London on top
London restaurants serving British-style cuisine, including Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and Fera at Claridge’s, have topped OpenTable’s 100 best UK restaurants list for 2015 – with all 10 of the top spots are taken up by London venues. The Ledbury, head chef Brett Graham’s site in Notting Hill, scooped the overall top spot, while the other restaurants in the top 10 included Restaurant Story, the Typing Room, Clos Maggiore, the Greenhouse, the French Table and the Savoy’s afternoon tea. The overall list is generated from more than 480,000 reviews from OpenTable diners in the past year, and all restaurants with a minimum qualifying number of reviews were considered. Criteria were considered according to the restaurants’ relative ratings compared with others in the same area, and the average number of reviews received. Mike Xenakis, managing director of OpenTable International, commented: “As this year’s results show, London continues to reign as the foodie capital.”
The River Café, responsible for training up the likes of Jamie Oliver and Theo Randall, has finally got a spin-off. 30 years after its opening in 1987, 2017 will see owner and chef Ruth Rogers open a sister restaurant near Berkeley Square. A prime example of quality over quantity – but now with extra quantity.
Monica at the Gherkin
MasterChef: The Professionals judge Monica Galetti has teamed up with Searcys to create a special limited edition menu for its restaurant at the Gherkin building in the City of London. Galetti’s set lunch and dinner menus will be available on limited dates during January and February 2016 to launch her first solo venture which will open next Autumn. An inspiring place for a private members’ club and restaurant, the seasonal menu includes starters such as black curry scallops, main dishes of short rib of beef and pumpkin tart, and Guinness and ginger float for dessert.
Double the private dining
Sartoria has reopened with Italian chef Francesco as chef-patron. The restaurant closed its doors on 31 August for the revamp, which saw the addition of a new bar and cicchetti counter and two private dining rooms. Also introduced was a 250-bin wine cellar where sommelier Michael Simms will host dinners and wine tastings. Sample dishes include eggs purgatorio (baked eggs, spicy tomato and n’duja sauce with crostoni) on the breakfast menu, and astice sibaryta (warm lobster salad ‘sybarita’ style), baccalá marinato alla liquirizia (home-cured baccalá marinated in liquorice), spaghetti carbonara with truffle and nodino di maiale (pork chop) with coco beans, chard and n’duja, on the lunch and dinner menus. The redesign was by David d’Almada, who took inspiration from Sartoria’s Italian heritage and its location on Savile Row.
Theatrical and a straight out of a Bond movie – two of the ways Park Chinois has been described by reviewer Joe Lutrarion of the new Mayfair restaurant, which opened this month. Very much like an old school Chinese dinner/dance venue, this place happens also to be luxuriant, decadent and exhilarating, with its live music and Asian menu – duck de chine, caviar, coconut king crab, seas urchin scampi. It’s expensive though – one person alone looks to be forking out £60 minimum – but an experience like this is branded by hedonism anyway.
French artisan patisserie boulangerie brand Orée is set to make its London debut after it signed a 10-year lease on a site in Fulham. A working bakery will form part of the ground floor design so that customers in the 38-cover internal seating area can see it in action. An all day menu will be available. Laurent d’Orey, founder of Orée Boulangeries, said: “Of the many options available to us, Chelsea was the most exciting and we are thrilled to be moving into a prestigious and established location on Fulham Road.”
David Atcherley-Symes, retail leasing director for the London portfolio at Land Securities London has said of new London development “Nova”: “Earlier this year we announced restaurants from the likes of Jason Atherton, D&D London, Bone Daddies and Will Ricker would be coming to Nova, and now we’ve got another fantastic line up to join these chefs. Coming to London in 2016, the 18 eateries at Nova will offer a huge variety of cuisines and food concepts, making it a one stop destination for food lovers. We look forward to announcing the final brands to be taking space at Nova in the New Year.” Kaela Fenn-Smith, head of commercial, London portfolio at Land Securities London added: “Our decade-long transformation of Victoria will culminate in the arrival of Nova next year. One of our priorities over the past five years has been to change what is happening at street level in a way that enables businesses and residents to get excited about being in Victoria. We are now seeing that become a reality with a truly diverse mix of quality food operators committing to Nova and other parts of Victoria. We can proudly say that our restaurant and food amenities now rival the West End and have made Victoria a credible and vibrant place to do business.”
