Administrators seized and closed down Michelin-starred Mayfair restaurant The Square during lunch service on Friday 31 January, according to The Staff Canteen. The closure comes four months after lawyers served owner Marlon Abela with a bankruptcy petition; he runs Marlon Abela Restaurant Corporation (MARC), which also owns two-Michelin-starred The Greenhouse and two-Michelin-starred Umu. Umu is also in administration, with The Greenhouse currently unaffected.
Customer Sue Houghton detailed the service in an Instagram post, reported by Hot Dinners:
4 suited men arrived mid meal and disappeared into a side room. Cheese is then #mysteriously ‘off’ and then over coffee a very tearful Maitre D comes round all the tables and says we must please leave now as the restaurant has gone bankrupt. Staff haven’t been paid and they are all in tears and so apologetic to us.
Head chef Clement Leroy and other accounts, apparently staff at the restaurant, have commented on and liked Houghton’s post, saying “thank you for this.” Leroy told Eater that he and his staff are meeting with the administrator tomorrow, Monday 3 February.
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The good and the sad......or bizarre ... Had a “squisito” anniversary meal in The Square, Bruton St today but there was something up with the staff. 4 suited men arrived mid meal and disappeared into a side room. Cheese is then #mysteriously ‘off’ and then over coffee a very tearful Maitre D comes round all the tables and says we must please leave now as the restaurant has gone bankrupt. Staff haven’t been paid and they are all in tears and so apologetic to us. Feel so bad for them. Really sad way to get a free meal. It’s been the most amazing top 10 restaurant for over 20 years. New owner took The Square over - this is no way to treat dedicated employees. #freemeal #thesquare #londonrestaurants #londonrestaurantguide #goodfoodguide #michelinstar #michelinguidefood #michelinguide
Documents filed to Companies House show that Abela incorporated three new companies on 29 January, two days before the seizure of The Square: La Bakerie Limited; Umu Mayfair Limited; and Marc Mayfair Limited. Marc, his signature restaurant company, was wound up on 8 January 2020, with the petition filed by HMRC on 6 November 2019 and granted by the High Court. Marc’s accounts filed to Companies House only go up to December 2017.
An amendment to a charge filed under Marc (Greenhouse) Limited on 31 January 2020 — the day of The Square’s seizure — releases The Greenhouse leasehold property at 27A Hay’s Mews in Mayfair from its status as security to Charles Russell Speechlys, a legal practice, and Polpetta Consultancy, an accountant. The same is true of Umu at 14-16 Bruton Place, with both properties understood to be on the market; only Umu is in administration. The incorporation of the new companies suggests that Abela will attempt to re-purchase the businesses.
The Greenhouse continues to trade, as does Umu; Eater understands that Morton’s, Abela’s private club, has closed, with OW Loeb, the renowned London wine merchant described as “imperilled” by Abela’s ownership, also still trading. The Square is one of London’s fine dining institutions, most memorable for chef Phil Howard’s tenure, and mysteriously retained its Michelin star in 2017 despite being closed, without a chef, and not having the star formally announced by Michelin. Abela told Eater at the time that The Square was “a project with a defined vision and we will execute that vision in order to survive.”
Eater has contacted Abela for a statement. A spokesperson for MARC said: “It has been a challenging time for the hospitality sector as a whole over the last few years, with rents and rates rising dramatically. Mr Abela cares deeply about the businesses and the staff but, despite investing tens of millions of pounds of his own money into the businesses, was unable to save them from going into administration.”