Iconic Joe Allen restaurant may move to make way for Robert De Niro hotel: The owners of iconic Covent Garden restaurant Joe Allen are in talks over a potential move, with the site earmarked for a boutique hotel backed by Hollywood star Robert De Niro. Tim Healy and Lawrence Hartley bought the restaurant, which is just off The Strand and an exact copy of the original in New York’s 46th Street, in 2012. But the late-night haunt for West End stars, which was named after one of its co-founders, could be moving, with Healy and Hartley in discussions with Capco, the landlords of the Exeter Street property, about the restaurant’s future. A Capco spokeswoman told the Evening Standard: “Both parties continue to discuss options for alternative locations within Covent Garden”. Regulars were dismayed by the prospect of Joe Allen having to leave its discreet premises, which is marked only by a green canopy and a brass plate on the wall. Customers over the years include Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Margaret, Sir John Gielgud, Liza Minnelli, Steven Berkoff, Sid Vicious, Nicole Kidman and Christian Slater. Polpo founder Russell Norman, who worked at Joe Allen as waiter, bar tender and maitre d’ from 1989 to 1997, said London’s restaurant scene owed a huge debt to Joe Allen. He added: “It showed me that a restaurant can be far more than the sum of its individual parts. It made me realise a restaurant is far more than its food, it’s an experience.”




MOD Pizza raises £42m to continue US and UK expansion: Fast-casual artisan pizza brand MOD Pizza has raised £42m to continue its expansion in the US and UK. The round of funding by parent company MOD Super Fast Pizza Holdings was led by Fidelity Management & Research Co and PWP Growth Equity. It will be used to continue MOD Pizza’s growth. The company operates 177 sites in 19 US states and it will continue growing in existing markets and move into new states, including Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Utah, as well as expanding in the UK, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. MOD Pizza co-founder Scott Svenson said: “We believe that MOD’s mission of making a positive social impact in the communities we serve has been a key factor in our success as we have expanded across the US and the UK. We’re very grateful that Fidelity, PWP Growth Equity and our other investors have chosen to support our continued growth so we can introduce more communities to the unique MOD experience, which is fuelled by our purpose-driven culture.” The funding is the second round for MOD Pizza this year, bringing the operator’s total capital to date to almost $150m. In March, MOD Pizza raised $32m in funding, also led by PWP.




McDonald’s to roll-out table service to all US restaurants: McDonald’s is planning to roll-out table service to all its US restaurants. The company currently offers table service in about 500 locations but this will be expanded across the entire estate in the country, reports Bloomberg. It is also bringing mobile ordering and payments to the country in 2017, as well as more digital kiosks. Chief executive Steve Easterbrook said: “Customers are getting increasingly demanding, and their expectations will only grow.” McDonald’s already has table service in some locations in New York, Florida and southern California, as well as many locations abroad. It will be coming soon to markets such as Boston and San Francisco, the company said. Earlier this month, McDonald’s said it was planning a “significant” boost in technology spending. The investment will help fund the new self-serve kiosks and mobile-ordering application. The plan includes introducing a smartphone ordering app across its 14,000 domestic locations next year.




Chester-based restaurant operators start expansion of tapas bar concept Porta with Altrincham opening: Chester-based restaurant operators Ben and Joe Wright have started expansion of their tapas bar concept Porta by opening a second site, this time in Altrincham. The new restaurant is in Greenwood Street at the site of a former gift shop and features an open kitchen overlooking the downstairs dining area. The intimate space seats about 50 diners upstairs and down, with more tables on a small terrace outside. Diners are seated around high tables on bar stools to enjoy small plates, ranging from salted Catalan almonds and Padrón peppers to air-dried and cured meat, jamon croquetas and slow-roasted ox cheek with caperberries. Drinks include Spanish wine, cava and sherry, beers from Barcelona’s Damm Brewery and Manchester’s Track and Blackjack. Ben Wright handles front of house and operations, while Joe is head chef. Ben told Manchester Evening News: “The whole vibe is no bookings, no reservations, just being true to the ethos of what a tapas bar is about – informal and fun.” The Wrights have run the Joseph Benjamin restaurant in Chester since 2006, which has held a Michelin Bib Gourmand since 2012. Four years ago they opened their first Porta next door.




