Feb 12, 2016

February News

A new era for Private Dining venue Bluebird

James Durrant has been appointed as executive head chef at Bluebird Chelsea, after he closed the Plough Inn in Hampshire towards the end of last year. Durrant held his final lunch service on Christmas Ev. The former Acorn winner and 2014 Great British Menu main course winner has been working in the hospitality industry for 18 years, having been a protégé of Gordon Ramsay and the executive chef of Jason Atherton’s Maze and Maze Grill. A Michelin Bib Gourmand and two AA rosettes later, Durrant’s move to Bluebird involves the redevelopment of the restaurant overall and is described to be “a new era for Bluebird.” David Loewi, managing director of D&D, said: “I am thrilled to welcome James Durrant. His pedigree and wealth of experience will be a great addition to Bluebird, one of D&D’s most iconic venues.” Bluebird comprises a restaurant, bar, café and courtyard, food store, wine cellar, bakery and four private dining rooms.

Jurassic Plan

The coastline of East Devon is set to be the latest fine dining hotspot outside of the Capital, with a multimillion pound project in place to create mass tourist attention, similar to the rival neighbour towns that lie further along the Jurassic Coast. Namely taking place in Seaton, the town is undergoing a £60m regeneration programme. Aside from the residential, leisure and shopping development plans, the target is very much to create a high-end dining experience in the region, in an elevated restaurant that makes the most of the stunning Jurassic coastline, with an outdoor dining terrace.

Master Restaurateur

Master Sommelier Xavier Rousset has revealed that he is to open a 40-seat casual Mediterranean restaurant located near New Bond Street with a “highly professional and passionate team”. The co-founder of Texture and 28°-50°, who left the businesses he created with chef Agnar Sverrisson to pursue other projects last May, said the restaurant would have an emphasis on ingredients and be “simple” in its format. “Of course, we will be bringing great wines to suit all budgets. The wine list is going to be dynamic and interactive – I am aiming at being a bridge between winemakers and our customers.” Said Rousset, who became the youngest Master ​Sommelier in the world when he passed the exam aged 23. The restaurant industry was shocked by news of Rousset’s departure last spring from the 28°-50° and Texture venues having made a huge contribution to the success of the business whilst there.

200 worth £8k

A south London restaurant has been ordered to pay out £8,000 after more than 200 people who went to a party there fell ill. Spiceland, Croydon was accused of ignoring basic food safety practices after the organisers of a religious event that took place there contacted the environmental health department around Christmastime 2014. Inspectors then visited the restaurant several days after the party and found failings in the standards required by a food business, such as dirty kitchen walls, floor and ceiling and kitchen staff who were “ignorant of basic food safety practices”, handling food without washing their hands. In addition, the freezer was overstocked and food spillages were found all over the walk-in fridge. The restaurant was served with two hygiene improvement notices and six out of 10 food samples and surface swabs were found to be unsatisfactory. A further inspection in January 2015 found that while some improvements had been made, the restaurant continued to fall short of compliance. Ten fines of £300 were issued for the company and another 10 for Premanathan – along with costs of £1,880 and a victim surcharge of £120.

Veggie option

The vegetarian restaurant group Bistro 1847 is to expand following the recent opening of its two latest sites in Bristol and Brighton. Founder and owner Damien Davenport confirms that he hopes to open up to 10 sites within the next 18 months, and would begin looking for new locations once the current group of four sites had been “consolidated”. Considering opening in central London, former Londoner Davenport said that as well as looking at other major towns across the UK, including Liverpool and Bath, he also has been close to opening in Edinburgh – but the deal fell through thanks to a planning issue. The winter menu offers options such as roasted butternut squash with whipped feta and pumpkin seeds; caramelised cauliflower with harissa yogurt; “fish” and chips, with ginger ale battered halloumi cheese with triple-cooked chips; leek and bulgur-stuffed mushrooms with braised red cabbage; and spicy puy lentil sausage, with turnip and sage mash and red onion gravy. Each site also offers regular tasting menus featuring local ingredients and region-specific produce. The new spring menu, set to be introduced after Easter, will be much more along the lines of Yotam Ottolenghi-inspired salad dishes. Davenport insists that the brand is not just aimed at vegetarians, but was designed to appeal to meat-eaters as well, in response to the recent trend for what he called “dirty, heart-attack food”. He said: “We’ve got a reputation for good food, and the fact that it’s vegetarian is a side thing. We try to do something a bit different, change our menus regularly and use a lot of very local suppliers.”

