Luke Blackall: No one's told London's restaurateurs about the crisis
Man About Town: The Balthazaar brasserie concept so beloved of the New York media set is coming to London
The country, the continent, the world is in financial crisis. So say the newspapers, the TV channels and the politicians. You're probably sick of hearing about it. I know I am. I only bring it up as it seems no one has told the restaurateurs of London.
It occurred to me as I went to the launch of 34 Grosvenor Square, the new venue from Richard Caring, who owns, among other things, The Ivy, Cipriani and Scott's.
Like his other venues, it was obvious that a substantial amount of money had been spent on 34. Martin Brudnizki, one of the world's leading interior designers, helped convert it from anonymous offices to a luxurious bistro of days gone by. There will be live music every night and on the opening evening, each guest left with a menu complete with a Tracey Emin print.
It occurred to me, as I had breakfast at Harrods new tea room (yes, I'm aware of what I sound like), where business in the store's 26 restaurants is booming, that if these were the only restaurants to open, you might admire their courage. But far from it.
This summer, Wolfgang Puck, US chef and restaurant mogul, opened Cut on Park Lane. Like Cut, 34 is also in the business of persuading people to part with up to £84 for (admittedly excellent) steak. This week Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, the team behind the Wolseley are launching their next project a big European café - The Delaunay. Meanwhile, another guest at Wednesday's dinner was Keith McNally, the US restaurateur, who is bringing the Balthazaar brasserie concept so beloved of the New York media set to London. There are many more still to come.
At the top end, people are still spending money. And, I'm told, many of the wealthy caught up in the crises in North Africa and southern Europe see London as a safe place to stash their cash. But other, more mid-market venues keep springing up too. At Bristol's Harbourside, Za Za Bazaar is soon to open, which with room for 1,000 diners, promises to be the country's biggest restaurant.
Back in 2008, a manager of a top London restaurant told me that some restaurateurs believe a recession is a good thing for their industry as it weeds out the bad places. But today the bad places still seem to be there, along with the good, and all the while they are being joined by a steady stream of new places. You wonder has no one told them about the economy. Or is there something they're not telling us?
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