Growing speciality coffee chain Watch House has acquired the four remaining London outposts of Fernandez & Wells, one of the defining cafe, wine bar groups of the 2010s. The sites on Denmark Street, South Kensington, Mayfair, and Somerset House will continue to trade under the brand into 2020, at which point Watch House will convert the quartet into its all-day dining model.
Watch House, which recently moved its Shad Thames branch into a bigger site to make way for fine fresh pasta restaurant Legare, took over the former Brooklyn Coffee site in Spitalfields earlier this year and is now making good on the expansion promise that earned it 2.1 million pounds of investment this October. Concordant with Fernandez and Wells closing first its Beak Street cafe in 2017, and the Lexington Street wine bar in 2019, it tells the story of over a decade of change; a decade in which the journey from the recession to rising rates first invited operators to irrevocably change London dining by selling jamón, Comté, and Bordeaux bin-ends from prime locations, and then made such things insurmountable once landlords took measure, and envy, of their success.
In addition to the Spitalfields site, Watch House operates cafes on Bermondsey Street, near Tower Bridge, and on Fetter Lane in the City of London.
Fernandez and Wells was created by Jorge Fernandez and Rick Wells in 2007, a brand whose utilitarian aesthetic was inspired by Neal’s Yard Dairy and Monmouth Coffee — where the former worked as manager and where he met the latter, then a journalist for the BBC World Service. Its cafe — one of the city’s first in the speciality game — and wine bar, on a corner of Soho, which it came to own, fed ad executives, actors agents, and media big-wigs for the better part of a decade. Fernandez left the company to found Fortitude Bakehouse with Dee Rettali in early 2018.
Eater has contacted co-founder Wells for comment on the acquisition.