The Gay Hussar, one of London’s oldest restaurant institutions — a venue popular among politicians and political satirists — closed last Thursday night. The Hungarian cuisine-focused restaurant had been open for 65 years, the singular creation of the late Swiss-Welsh restaurateur, Victor Sassie.
In a call with Eater this lunchtime, a spokesperson for the restaurant explained that a combination of rising rents and rates had forced the restaurant to close. “The rent increased by 30 percent in December,” they said. Adding that it was simply “not feasible” to continue to trade.
Asked whether there was any chance that the restaurant could re-open, they said there “was zero chance under the current management.” They also confirmed that the current lease had been discontinued and the property, which is managed by Soho Estates, would be available with a new lease in the coming weeks.
Famous patrons included broadcaster Sir Michael Parkinson, Private Eye founder and journalist Richard Ingrams, and the writer T. S. Eliot. But perhaps the Gay Hussar’s most famous tale — at least in recent history — is the one which states that it was there that a young Labourite called Tony Blair was persuaded to run for parliament in 1982. It had remained a go-to restaurant for Blair’s chancellor, subsequent foe, and successor Gordon Brown.
Its popularity among such a powerful and influential milieu meant that when plans first emerged for its sale — following a takeover by Corus Hotels — in 2013, a group of journalists, politicians, and lawyers established the Goulash Co-operative Limited in a bid to save the restaurant. Their efforts, which the Evening Standard reports included £150,000 in raised funds, had staved off any sale until last week.
Eater has contacted Corus Hotels for comment.