Dog’s dinner

It might sound a little unconventional, but in the name of charity this Valentine’s Day the Dog’s Trust is opening a pop-up site for dogs and their owners, in collaboration with hot dog and Champagne group Bubbledogs. MicroChippy, set to open on February 13 and 14 at the now-closed Printworks Kitchen in London’s Clerkenwell, will offer owners a normal hot dog (not an actual warm canine) from the usual Bubbledogs menu, while their doggy date will receive a specially-created, canine-adapted hot dog. Owners’ hot dogs will be served with tater tots (fried chipped potatoes), along with a glass of Champagne – although dogs will sadly not be able to get their paws on any fizz. Sarah Graham, of the Dogs’ Trust, said: “our dogs are part of the family – they are our loved ones too. This is a fun way of supporting the Trust while treating your pet and showing them how much you love them on Valentine’s Day.”

Just shy of it’s 150th birthday…

Kettner’s, Soho has closed its doors after 149 years in business.The move came after Soho House & Co acquired the site along with a block of Georgian townhouses. A restaurant – to be called Kettner’s Townhouse – is expected to open on the site the year after next. In addition to the restaurant, a Champagne bar and 28 new bedrooms, all of which will be fully open to the public, will be created. The buildings will be restored and original features re-instated, alongside the addition of a new pavilion in the internal yard. The redevelopment of Kettner’s is taking place alongside a wider refurbishment of other Soho House properties, including Soho House Greek Street, Cafe Boheme and Soho Kitchen & Bar.

One star failure

The Strand Dining Rooms, in London’s Trafalgar Square, has closed. The all-day restaurant, owned by Mark Harris, opened in 2014 to a single star review from the Telegraph and terribly bad press. In 2015, Mark Sergeant was named chef director of the venue in a bid to turn around its reputation, launching a new menu last spring. But, click onto the venue’s website now and you’ll be met with the following notice: “It is with deepest regret we move into the New Year and announce that we have served our last meal and closed our doors at the Strand Dining Room. It has been an amazing journey over the last 2 years, we have met some wonderful guests and had the opportunity to celebrate birthdays, throw office parties, witness business deals struck over breakfast, raise glasses to successes and downed cocktails in commiseration with people we now call friends, however it is now time to say goodbye and move on to the next chapter. We would like to thank all of our guest but especially our regulars and neighbours who have supported us throughout our tenure and made working at The Strand Dining Rooms so rewarding. We wish you all the very best.”

Cold community

Residents in sheltered housing blocks in Mayfair are preparing to oppose Ruth Rogers’ plans to open a sister restaurant to her River Cafe in their “special enclave”. Rogers hoped to open the Italian restaurant on Grosvenor Hill next year, but the locals are concerned by late-night noise and disruption. Meetings between residents and property company Grosvenor have failed to settle disputes over the development. Locals are fretting about the negative impact of a large seven-day-a-week restaurant, close to where their bedrooms are, and of developing retail operations. It would seem that Grosvenor have not been mindful of the fact that the residential community there ncludes a number of disabled and vulnerable people. A full application for the restaurant is expected to be made with Westminster Council later this year.

Beefing up

Whitbread is to launch a new high street restaurant concept, based on its Beefeater brand. The first Beefeater Bar + Block will open in Birmingham city centre this March, with plans for other city centre sites to follow. The 173-cover site will feature a central bar with copper detailing and a large open kitchen. It will serve an all-day menu with a focus on steaks cut to order including a dish called ‘our butchers block’ which will showcase a range of the restaurant’s best meat. David Murdin, chief operating officer of brand developments for Whitbread Restaurants, said: “Launching Beefeater Bar + Block in Birmingham is not only exciting for us but a fantastic opportunity for people to experience the quality of our food in a unique, edgier and more contemporary environment. We’ve taken the very best of Beefeater’s values and reinterpreted them to appeal to a younger crowd, right in the heart of a busy city centre location.”

