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Struggling Big-Money Restaurant Development Banks on Safe-Bet Gastropub

Cubitt House group is in line to open its sixth gastropub in St James’s Market, near Piccadilly Circus

London Lumiere Opens To The Public Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Cubitt House group — which runs the Orange in Pimlico, the Grazing Goat and Coach Maker’s Arms in Marylebone, and the Alfred Tennyson and Thomas Cubitt in Belgravia — is close to opening its sixth restaurant on the site formerly occupied by Veneta, which underwent a high-profile closure in the early winter of 2017, in the St James’s Market development.

The restaurant development — a big deal in 2017 — may have been a victim of its own ambition, as well as limited direct footfall. As one of the city’s steadier gastropub groups looks poised to move in, it appears the planners may have changed strategy.

The Cubitt group, which purports to operate “locally run independent business, showcasing a collection of fine public houses and hotels that proudly serve the neighbourhoods of Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Pimlico and Marylebone” is expected to move into the site — which has been empty for nearly 18 months — sometime in the first half of this year.

If Cubitt — with its Cotswold-chic aesthetic — will set neither the world nor central London alight, it’s a safety-first move for the landlords at St James’s: The group’s brand of gastropubs are popular in their existing environments.

In addition to Veneta closing, London ramen chain Tonkotsu — which had launched a more upmarket brand, Anzu (before launching a proprietary pop-up) — closed its business in St James’s in January. Meanwhile, Ikoyi, one of the most innovative and captivating London restaurants of the last 18 months has been very open and honest about the fact it nearly had to shut, too.

There have been success stories, too, perhaps in spite, not because, of the location: Nordic fine-dining restaurant Aquavit was awarded a Michelin star in the 2018 guide.

Cubitt House won’t seek stars, nor will it add anything of note to central London’s restaurant scene; but it will almost certainly do well.


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