The team behind London’s premier American restaurant The Lockhart in Marylebone have recently opened their second site, SHOTGUN, on Kingly Street in Soho, led by Mississippi-born chef Brad McDonald, bringing his authentic approach to barbecue alongside a cocktail lounge and celebrating the rich cultural heritage of the Southern States of America to Carnaby. The structure is long with a narrow frontage that gives a straight ‘shot’ from one end of the house to the other with charcoal stained wood panelling and sumptuous leather feature throughout the ground floor and lower floor restaurant with open kitchen and a semi-private dining room. The cocktail list, which has been compiled by Matt Whiley aka The Talented Mr Fox, breaks down into four categories – Brown Liquor, Punch, Absinthe and White Liquor – with an emphasis on the ‘ritual’ of the punch bowl. There will be a mix of classics and signature drinks alongside the punches, one of which uses an old recipe for rice wine from Carolina.
Azzurri Group, the company behind Ask Italian and Zizzi, has reported a 6.6% rise in sales to £217.7m for the 12 months to 28 June 2015. Azzurri saw a boost to business as a result of the launch of seven new restaurants and the refurbishment of 35 existing sites, with both the Ask and Zizzi estates undergoing revamps in recent years. The brands reported a strong increase in sales and profits at the start of the year and aims to open around 15 new restaurants each year, with expansion beyond Britain already in the pipeline. Sites for Ask have been acquired in Dublin and Belfast and Holmes said he believes it could have between 10 and 20 restaurants in Northern Ireland and the Republic in the next five years. These restaurants are higher-spec high street options that often feature exclusive private dining room options.
Venice, Veneto, London, Leeds
Venetian-inspired group Polpo is to open two sites with high-end department store Harvey Nichols early next year, in London and Leeds. Polpo Leeds will open on the fourth floor of the city’s Harvey Nichols store on Briggate. It will be the brand’s second site outside the capital, after Brighton. The new London outlet is expected to open on the fifth floor of the Knightsbridge branch of Harvey Nichols. The sites will be the eighth and ninth openings for the Polpo brand, which also has sites in Soho, Chelsea, Covent Garden, Notting Hill, Smithfield and the Ape & Bird pub near Seven Dials. In the same style as previous Polpo sites, the new interiors will take inspiration from rustic back-street bacaro bars in Venice, and the menu will focus on similarly-inspired small plates with dishes from the region of Veneto, and drinks such as Aperol or Campari spritz, Prosecco, bellinis and negronis.
Burger chain Honest Burgers is to open its 12th restaurant in London, after securing a site in Covent Garden. Founded by Dorian Waite, Tom Barton and Phil Eles in 2011, the new venue, set to open in February 2016, will be spread across three floors. Waite said: “The new restaurant marks an exciting next step in the growth of our brand and we are very happy to be opening in one of the busiest, most popular locations in central London.” Kit Alexander at property agent Shelley Sandzer, which brokered the deal, added: “Southampton Street makes a great location for Honest Burgers, benefiting from consistently high footfall due to its proximity to the Strand, and is sure to be a huge success.”
The Michelin-starred Brasserie Chavot in London is to close at the end of the year. Run by Eric Chavot, rumours that the restaurant would close surfaced as far back as October this year, although they were initially denied by both Chavot’s representatives and the Westbury hotel, which owns the site in which the restaurant sits. Chavot, who is chef-patron of the business, said: “After almost three fantastic years at Brasserie Chavot in Mayfair, we have taken the decision to relocate the restaurant and to expand the brand. It is an exciting time for my brigade and I. We will announce the first of our new sites shortly.” Chavot, who previously held two Michelin stars at London’s Capital hotel before taking three years out of the kitchen, returned to the London food scene to Brasserie Chavot in early 2013. The 80-seat venue was awarded a Michelin star in its first seven months of trading.
Looking toward 2016
Horizons managing director Peter Backman has given his take on next year’s food and restaurant movements. Addressing the blurring of mealtimes and the intensifying competition in the restaurant market, he told The Caterer: “Next year will be another interesting one for the restaurant sector with the ongoing development of key trends we have noted during 2015 as a result of continued changes in customer habits and demands. Over the past few years we have seen the blurring of mealtimes and this looks set to continue. Switched on restaurant operators will carry on adapting to this by extending their opening hours, broadening their menus and developing dishes that suit the growing demand for breakfast, brunch, coffee, afternoon tea and even, perhaps, dessert sales only. But the year will also see operators having to cope with other pressures too. With competition intense, prices are unlikely to rise, although food costs might make margins ever-tighter. Food trends are likely to continue to become ever-hotter and more exotic with much influence from South America and Brazil, inspired by the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.”