Ramsay plans to gobble up Britain with £30 menu

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Gordon Ramsay, the pugnacious high priest of haute cuisine, is moving into casual dining with plans for a series of £30-a-head restaurants devoted to classic British food.

Negotiations are taking place with pub and hotel owners to launch two national chains serving dishes such as lamb stew, steak and kidney pie and grilled mackerel. Until now, Ramsay's empire has fed diners willing to pay up to £200-a-head for three courses.

But the trend for casual dining, and the success of Ramsay's three gastro-pubs, have persuaded him to broaden his appeal to a less formal clientele. The "concept" chains will be based on Ramsay's newly opened Foxtrot Oscar brasserie and on his popular gastro-pub The Narrow in Limehouse, east London.

"We're not moving away from fine dining but we're not isolating ourselves," said Chris Hutcheson, Ramsay's father-in-law who is also chief executive of Gordon Ramsay Holding, the company that runs the chef's 16 restaurants and his television contracts.

"We're trying to look at how people now want to eat. They just want to eat with good ingredients, with good cooking, with good service and environment, and at a decent price – £30 as opposed to £200 a head. And that is what we are concentrating on with Foxtrot Oscar and our pubs."

Since buying The Narrow in 2005, Ramsay has quadrupled its turnover to £1.5m a year. He hopes for similar success at Foxtrot Oscar in Chelsea which serves dishes such as Dublin Bay prawn cocktail, hake and chips and braised beef pie.

Mr Hutcheson said: "The Narrow has been almost an embarrassing success. We couldn't believe that suddenly there were people 10 feet deep at the bar wanting to come to this tiny little pub by the Thames. People come along and say: 'We like that concept, would you be interested in rolling that into six or seven of our hotels?'"

He would not be drawn on the number of planned outlets, but the projects are intended to be substantial, with multiple openings over an 18-month period once contracts have been signed.

Many are expected to be in London, which has been the focus of Ramsay's culinary empire after the failure of Amaryllis in Glasgow. Launching the chains will put Ramsay in competition with Jamie Oliver in the restaurant business, as well as on television. Oliver is opening a string of "Jamie's Italian" restaurants aimed at providing fast, urban casual dining. The first will open in Bath in the next few months.

In London, Ramsay is opening his first hotel, the York & Albany, a Grade II-listed hotel in Regent's Park, which will have 10 bedrooms, two restaurants and a delicatessen. Angela Hartnett, formerly head chef at the Connaught, will run it and another restaurant, Murano in Mayfair, which will take bookings from April.

Internationally, Ramsay is adding a third restaurant to his US empire, at The London hotel on Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, and at the Pulitzer hotel in Amsterdam. Both are owned by the Blackstone Group, a US investment company with which Ramsay has a close relationship. Blackstone supplies the premises and some guests; Ramsay does the catering for room service and in the restaurants.

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