Barburrito continues Scottish expansion with Aberdeen site: Mexican brand Barburrito, which is backed by the British Growth Fund (BGF), has continued its expansion in Scotland by opening a site in Aberdeen. The 46-cover restaurant has opened on the first floor of Hammerson’s Union Square shopping centre. Last year, the BGF helped fund the acquisition of Pinto Mexican Kitchen in Scotland and has provided funding for the chain’s growth during the past five years. Barburrito now has three restaurants in Edinburgh and three in Glasgow, alongside the new venue in Aberdeen. Founder and chief executive Morgan Davies told The Press and Journal: “The oil and gas industry is going to come back. It is really just a question of timing. Long-term, I think Aberdeen is going to bounce back. Union Square is a very strong centre and, even with the recent drop-off, it continues to do well.” Sarah Fox, head of restaurants and leisure at Hammerson, added: “With its diverse line-up of restaurants, the centre has become a hot spot for new and exciting dining in the city and Barburrito is a great addition to the offer.” Barburrito has 19 sites in ten UK cities and is targeting a further ten outlets during the next two years. The next opening is set to be at Paddington train station in London.




Former Tamarind Collection director opens Grand Trunk Road concept in South Woodford: Former Tamarind Collection director Rajesh Suri has opened Grand Trunk Road, an Indian restaurant with a historically inspired south Asian menu, in South Woodford, north east London. The restaurant in High Road is Suri’s first solo venture and features traditional cooking methods, with a focus on regional dishes that would have been consumed in towns along the Grand Trunk Road, a route that spans 1,600 miles between Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Suri has teamed up with former Zaika head chef Dayashankar Sharma, whose dishes include crusted scallops with roasted red pepper, garlic and tomato chutney, and lobster with three types of pepper, mixed mushrooms and fenugreek, while vegetarians have been promised a “lusciously fragrant take on healthy eating”, Hot Dinners reports. Suri was director of Tamarind Collection, including Tamarind of Mayfair, Imli Street in Soho and Zaika in Kensington, for 17 years until 2015.




PizzaExpress opens restaurant at East Kilbride leisure hub: PizzaExpress has opened a restaurant in East Kilbride, Scotland. The company has opened the site in the new multimillion-pound leisure hub at East Kilbride Shopping Centre, creating 20 jobs. Restaurant manager Darren Gray told the Glasgow Evening Times: “I am incredibly excited to be bringing the nation’s best-loved pizza to East Kilbride and to be at the helm of such a great group of people.” PizzaExpress will join ten other restaurant brands at the 70,000 square foot development, including Nando’s, Cook & Indi, and Bella Italia, which is owned by Casual Dining Group. The leisure hub also features an ice rink and nine-screen Odeon cinema.




Meantime launches Brewery Fresh Pale Ale in UK first: Greenwich-based Meantime has become the first brewery in the UK to offer Brewery Fresh Pale Ale. The company is making the ale available at three of its London venues – The Bull in Streatham, The Beer Box next to the O2, and The Tasting Rooms in the Meantime brewery. The beer, which is a traditionally brewed pale ale with a combination of British and American hops, will be delivered by Meantime’s tankers direct from the maturation tanks within the brewery to the outlets’ tanks. Brewery Fresh Pale Ale will continue to mature in the tanks, allowing flavours to develop even further. The process also means the beer has no contact with oxygen until it hits the glass. Meantime pioneered the introduction of Brewery Fresh tanks in bars and pubs in the UK in 2013 and now dispenses Brewery Fresh Lager straight from custom-built tanks in 33 outlets in the capital. With public demand for pale ales continuing to grow, the craft brewer has decided to expand its Brewery Fresh offering. Meantime brewmaster Ciaran Giblin said: “We’ve seen how popular our Brewery Fresh Lager has been over the past three years and now is the perfect time to launch Brewery Fresh Pale Ale. We’re passionate about being at the forefront of the modern beer scene and, as we’ve seen our London Pale Ale become ever more popular with beer fans, we decided to give them it in its freshest form.”




