The Ivy's starring role under threat from new rival

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The Independent Online

Celebrities and the paparazzi who follow their every move will not know which way to turn. In two weeks, a flamboyant rival to The Ivy – last week voted London's most popular restaurant – will open only a few doors down.

West Street – which launches on September 18 and which is named after the street it shares with The Ivy – will offer a bar, a small hotel, two restaurants and private rooms. Its owner, Chris Bodker, runs five establishments, including the popular Kensington Place in west London, one of Madonna's favourite haunts.

The Ivy, owned by Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, has such clout that the Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood is painting an 8ft by 15ft work, commissioned by Lord Lloyd- Webber, of the 60 richest and most influential people who visit each week. Even David and Victoria Beckham are not represented because they do not go there often enough. The average diner can expect a six-month wait for a table.

It was voted London's most popular eatery by Zagat's London Restaurants 2002, an international guide that includes comments from the public in its assessments of the restaurants surveyed.

West Street's six floors will dwarf the unassuming corner building that houses The Ivy. However, Mr Bodkersaid that the building had been chosen purely because it was the most suitable location available.

"It happens to be next door. Well, so what?" he said. "We're certainly not going to threaten The Ivy. It's a private club, in effect, because of its booking procedures. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool. I don't think anything we're going to do is going to alarm them ... I think there's a membership of their club who will always go there."

A spokeswoman for Caprice Holdings, owners of The Ivy, said yesterday: "No comment, I'm afraid. Chris and Jeremy do not like to give interviews."

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