Russell Norman and Richard Beatty’s pioneering restaurant group, Polpo, has formally commenced its restructuring, initiating the first stage of a plan that agreed to sell two of its restaurants in March. Eater has learnt that Polpo in Notting Hill has closed; and is no longer listed among the company’s interests online.
News of Polpo’s demise, (the company owed over half a million pounds in tax and overspent on management), came as a shock to the industry. Norman — a veteran front of house of the Mayfair dining scene — seized the opportunities presented in the wake of the financial crisis in 2008. Even if he didn’t invent the idea of small plates, he showed that operators could monetise them in new ways; that actually making exposed brick and distressed interiors trendy was a breath of fresh air on the bottom line, too. But the mid-market changed: the pound dipped, the punter grew more discerning and neophyte, business rates went up, and so did ingredient costs. Polpo, which at one time looked like a nationwide chain-in waiting, was not immune.
The restructuring arrangement — in essence a deal with landlords — stipulated the sale of two restaurants: one was Polpo in Noting Hill. The other is Polpetto, in Soho, which is on the market for £95,000 per year in rent. Polpetto’s fate came as an even greater surprise (Polpo in Notting Hill had been on the market for over a year) having undergone a major relaunch with Anthea Stephenson as head chef, just four months before the closure was announced. Stephenson left her position as head chef just two months into her tenure, as a result of the uncertainty surrounding the restaurant group.
It was then revealed in March that the company would have to relocate its once white-hot NYC and Venice-inspired dive bar, Spuntino on Rupert Street, Soho. Although the timing of that announcement seemed to point to a consistency with troubles elsewhere across the company, it became clear that it was a particularly acute case of landlord opportunism: the rent on the site had risen to £200,000 per year.
Eater has contacted the owners of the group for more information on the status of both Polpetto and Spuntino.