Some of the country's top chefs, eager to lay their hands on wild mushrooms or baby radicchio, will have to search a little harder this weekend. The company run by the celebrity chef, Albert Roux, which usually supplies them with exotic ingredients, has gone out of business.
Financial difficulties have forced Mr Roux, restaurateur to the rich and famous, to shut down his firm, Roux Lamartine, where debts are believed to be in the region of pounds 1m.
Callers to his offices at New Covent Garden, south London, have been greeted with an answerphone message saying: "Dear chefs. We are sorry to tell you that after a long struggle we have had to close down. Thank you for your support."
Industry experts say that up until five years ago Roux Lamartine had a pole position in supplying produce to the country's top restaurants. "You would know as soon as you ate at a restaurant that Roux Lamartine had supplied it," said one food expert.
But in recent years the market for such goods has been served by many more suppliers and the Roux's distinctiveness has become less marked.
The company's financial problems led to Mr Roux - who is a director of a number of other companies, including the one that operates Le Gavroche, the pounds 100-a-head Mayfair restaurant - putting in pounds 270,000 since April along with another director to help the company meet its liabilities. But it has not been enough. Accountants have been instructed to call a creditors' meeting later this month.
Two years ago Albert Roux and his brother Michel put three of their celebrated London restaurants up for sale: Le Poulbot and Rouxl Britannia in the City, and Gavvers near Sloane Square.
Catering flop, page 23
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