The pandemic is changing the face of London’s hospitality industry, but the city thrives on
Few things are more inspiring than the way entrepreneurs have weathered the pandemic crisis. Pivoting revenue models, creating new income streams and re-working all previous assumptions, the collective strength exhibited by the businesses we love has been incredible. Of particular note, has been the resilience of the restaurant and bar industry, who throughout the past few months have created novel ideas that range from food and drink delivery to pre-made recipe and cocktail boxes.
Unfortunately, however, the crisis has still claimed a considerable amount of hospitality operators that will not reemerge when the country reopens on July 4th. This week, the announcement of permanent closure of some of London’s key dining destinations has shocked the nation’s food lovers. However, not all is as it seems, DDW has the inside scoop:
First to go has been the venerable grand-dame of member’s club gambling, the Ritz Club Casino. Holding court at its Piccadilly site for over two decades, this jewel has been absorbed by the sale of the parent hotel it sits under. Rumour has it that the hotel itself will undergo a massive renovation under new ownership and the Club will have a new operator. Perhaps it will end up taken over by Richard Caring’s Birley Clubs (owners of Annabel’s, et al)? Only time will tell…
A bit further down the road, another stalwart has fallen; Le Caprice has held it’s place amongst the city’s best restaurants for almost four decades. Originally opened by Ivy manager Mario Gallati it has attracted every big name in music, fashion, society and film – including, perhaps most famously, Princess Diana. Fear not, however, DDW is hearing rumblings that current owner Richard Caring expects to open a new Le Caprice in conjunction with theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd-Weber on North Audley Street. The new concept reportedly includes a live cabaret element paired with fine dining.
Further towards West London the Goring Hotel, a Buckingham Palace neighbour and well-known Royal favourite has announced they will not reopen their brand new Siren restaurant. Operating for less than a year, the closure will surely be a blow for Cornish chef Nathan Outlaw but at least he will be accompanied by the tangential closure of his friend’s Agnar Sverrisson’s Texture restaurant at the same hotel. Although tragic news for food-lovers, both venues reportedly had had very mixed reviews in the months leading to closure. Perhaps a return to the classic refined French/English fare that served the hotel for a century before them will take their place.
Deep into West London’s Notting Hill, the two Michelin-starred The Ledbury is debating its own future. Faced with an uncertain economy, owner Brett Graham has been outspoken in his doubts on whether he will be able to still be appealing to a more frugal consumer. However, his announcement has raised calls of support from thousands of his fans – so perhaps they will survive to fight another day.
On the lower end of the dining spectrum, actor Mark Wahlburghs “Walburgers” restaurant in Covent Garden has thrown in the towel and will not reopen, it is joined by the collapse of sandwich chain EAT which will shut all of its 90 stores in the UK.
The recent collapse of multiple classic central-London eateries comes only a couple of months after the MARC group announced bankruptcy, closing down their Morton’s members club on Berkeley Square and the Michelin-starred Mayfair; Umu, Greenhouse and The Square destination restaurants. DDW has also received confidential reports that the Intercontinental on Park Lane is evaluating the closure of its Ella Canta and Theo Randall restaurants.
Meanwhile, abroad, the historic Harry’s Bar in Venice has been permanently closed. Owner Cipriani claims that the current Italian government distancing regulations are to blame and plans to open a new Harry’s in Ibiza instead.
No matter what happens these changes are small blips in the greater scheme of the thriving London restaurant and bar scene. DDW has reports of at least 5 new luxury hotels (among them the uber trendy Hotel Costes, the One Hotel, Blakes Mayfair, The Nobu Hotel Marylebone and The Penninsula) scheduled to open in the next 6-18 months along with a laundry-list of bars and restaurants.
It seems not even a global pandemic can slow down London as the capital of fun. We can’t wait until the reopening on July 4th (and the reported possible VAT cut from 20% to 10% for hospitality and tourism)! (our American cousins were right – it is the day of independence, :-p )