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From reopening to new openings

Published:  07 April, 2021

A flurry of new venue openings is proof that green shoots are finally appearing for the on-trade, as Jo Gilbert reports.

Ask most restaurateurs and bar managers what was on their agenda for the next 18 months at the beginning of 2020, and ‘opening a venue during a pandemic’ is an unlikely response. As we finally approach something like a new start for hospitality however, with spring weather already beginning to cut through and al fresco dining areas able to reopen from 12 April in England, the British hospitality sector is revving up to reopen with a bang, with several new high-profile launches in the offing.

On the back of rising confidence levels, which have now finally swung back from a year-long depression, we find Adam Handling, Xavier Rousset and Rick Stein among the leading names ready to cut the ribbon on new ventures.

For Handling, May will mark the opening of the renowned chef’s first venue outside of London. The Loch & The Tyne, a restaurant, pub and rooms, will fit into the countryside of Old Windsor while displaying a modern bent for ‘sustainable British luxury’.

This will no doubt help to heal some of the wounds of closures in 2020. Last year, like so many others, Handling was forced to close two of his restaurants. But fast-forward to 2021 and Handling is among the 58% of business leaders who say they expect to open new sites in 2021, according to CGA.

On a mission to become one of the most sustainable pubs in the UK, The Loch’s’ vegetable garden, orchard, flowerbeds, and composting area are all set to put the venue in good stead come 12 April.

Among other outside areas being prepared for launch is a new concept from Xavier Rousset MS, the man behind Blandford Comptoir, The Black Book and Cabotte. Along with long-time collaborator Steve Pineau (L’Atelier du Vin), he is planning a wine bar and deli, Old Brompton Wine & Cheese, due to open in South Kensington with 250 mainly European wines.

Award-winning Brighton restaurant Cin Cin is about to open its third site in London. From first opening its doors in Brighton’s North Laine in 2016, the Italian restaurant group, which has a Michelin Bib Gourmand and AA Rosette to its name, pivoted to delivery service with three and five-course finish-at-home kits during the pandemic.

Despite facing “some really dark days” over the past year, when he thought he had lost his business, co-founder David Toscano is planning to make a triumphant comeback with the team’s first London restaurant in Fitzrovia at the end of April.

Among the roll call of new openings are also a number of ‘reopenings’ – new venues that were barely able to get off the ground last year through no fault of their own.

These include All’s Well from chef/owner Chantelle Nicholson, who opened her business in October just five days before the second lockdown. Despite only managing 15 days of total service since then (“So not really off to a flying start,” Nicholson says), the business is now gearing up to reopen on 19 May after tiding itself over with its Dishpatch boxes and takeaway Saturdays.

With so much gloom to report over the past year, Harpers couldn’t be happier to report on these fantastic launches, which encapsulate so much of the mettle needed over the past year to not only survive, but to bring new ventures and concepts to the fore.

And this is only a glimpse of what is on the horizon. Among other openings is The Farrier, a new neighbourhood pub and restaurant concept in Camden, which will boast a floor-to-ceiling wine wall focused on speciality and rare wines from small producers, set to open on April 15. Three Michelin star-trained chef Ash Finch will be heading up the kitchen.

Then there is the latest launch from Rick Stein Restaurants, which is going left of centre with the opening of its first speciality coffee shop in the harbourside town of Padstow.

All in all, just some of what we have to look forward to.

Growing optimism

As we have reported elsewhere in this issue, 51% of business leaders are now optimistic about their prospects for the next 12 months, compared with just 11% back in November. Quite remarkably, 4,000 new sites opened doors

(or at least takeaway services) in the past 12 months, despite yo-yoing restrictions putting paid to many commercial ambitions.

Optimism is set to continue. According to CGA, 58% of business leaders say they expect to open new sites in 2021, adding to growing momentum around the reopening of hospitality.