Fife-based operator acquires Kingdom Taverns restaurant: Fife-based operator Bryan Reid has acquired the Tipsy Cow restaurant in Kirkcaldy from Scottish pub company Kingdom Taverns. The Tipsy Cow was opened in High Street by Kingdom Taverns in June. Now the restaurant has come under the ownership of Reid, who runs the Drummonds Hotel as well as the Society bar and Legends restaurant in the town. Reid told Fife Today: “Liam and Lewis Melville launched a super brand earlier in the year and have dovetailed well with our business at Society over recent months. It was such a great relationship that led us to this fabulous addition to the Society, Legends and Drummonds Hotel families. We plan to continue the development of the ‘Tipsy’ brand to bring you even greater things moving forward into 2017.” Kingdom Taverns added: “We would like to wish the new owner every success in their new venture.”




Exeter property home to Bella Italia sells for £3.55m: A property in Exeter where one tenant is Casual Dining Group brand Bella Italia has been sold for £3,550,000. The grade II-listed building in Queen Street has been acquired by a private client through agent Coffer Corporate Leisure from real estate company Valad Europe. The deal reflected a net initial yield of 6.75%. The building is arranged as a Bella Italia restaurant and retail unit on the ground floor, late-night bar in the basement, and four floors of offices above. Coffer Corporate Leisure associate director Jack Silvani said: “Outside London, strong property fundamentals are crucial. Properties in strong trading locations in quality cities are extremely defensible and provide a steady income with good scope for rental growth in the future. Over the past decade Exeter has benefited from huge infrastructure improvements, which has seen a wealth of fashionable leisure operators open in the city. Queen Street in particular has benefited from this, with a swathe of new operators due to open in the Guildhall scheme opposite, including Turtle Bay, The Stable (Fuller’s) and Gourmet Burger Kitchen.” Valad Europe was advised by CBRE Bristol.




Gail’s Bakery opens 34th site, in East Sheen: Gail’s Artisan Bakery, which is backed by sector investor Luke Johnson, has opened a site in East Sheen, south west London. The bakery, which is in Upper Richmond Road and is the company’s 34th site, sells loaves, including Gail’s French dark sourdough, mixed olive sourdough, quinoa sourdough, and honey and almond sourdough. It also specialises in pastries, cakes, yogurt pots, seasonal soups, sandwiches, salads and quiches. A hot brunch menu is served until 3pm. Gail’s Artisan Bakery was founded in 2005, when Ran Avidan, Tom Molnar and Emma King opened the first site in Hampstead. Previously, Johnson said he could see the brand growing to at least 70 sites.




Rio Ferdinand’s Manchester restaurant Rosso plans huge refurbishment and relaunch: Manchester restaurant Rosso, co-founded by former England footballer Rio Ferdinand, is planning a huge refurbishment and relaunch. The venue in Spring Gardens will host its New Year’s Eve party and then close to allow the overhaul to take place before reopening on Thursday, 26 January. The restaurant opened in November 2009, featuring plush grey and black interiors with splashes of red to match the “Rosso” name, which is the Italian word for red. Exactly how the venue will look post-transformation is being kept a closely guarded secret, with bosses aiming to keep the new look under wraps until the big reveal. A spokeswoman told the Manchester Evening News: “The new Rosso will open with not only a major facelift but with new food and drink menus. The bar at Rosso is to undergo a major overhaul with new wines, beers, champagnes – many exclusive to Rosso and rivalled by few outside London. It will encapsulate everything that is a fine Italian dining and drinking experience.”




