market in Hong Kong.' He then reveals his next venture will be, of all things, a tapas bar - but not the standard bright and basic type. The name Yu has dreamed up, Salvador and Amanda, says it all, alluding to the bizarre liaison between Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali and Amanda Lear, the Hong Kong-born transsexual disco diva. Scheduled to open in June this year off London's Shaftesbury Avenue, near Chinatown, Yu's brainchild will, he promises, have a 'funky' interior. 'Theatre is always important,' Yu says. Opium is meant to resemble a Vietnamese opium den: the club boasts bespoke French furniture, ornate wooden screens, velvet swathes and a drinks menu that includes 1964 Dom Perignon at GBP625 a bottle. Yu settles for water. Unlike some of his clients who sport gold-shot pure silk tunics or knickerbockers, he cuts a discreetly chic figure in his tailored suit. Quietly candid, he talks about the night's weekly event: tarot readings given by fortune-tellers who are already trickling into the den. Yu mentions he has talked to the mystics before about how his birth year, the year of the pig, might have shaped him. What they say seems plausible, he says. 'But then the funny thing is, if you actually read all the other signs and what they are like, you could actually fit under any of them. Which means it's a con.' He adds that he is speaking from the perspective of a chartered accountant. 'So everything is kind of black and white. There is no afterlife, you know.' Nor is there any truth in karma, the notion of cosmic justice, according to Yu. Portraying karma as nothing more than wishful thinking, he casts doubt on whether or not villains ever get their comeuppance. A couple of years ago, Yu recalls, he was sitting in the Opium office and someone announced maverick French footballer turned actor Eric Cantona had entered. 'Now,' Yu says, 'for a Manchester United supporter, that's like Jesus Christ walking into your house, and it was just the most phenomenal thing. So I dashed out to make sure that Eric was looked after.' When Eric met Eric, for once the entrepreneur was 'absolutely speechless'. The conversation must have been stilted because Cantona proved a man of few words but 'very, very charming' on his first visit. The Frenchman, however, apparently showed his other side on a subsequent visit when he allegedly 'went berserk' after a customer took his picture. Yu, who does not tolerate celebrities queue-jumping, frowns. He has plenty more to say on the incident, which apparently deeply offended his sense of propriety. His watchword is discipline, which he sees as the secret of his success. It must help, too, that he is so approachable. 'I get on well with anybody really,' he says. 'I find if your mind is open enough you can actually find common ground with most people.' Yu found it easily with Clooney, whom he describes as 'a lovely, lovely guy, very, very pleasant, and he came out with the classic line which I thought was quite amusing. He said: 'Eric, next time you're on Palm Beach come and look me up.'' He smiles, peering down through his spectacles. 'And I kind of go, 'Yeah, I will George - I am always on Palm Beach, aren't I?' ' Yu avoids going out of his way to hobnob with stars because mixing business with pleasure is a 'slippery path'. Married with two young children, Olivia and Tamara ('my little angels'), Yu keeps the glamour surrounding his work in perspective. 'Having had everyone from Robert De Niro to Donatella Versace to U2 to David Bowie to Mick Jagger to Pete Townshend go through your place - it's a bit difficult then for anyone to walk in and you go, 'Oh my god, fantastic'.' The Breakfast Group (so-called because of the time at which work winds up) is the biggest independent 'bar/club' company in London, Yu claims. Under the group's umbrella there are 10 establishments mainly, like Opium, scattered around Soho. A takeover bid comes about every 18 months but he resists all entreaties since he cannot imagine spending the rest of his life 'pottering around the garden, growing tomatoes and sitting by the fireplace all day'. Also, he enjoys running the company. It suits him that, unlike in the case of apublic limited company, there is no pressure to expand relentlessly at all costs. This means he can always choose whether to spend more time at the golf club (handicap 18) or try to increase The Breakfast Group's annual turnover of GBP15 million. Not bad for a man whose upbringing was by no means privileged. To better his children's educational prospects, Yu's father took the family from Hong Kong to England in 1966 - when Yu was three years old - and opened a Chinese restaurant east of London in Essex. After graduating with a degree in economics and accountancy from Leeds University, Yu trained and qualified as a chartered accountant with KPMG Peat Marwick. But accountancy proved too dull for Yu who loves art and the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. It was also too poorly paid. Encouraged by his father's advice that nobody ever made money by working for someone else, in 1991 he and a property magnate friend, Cornelius O'Donovan, teamed up to form The Breakfast Group. They began by taking on a struggling central London sandwich bar with a late-night basement attached. The sandwich bar, Arnie's, was thriving, but the basement bar was losing money, largely thanks to the Saturday salsa night. Salsa aficionados are, Yu reveals, generally poor, and reluctant to pay an entry fee or buy alcohol. Instead, they go to the toilets to drink tap water. He scrapped the salsa night and introduced a new sound system belting out house music. Villa Stefano was born. Next he launched Bar Rumba. One of London's most popular clubs, it offers a different vibe every night: dark drum'n'bass sounds on Thursday, R'n'B on Sunday, deep jazz on Monday and so on. Yu puts Bar Rumba's success down to a mix of credibility and accessibility, its cachet both with trendies and the masses from Essex. Throughout his career as an entrepreneur, Yu has averaged one club a year. On whether there was ever a moment when he doubted he could maintain the pace, he says: 'Hmmm.' Over the past couple of years, the novelty of opening new clubs has worn off, he admits with a weary laugh. But he adds that he combats disenchantment by striking out - always trying to create a distinctive, original look. However Salvador and Amanda takes shape, Yu looks likely to remain in good financial health. 'I mean you know it's never been easy,' he says, 'but all you've got to do is make sure that somebody goes along, opens the door, turns on the lights and turns the tills on, and then at the end of the day you count up all the money.'