Photographer: Richard Vines/Bloomberg
Restaurants

London Restaurants Opening and Closing at a Record Pace

Can the pace continue after the Brexit vote and a slump in sterling?

More London restaurants opened than closed during a flurry of activity in the industry in the past year, according to a survey by Harden's London Restaurants.

There were 200 new establishments — the most in the 26 years the dining guide has been conducting its survey, which covers the 12 months to September. Closures jumped to 76 from 56.

"The large number of new London restaurants this year really reflects the optimism and state of the economy last year," said Des Gunewardena, chairman and chief executive of D&D London. The group owns more than 25 London bars and restaurants, including German Gymnasium, which opened a year ago. 

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With a handful of projects in the works, Gunewardena said next year will be one of the group's busiest. Still, he doesn't expect that to be standard across the industry.

"There is a more sober mood now, post the Brexit vote," he said. "With the prospect of rising food, salary and property costs, I don't see 2017 being a boom year for openings."

Chef Karam Sethi, whose JKS Restaurants owns Sri Lankan restaurant Hoppers in Soho, said the business environment is becoming tougher.

"It is getting a lot more competitive," Sethi said. "You need to be on your toes at all times and make sure your offering is as good as on the day you opened."

He said trading across JKS remains strong and hasn't been affected by Brexit.

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The average price of dinner at one of the restaurants listed in the guide rose by 1.7% to £51.37 ($60). That includes a three-course dinner with half a bottle of house wine, coffee, cover charge, tax and tip.

Among the restaurants that closed: Hibiscus, a two-Michelin-star restaurant in Mayfair, and Truscott Arms, a respected gastropub in Maida Vale.

Harden's ratings put The Ledbury, a French restaurant in Notting Hill, at the top of the gastronomic list, as voted by diners. As usual, the Wolseley is best for business, while Clos Maggiore retains the top spot for romance.

Harden’s London Restaurants 2017, £12.99, is available from bookshops and at www.hardens.com.

Richard Vines is chief food critic at Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines and Instagram @richard.vines

(Corrects graphic on overpriced restaurants.)
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