Eating out is the new rock 'n' roll
New venue confirms boom, writes Nick Mathiason
Sunday 01 August 1999
Called Sugar Reef, the 1,000 capacity Creole/Caribbean fusion gastrodrome will cost pounds 2.5m to fit out. It will feature a Cigar Bar, a private diners bar, a fountain and dance floor.
The 14,000 sq ft eaterie is owned by Mark Fuller and Jimmy Lahoud - the charismatic 50-year-old Lebanese born businessman who co-owns other high- profile restaurants such as Quo Vadis and L'Escargot and launched Marco Pierre White's career.
It will be launched by a party organised by Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher's wife, Meg Matthews.
Mr Lahoud's group is aiming for sales of pounds 12m in Sugar Reef's first year. It claims to be on the way already. Last week, the co-owners turned down pounds 100,000 from a multi-national company which wanted to hire the restaurant on the Friday before Christmas.
The former amusement arcade site on Great Windmill Street was last month bought by Soho porn and property tycoon Paul Raymond for pounds 12.5m, and Sugar Reef will pay Mr Raymond pounds 800,000 per year in rent.
Mr Lahoud believes he can attract an affluent clientele, buoyed by falling interest rates, armed with corporate account charge cards and disenchanted with the "impersonal Conran style".
Mr Fuller - who owns the Little Havana chain which focuses on tourists in Leicester Square - believes: "Eating out is the new drug."
Punters at Sugar Reef will pay an average of pounds 30 per head for their meal, he maintains.
Meanwhile in two weeks, one of the biggest restaurants in the Square Mile will open in Queen Victoria Street. Called Silks & Spice, it is privately run by Thai duo Mei-Li Tan and Ek Uririat, who have garnered praise from the capital's food writers.
Mr Mei-Lei, who will pay pounds 200,000 per annum in rent, believes that as the capital's property rents rise, privately run restaurants will struggle to survive: "Rents are definitely increasing and unless you've got a conglomerate behind you like Criterion has Granada, then you've got to be more entrepreneurial and spot trends."
Meanwhile, even after Damien Hirst's spat with Marco Pierre White in Quo Vadis earlier this year - which saw the pop artist split from his celebrity chef accomplice - Mr Hirst's appetite for restaurants is still voracious.
A close colleague of Mr Hirst's noted: "The capital's food industry is booming. Growth in choice, quality and turnover in 10 years has been exponential.
"We aim to take quality neighbourhood dining into the regions. After all, the food bug is really only a London thing."
And Mr Lahoud thinks there is more to come for London's restaurant goers.
"People want something new for the millennium," he said. "But only the fittest will survive."
Justin Bieber was one of the hardest hit
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
iJobs Money & Business
Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...
Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...
£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manage...
£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...