November 2015 News
Private Diners can still eat on Mondays
Le Gavroche is to change to a five-day week from its usual six-day operation, to improve staff work-life balance, and help the site offer new pop-ups. Michel Roux Jr will close his venue on Mondays to the public but will still open for private dining and corporate hire. The private dining room is called the ‘Chef’s Library’ which is an intimate affair seating up to six people, decorated with some of the huge variety of cookery books collected by Michel Roux Jr over many years, and a collection of photographs of famous patrons of the restaurant since its opening in 1967. One novelty feature to it is the video link to the kitchen allows you to see the preparation. Roux Jr and his daughter Emily, who is also a chef, are set to launch a new series of Monday pop-ups, beginning with The Next Generation event on 1 February 2016.
Stats are showing that this year’s restaurant booking figures for Christmas Day have risen from last year’s by 45%. It would seem that more and more people are opting out of the kitchen and would rather be served on the festive day rather than be the one doing the serving. Restaurants that have previously defaulted to shutting shop on Christmas Day are re-thinking – and menus are popping up everywhere for dining out for Christmas. Private dining offers are in abundance across the UK for an intimate family meal, just like at home, only with waiters and no washing up.
The Little Mermaid
Opening to rave reviews this week, Sexy Fish is an Asian fish and seafood restaurant located on the South East corner of Berkeley Square, Mayfair. The look and feel is mid-century glamour with its dark timber, pink upholstery, mermaid and shark sculpting and a ceiling to gape at in awe. The restaurant is open until 2am, with a resident DJ from Thursday to Saturday. The Coral Reef Room is an exclusive and private dining space with an integral bar, two of the largest live coral reef tanks in the world, and seating for up to 48. The designers have put together a collection of materials and colours that capture the essence of the sea. Open 7 days a week The Coral Reef Room will serve lunch and dinner to up to 48 guests on round tables, and 30 on one table. There is a custom-built bar which has an additional 6 seats – perfect for after-dinner digestifs. The bar holds one of the world’s biggest Japanese whisky collections, as well as offering a drinks menu featuring both classic and inventive cocktails.
New restaurants opening this month with private hire options include: Bernadi’s, Marylebone (it’s website says: “whether it’s a low-key birthday dinner in the restaurant, a celebratory drinks reception in the bar downstairs, or a full sit down feasting dinner in the private dining room which seats up to forty, we would love to help you create something memorable. All with the knowledge you’ll be looked after personally from start to finish”); Piquet, Canary Wharf (a typical dish being a lamb shoulder with pommes cocotte, thyme and olives; or Kentish Littlebourne snails on toast, with the option for diners to request two or three half-portions of dishes for those who like a bit of everything. It will welcome private diners who will be treated to dishes using less-seen produce and techniques not always able to be used in the rest of the restaurant, a great cut of meat, say, or a brilliant crop of rhubarb that will not quite stretch to the entire dining room); and Friends of Ham (with a tasting room offering hams, cheeses, sherries and further options from the deli)
The billion dollar question…
VoucherCodes.co.uk reports that the British public are spending £1.1b a month dining out at independent restaurants. The research has found that diners spend on average £44 each month on dining in local venues, and that 49% would rather frequent independent restaurants, as opposed to the 34% who favoured local pubs and cafés. The research was commissioned to mark the company’s new partnership with dining club Hi-life and was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of VoucherCodes.co.uk – 2,000 UK adults who eat out were surveyed.
Paris attack aimed at restaurants
Hospitality operators in London are being advised by police to remain vigilant following the devastating terrorist attacks in Paris last week. Businesses have been told that they should “review their continuity plans and ensure their staff are trained to respond to incidents”, especially seeing as the attacks occurred in public spaces including restaurants and bars. “London and Paris are linked as two of the world’s capital cities and we stand prepared to help in any way. My thoughts and those of the Met officers and staff are with Paris and men and woman whose job it is to deal with this horrific situation,” said Sir Bernard Hogan Howe, the Metropolitan Police commissioner.