Rhubarb to open flagship restaurant in London’s Centre Point redevelopment: Food experience brand and events caterer Rhubarb will open a restaurant in the Centre Point redevelopment in London. The all-day restaurant, scheduled to open in late 2017, will be the flagship dining destination within Centre Point. The grade II-listed building, located between Oxford Street and Covent Garden, is being transformed by owners Almacantar to create 82 apartments, with a new square at the base of the skyscraper that will be surrounded by 45,000 square feet of restaurants and shops. The new square will be next to the Crossrail entrance at Tottenham Court Road and create a link between Fitzrovia and Covent Garden. Rhubarb’s restaurant will occupy the main floor of the bridge link at Centre Point, overlooking the new square and Oxford Street. Rhubarb managing director PB Jacobse said: “We are delighted to be developing another distinctive new food and drink concept in what is one of the London’s most iconic buildings. Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street in the City trades beyond expectations and Centre Point provides us with another opportunity to create an engaging and innovative concept, this time in the West End.” Almacantar property director Kathrin Hersel added: “Rhubarb’s focus on creativity and exceptional quality perfectly complements our rejuvenation of Centre Point.” Rhubarb operates outlets in some of London’s most high-volume visitor attractions, including the Royal Albert Hall, as well as Heathrow T3 and T5, Royal Ascot racecourse and, most recently, the Goodwood Estate in West Sussex.




Nando’s opens Stafford site: Nando’s has opened its latest restaurant, this time in Stafford. The opening of the 122-cover venue in Riverside Shopping Centre has created 37 jobs and coincides with the launch of the company’s first Christmas menu, which features two new festive additions. Nando’s regional managing director Martin McTigue told The Sentinel: “In true Nando’s style, the restaurant features a range of stunning southern African-inspired interiors and artwork, including slatted tabletops with cast aluminium bases, genuine reclaimed oak flooring, yellow leaf-shaped and black-side chairs, as well as urban-inspired graffiti-painted ceilings.” Nando’s operates a site at the Intu Potteries complex in nearby Hanley, with a second site in the town currently under construction.




Stonegate Pub Company launches new Missoula menus: Stonegate Pub Company has launched new food and drink menus for its Western-inspired Missoula brand. The drinks menu introduces four smoked cocktails, made in conjunction with Funkin New Smoked Syrup. The cocktails – Smoky Pineapple Daiquiri, Smoke & Oak Clubman, Big Smoke Bloody Mary, and Smoke & Coke Iced Tea – are served with a smoking toy gun. Missoula’s new “Steeped” section offers infused premium spirits, including Vanilla Vodka, Jasmine Gin, Tea-Bagged Tequila (Earl Grey teabags in Olmeca Gold Tequila) and Roquito red chilli pepper-infused rum. Completing the drinks menu is a selection of beers, wine and four-cocktail Ciroc Super Sharers served in pitchers. The revamped food menu features an extended tapas range, chicken wings in red-hot naga sauce, mac ‘n’ cheese pizza, and three-way chicken burger. Missoula head of marketing Alan Armstrong said: “Our new cocktail menu offers bold, exciting alternatives to the classics, with interesting flavours that will definitely be remembered. Our infused spirits also give customers the chance to try something new. While we’ve kept the timeless classics on the food menu, we’ve amplified our offering with items not available anywhere else that we hope will help Missoula stand out even more on the high street.”