Time to liquidate

The boss of a Newcastle restaurant company has been banned from acting as a director for seven years for allowing her company to employ illegal workers. Newcastle County Court disqualified Guat Gor Goh, a director of Golden Paragon Ltd from 24 February 2011 to 17 September 2013. She was found on 9 May 2013 to be employing three workers who were not eligible to work in the UK while she was a director. Neither Goh nor any counsel appointed on her behalf attended the hearing in the proceedings. The order bans Ms Goh from acting as a company director or from managing or in any way controlling a limited company until 2023.


London-based jazz-and-barbecue group the Blues Kitchen and street-food inspired brand Pizza Pilgrims have teamed up this month and through to March to create a new ‘guest’ pizza and burger. The collaboration sees the groups developing a new burger for February and a new pizza for March, with each dish inspired by the other’s culinary style. Pizza Pilgrims have developed a new £15 pizza-style burger to be sold across the Blues Kitchen’s Shoreditch, Brixton and Camden sites, containing a dry-aged Angus and Shorthorn steak patty, Parmigiano Reggiano, smoked buffalo mozzarella, melted n’duja sausage from Calabria, fresh basil, and San Marzano tomato ketchup, topped with a truffle mac’n’cheese arancini. It will be named “the Pilgrim”, thanks to the culinary journey it will aim to take diners on. Next month, the Blues Kitchen will then create a “guest pizza” – with the finer details yet to be revealed ‒ that will be served at Pizza Pigrims’ restaurants on Dean Street, Kingly Street, and the newly-opened Exmouth Market.

Greene Glass

Greene King has been forced to apologise after a diner at a London pub claimed to have found a large piece of glass in her burger whilst dining there. Lauren Lunn Farrow has described how she visited the Merchant pub in Battersea – operated by Greene King under the Metropolitan Pub Company brand ‒ and cut into her burger only to find a shard of glass in her meal. She took a photo of the glass and said she had subsequently complained to the pub management, who reportedly gave her the meal for free, plus some free drinks. In a statement, a spokesperson for parent company Greene King said: “Food safety is our top priority and we apologise unreservedly for this completely unacceptable and isolated lapse in our usually very high standards. As soon as this was brought to our attention we launched a full investigation into how this could have happened and have already taken appropriate action to ensure something like this never happens again.” Despite this, Farrow said she had found the incident “traumatic”, had not been happy with the pub’s response to the situation at the time, and claimed that she “could have cut my throat open!”

Spaghetti Bologna

Italian restaurateur Antonio Chiodo is to open his first UK venture in London. Chiodo, who runs two restaurants in Bologna, Italy, will open Al Matarello in Aldgate which will offer authentic Italian food inspired by the Bologna region. A spokesman has said: “This is a great location to start in the city, being close to Aldgate Station and the wealth of commercial office buildings the area has to offer. Furthermore, there is extensive development being conducted just across the road, where it is said that a new hotel is to be built; all of which makes this site ideal for this new and exciting venture.”

D&D; F&C

Restaurant group D&D is relaunching its fish and chips pop-up, named the Notting Gill Chippy, at its Kensington Place site next month. This will happen on 3 March following its successful stint last summer. Located adjacent to the main restaurant on Kensington Church Street, Notting Gill Chippy will offer interpretations of British classics from chef Tim Peirson, alongside traditional fish and chips dishes. This year Peirson will introduce new dishes such as mackerel sliders, sweet chilli Crème fraîche with sweet and sour slaw; salt and pepper squid with soy and ginger dressing; smoked bacon and apple scotch egg and king prawn scampi (classic with tartar sauce or curried with mango chutney). The menu will also include pineapple fritters served with vanilla ice-cream for dessert. There will also be classic fish and chips with tartar sauce and mushy peas and curried spiced batter fish and chips with mango chutney and a side of lentil dahl. The Chippy will be open Tuesday to Saturday for two months serving lunch and dinner.