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Loads of great London restaurants closed in 2018 – we speak to the people behind some of them

Angela Hui
Written by
Angela Hui

Restaurant closures increased by 20 percent in 2018, with even some cult favourites shutting their doors. Here, four restaurant insiders who shut Time Out faves this year explain the real story behind their closure.

Ed Thaw Owner at Ellory/Leroy, Mare Street/Shoreditch

‘It’s important to stress that unlike some of the others we didn’t just close. At first, we made a lot of mistakes, learned lessons and struggled to make a profit despite winning a Michelin star. We closed Ellory on Mare Street in Hackney at the beginning of this year and moved to Shoreditch to open Leroy. Now we’re thriving and managed to retain our star last month. There wasn’t a great deal of foot traffic on Mare Street and it was hard to get a consistent level of business. Weekends would be great, but on a Tuesday we’d end up doing eight covers. We lost a lot of money in our first year. About £130,000. Ultimately we found a better location in Shoreditch with cheaper rent.’

William McBean and Dominik Prosser Founders and partners of Bad Sports, Hackney Road

‘We were always busy. Our problem was that we couldn’t turn the tables fast enough to make enough money out of the space. We were making food that was expensive to produce. It was labour-intensive, using very high-quality, often imported, ingredients. We weren’t willing to compromise on quality and we weren’t willing to pay people less than the London Living Wage, however the perception with tacos is that they’re cheap. But the margins are small and when you don’t have much cash to back you up, you can’t really afford mistakes. We’ve mainly been doing pop-up stuff since then.’

Rick Wells Owner of Fernandez & Wells, Lexington Street

‘Forty-three Lexington Street [in Soho] was the first Fernandez & Wells to open in January 2007. There were a number of reasons behind the closure – like our original Beak Street café, part of its charm was that it was tiny, but as the rent and rates went up it became unsustainable. Small businesses get absolutely no help from Westminster Council or the government. Also the demographic of Soho has changed somewhat. A lot of our core customers – the creatives, advertising agencies and companies that used to be based there – have moved out, many to east London. I am now focusing on our other sites, and keeping a close eye on how they are changing too.’ 

 Magnus Reid Chef at Legs, Morning Lane

‘I personally felt I had achieved and succeeded as much as I could at Legs in the direction we took it and because the project was so personal. The staff were more like family than employees, I decided to close and move on to the next thing.There was no outside influence on the decision to close. We were making good money, the rent was cheap and the neighbourhood was starting to become more lively.  It was just time for a change. The future is entirely uncertain at the moment, which is the most exciting thing. All I know is that I would love to open space that could sit outside all the media bullshit.’

Theo Clench Head chef at Bonhams, a Michelin-starred restaurant inside the auction house, New Bond Street

‘I’ve worked at Bonhams in Mayfair since they first opened, starting out as the sous chef and I only recently became head chef earlier this year. It’s been open for four years, we were awarded a Michelin star within the first seven months and retained it every year. The reason behind the closure is because the new owners are refocusing the business back to auctioneering. I’m pretty heartbroken by the whole situation and it was pretty sudden, but it’s totally out of my control. I’m going to dust myself off, continue cooking my socks off for the remainder of my time at the restaurant, then start looking for a new challenge. I want to thank all the team, past and present, for their hard work and dedication, and every single guest who’s walked through the doors.’ 

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