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A Game-Changing London Restaurant Group Is Not What it Once Was

Two sites in the Polpo restaurant group are for sale, following departure of the managing director

Soho italian and Venetian restaurant Polpetto by Russell Norman is on the market in London Polpetto [Official Photo]

Russell Norman and Richard Beatty’s longstanding Venetian restaurant in Soho, Polpetto, is on the market. The site continues to trade, but is being offered to potential suitors by property agents in the city for £95,000 per year, according to Big Hospitality. It comes amid other sales and key personnel departures at a restaurant group, which in 2009 rewrote the rule book on what a mid-market restaurant in central London could look like.

A tweet this lunchtime linked to an advert for a site on Berwick Street in Soho, which although “highly confidential” includes a photograph of Polpetto. Suitors are asked not to make “a direct approach...to staff as they are unaware of an impending sale.”

It’s been a turbulent couple of months for group, and especially the the Berwick Street restaurant, which first opened in 2014. (It originally opened above the French House in 2010.) Considerable fanfare surrounded a relaunch, with new branding, a pared-back menu, and a new head chef: Anthea Stephenson, formerly of — and now back at — The River Café. Stephenson left Polpetto less than two months into her tenure, with no official comment on the reasons behind her departure. The appointment, menu changes, and redesign had been billed by the group as a new lease of life:

“Our little sister Polpetto is growing up. You know those little sisters who suddenly blossom in to full blown women, looking gorgeous and WOWING the world with stupidly good results? Yeah, that.”

It followed the departure of the restaurant group’s managing director Scott Macdonald in October.

News broke this morning via another property agent that Polpo’s west London site in Notting Hill is also for sale. Eater understands that the group has been minded to shift this property for some time, however. It, too, continues to trade, though the operators are understood to have recently expressed their wish to expedite a sale.

Despite apparent set-backs, the Polpo group has recently opened its first airport restaurant site, Spuntino at Heathrow Terminal 3, an offshoot of the Soho dive bar/diner that is home to one of London’s iconic dishes. The instruction to market the site and the progression of the airport plans look like a further step towards consolidation, after closing the Ape and Bird on Cambridge Circus in London, a Polpo site in Bristol, and in Exeter in 2018. Given the challenges faced operating outside of London (with the exception of Brighton, which continues to trade) the group also aborted a plan to open in Oxford last year.

Alongside Polpetto and Polpo Notting Hill — which will not cease trading until any sale — the group continues to operate at the original site on Beak Street in Soho, Smithfield in Farringdon, on the King’s Road in Chelsea, in Covent Garden, and in Brighton.

A Polpo spokesperson declined to comment.

More soon.

Polpetto

11 Berwick Street, , England W1F 0PL 020 7439 8627 Visit Website

Spuntino

61 Rupert Street, , England W1D 7PW 020 7334 3981 Visit Website

Polpo Chelsea

, , England SW3 4LY 020 7730 8900 Visit Website

The River Café

Rainville Road, , England W6 9HA 020 7386 4200 Visit Website

The French House

49 Dean Street, , England W1D 5BG 020 7437 2477 Visit Website

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