Monica Galetti has announced the name and location of her first solo restaurant as Mere, which she plans to open in London’s Fitzrovia in a year’s time. The name pays homage to her mother, ‘Mere’ being French for ‘mother’ and the Samoan for Mary, Galetti’s mother’s name. The space will undergo extensive renovation works to transform it into a 25-seat ground floor bar and 70-cover basement restaurant that are both “warm and welcoming”. Galetti left her job as senior sous chef at two-Michelin starred restaurant Le Gavroche in March with a view to pursing this new venture. She had worked at the iconic London restaurant for 12 years, having started as a commis chef.
Chef Jun Tanaka will open his debut restaurant at 22 Charlotte Street, later this month. The venue will cater to 43-covers on the ground floor with a further eight covers on a small terrace and 43 on the first floor, including a 12-seat semi-private dining space overlooking the street. The Ninth will offer a casual French-Mediterranean sharing menu with contemporary plates that celebrate seasonal produce, as well as raw and cured dishes, with a concise wine list offering 25 red and 25 white bottles, with many by the glass and carafe, from the major wine-growing regions of the world.
London restaurateurs are exploring the methods of dressing up kebabs as the late-night snack of choice for patrons dining in the Capital. Better for you than a burger and fries, the concept of a kebab can actually be a pretty healthy alternative, with places such as Black Axe Mangal adding Chinese duck kebabs and anchovy-crusted pork jowel to their repertoire. Le Bab, Soho, will open with a menu of individual and sharing dishes including chicken shawarma with turban squash and Chifafa is taking the health stance seriously with herbs, red cabbage and lighter breads.
The Ivy has re-opened. Hurrah! Earlier this year the once-jewel in the crown of exclusive London dining closed down to re-group. Although the restaurant dates back to 1917 (when it was an unlicensed Italian café) its 1990 re-launch propelled this West End restaurant to something akin to superstar status. With Fernando Peire at the helm as maître d’, the Ivy became one of the most sought-after hotspots in London. However, the successful introduction of the Club at the Ivy – a private members’ club upstairs that made the Ivy seem somewhat less special – and the ever-changing British restaurant scene meant that the restaurant had lost its allure somewhat in recent times. But – it shut, got re-vamped and re-opened a couple of weeks ago, with Chef Gary Lee at the helm. Lee has kept old-time favourites on the agenda, such as the restaurant’s signature shepherd’s pie; but his training as a qualified Chinese cook has inspired a selection of Asian-inspired dishes, such as salmon and hamachi sashimi, avocado wasabi and pickled gari (£14); and togarashi popcorn shrimp with chilli mayonnaise (£12.75).
Very fast food
The ‘naturally fast food’ group Leon has just celebrated the opening of its 30th restaurant, in High Street Kensington. This is the 8th site opening in 2015 and marks another step toward their further expansion plans. Even with 2015 edging cautiously closer to oblivion, Leon is planning to unveil another three locations before the end of the year, including a flagship site in Hammersmith’s Broadway centre, at Christmastime. Based mainly in London, Leon has sites across the city including King’s Cross, South Kensington, Victoria Place, Farringdon, Euston and Heathrow airport, plus non-London sites such as East Midlands airport, the Eurotunnel in Folkestone and Stansted airport. Leon first opened in Carnaby Street in 2004, aiming to offer fast food that was also healthy.
The consensus from October’s Digital Innovation Forum addressed hospitality – and what dining rooms will look like in years to come. Perhaps more imminent is the progression of on-the-go bookings, via apps and mobile devices. This part of the event was lead by Adrian Valeriano who reported that 25% of people’s annual income is apparently spent on eating out, 43% want to pay on mobile devices more regularly (Apple were in attendance at the event also, weighing in on Apple Pay), 85% of people make bookings using some form of technology, and some even want a pre-payment option (only 12%). As well of all this, it would seem that diners are hugely in favour of iPad ordering too.