Welcome to our weekly round-up of all that’s happening in London’s food and drink scene.
Inside this week: openings, closings, pizza and Garfield
Tom Aikens closes flagship restaurant
Chef Tom Aikens has announced that he and his business partners will close his flagship restaurant. The eponymous Michelin one-starred Tom Aikens only re-opened after being closed for almost half a year for a complete refit in January 2012, but now the chef is shutting up shop again and seeking a West End site to move to. In the meantime, his Tom’s Kitchen brand of more casual eateries is growing; a new restaurant will open in St. Katharine Docks in May, joining existing branches in Somerset House, Canary Wharf and Chelsea.
Rebrand and refit for Marcus Wareing
One-time Ramsay protégé chef Marcus Wareing holds two stars for his restaurant Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, an accolade only eight other London restaurants can match and just two can beat. It’s all change this year, though, as he shuts the restaurant on 18 January not to reopen until late March. As well as a refit and a new shorter name of Marcus, the chef has hinted at a more casual approach to service, reflecting the current trend against traditional, ‘stuffy’ fine dining.
Pizza the action
Sourdough pizza restaurant Franco Manca is expanding again. Starting out in Brixton Market in 2008, it has already grown to six sites (Balham, Chiswick, Clapham Junction, Tottenham Court Road and Westfield Stratford City) and is soon to open number seven on Broadway Market. This week, the group also acquired a site in East Dulwich (formerly a Draft House pub) for site number eight, and revealed plans for a ninth restaurant on Bermondsey Street. Watch out Pizza Express.
Back to a caff (and a blue plaque)
Back in the day, Denmark Street’s La Giaconda Café was a haunt frequented by The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and The Kinks. It evolved into the Giaconda Dining Rooms many years ago taking much of the spirit of the former with it, but now it’s reverted back. The front area of the restaurant has been converted into an all day, no bookings café, and the conservatory at the back into a more intimate dining room. To mark the return to its original name, former BBC1 DJ Mike Read has applied for a Blue Plaque on the venue’s behalf; if approved, it will read: “From the 1920s Denmark Street was known throughout the world as ‘Tin Pan Alley’ the home of Britain’s publishers and songwriters. The Giaconda was their meeting place.”.
Is a Garfield-themed restaurant on its way?
We hope so. It’s one of the more random stories we read this week, but restaurant group Clear Leisure are tipped to open a Garfield-branded lasagne chain in the UK after acquiring a 51% share of Lasagnette UK, a restaurant format which comes with rights to use the lasagna-loving cartoon cat. If a restaurant does open up, there’s currently no guaranteeing it will be in London, but we have our fingers crossed.
In the pipeline
New year, new restaurants. Spanish tapas mini-chain Iberica have secured a site in Farringdon (formerly Redhook) and will open their fourth branch in April, following on from their original restaurant on Great Portland Street and two more in Canary Wharf. The Zetter group, who own Zetter Townhouse in Clerkenwell, are to open their second Townhouse hotel, with a launch on Marylebone’s Seymour Street in September; it will feature a cocktail bar on the ground floor. Russian owner of Soho restaurant Bob Bob Ricard, Leonid Shutov, is to open what will become one of London’s very biggest restaurants when it opens in 2015 on St. James’s Street. Named Biblioteka, it will serve a mix of British classics and traditional Russian dishes and offer 250 covers plus 75 spots at the bar taking in 20,000 sq ft of floor space. Its name comes from the Russian for library, a reference to the ‘libraries’ of Champagnes, top wines, armagnac and whiskies it will stock.
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