Cafe and antiques concept Partisan opens in York city centre: A cafe restaurant concept with the ambience of a French antiques house has launched in York city centre. Ethical chef Florencia Clifford and partner Hugo Hildyard have opened Partisan at a grade II-listed building in Micklegate. The venue offers “food to connect with the soul”, while the decor features a selection of antiques, from tables and chairs to lighting and mirrors, which are all for sale. Partisan can cater for 25 covers upstairs, while the area downstairs can double as a 20-cover private dining area, which is also available for hire. Clifford has spent ten years as a chef at spiritual retreats and is author of Zen cookbook Feeding Orchids To The Slugs. She told The Press: “The name Partisan stresses a resistance to multinational coffee chains that don’t pay tax. It is an asset to the community, a place where people can come for some good food. Everything we have gone for is the best quality. We get a lot of our supplies from Suma, the whole-food co-operative, and we try to support fair trade and independent farmers and growers. It’s about putting your heart into it.”




Dalata to bring Maldron hotel brand to England: Dalata Hotel Group, Ireland’s largest hotel operator, is expanding its Maldron brand into England with a new-build site in Newcastle. Dalata has signed a lease agreement with ES Newgate, a subsidiary of McAleer & Rushe, to build a Maldron Hotel. Dalata will run the hotel through a 35-year operating lease, which is subject to five rent reviews linked to the retail price index. The four-star hotel, expected to open in summer 2018, will have 226 bedrooms, a restaurant and meeting room facilities. Dalata operates nine hotels in the UK, including six under its Clayton brand. The company also operates Maldron hotels in Belfast and Derry. Deputy chief executive Dermot Crowley told the Independent: “This development provides us with an exciting opportunity to launch our Maldron brand in the English market, in line with our strategy of rolling-out our Clayton and Maldron brands in large regional UK cities.”




Plans lodged for £100m leisure village in Yorkshire: Plans have been lodged for a £100m leisure village on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Isle of Man-registered Ballan is behind the 340-acre Kellwell Point Leisure Village scheme, which would be built to the west of Hellifield village and between the Carlisle to Settle railway line and the A65. Outline approval is sought from Craven District Council for the development of a leisure centre, a 100-bedroom hotel and up to 300 lodges, alongside a park-and-ride facility and pedestrian access to Hellifield station. According to plans, the lodges would range between two and four bedrooms, set in small clusters within a landscape of trees and water features, reports Insider Media. Incorporating pools, a gym, sports hall, climbing wall, cinema and restaurant, the leisure centre would be a low-lying structure set within the landscape to minimise its impact on surrounding viewpoints. The hotel proposes 100 bedrooms split over four floors, with ground-floor reception, bar and restaurant facilities.




South African barbecue concept Hammer & Tongs to launch in Clerkenwell this month: South African barbecue concept Hammer & Tongs will launch in Clerkenwell, London, this month. The restaurant in Farringdon Road is set to open on Monday, 28 November and will feature a three-metre braai grill on which the majority of dishes will be cooked in front of customers. The menu will be split in two – cuts and steaks, and skewers – and priced accordingly, Hot Dinners reports. Starters include braai-pot baked bread, while at the top of the scale diners can enjoy 700g T-bone steak with reblochon and tarragon gratin, smoked buchu and monkey gland sauce. Skewers will be available as whole or half portions, including Arctic spruce-salted monkfish with confetti bush and aji panca pepper. The cocktail menu, curated by Pete Kendall of Milk and Honey, will include a Stellen-Spritz with caperitif rosso, Graham Beck sparkling wine and wild jasmine syrup. Ice for drinks will be cut from a huge piece of ice on the bar.




Enterprise Inns invests more than £1m in Gloucestershire pubs: Enterprise Inns has invested more than £1m in pubs across Gloucestershire over the past year. Pubs that have received investment include The Shutter Inn, Gotherington; The Yew Tree Inn, Dursley; and the Black Horse, Amberley. Enterprise divisional director Beki Davies said: “In the past 12 months we have made investments totalling more than £1m across Gloucestershire. With Enterprise’s unique segmentation tool, we’re confident this money has been spent developing the right offer for each pub. Working in partnership with the right publican we have therefore been able to realise the full potential of each site. Moving forwards, we will continue to invest in the region and work closely with our publicans to help them run great pubs that are the epicentre of the community.”