Le Caprice, a restaurant which symbolises London’s glitziest dining inclinations, has announced that it will not reopen at its location on Arlington Street in St. James’s. Bloomberg’s Richard Vines first posted news of restaurateur Richard Caring’s flagship closure to Twitter this weekend, with the story receiving confirmation from the restaurant’s general manager Jesus Adorno this lunch time.
Le Caprice, which sits behind the Ritz Hotel on Piccadilly, first opened in 1947, under the direction of Mario Gallati, former Maître d’ of The Ivy, according to the restaurant’s website. The modern-day iteration opened in 1981, was acquired by Caring in 2000, has in the intervening decades earned a reputation for exclusivity and luxe hospitality, as well as royal and celebratory regulars.
Indeed it was to a tweet by blowhard day time TV presenter Piers Morgan that Adorno responded with confirmation that the restaurant group would not renew its lease. Among its other, more famous, guests are the late Princess Diana, Rolling Stone Mick Jagger, the actress Elizabeth Taylor, and the model Kate Moss. Le Caprice cited “urban elegance” and “modern British cuisine” among its draws.
Adorno, who is now the director of Caprice Holdings, has worked at Le Caprice since its 1981 relaunch, initially as a waiter, told Morgan that “the lease is coming to an end but the iconic, Le Caprice will be reborn at a new location in the near future.” He added that he would share plans “ASAP.”
Caprice Holdings had spent the last two years apparently attempting to diversify its business model, maintaining an exclusive clutch of west end restaurants (like Sexy Fish and Scott’s), but expanding the Ivy Collection franchise across the country; a strategy which was part-inspired by the success of the Bill’s chain, which the company acquired in 2008, but also because of a shift in the so-called casual dining landscape. While older chains like Jamie’s Italian were folding, restaurant property was theoretically easier to come by — and the market itself had been somewhat opened up to .
Both of those business models are now compromised. But it is perhaps for the more exclusive, big-money businesses in the capital that the after-effects of the coronavirus pandemic will be more sharply felt when weighing the medium-term impacts on trade.
Even if restaurants are allowed to reopen with social distancing rules in place this year (there is no clarity yet), it is clear that without any known plans to meaningfully reopen tourism (or hotels), the luxury restaurants of London’s wealthiest postcodes are going to realise that their existing business models are no longer viable. It was this which forced the owner of two-Michelin-starred The Ledbury, Brett Graham, to announce that he could see no path to reopening last week.
Caring and Caprice Holdings may well find an alternative location; the guests (and their capital) it needs to operate won’t necessarily disappear forever. But what role a restaurant and entertainment venue such as Le Caprice will occupy in a post-coronavirus industry is, at this point, hard to accurately predict.