Ever since it was known that Claridge's weren't renewing their restaurant contract with Gordon Ramsay (and to be honest, a fair bit before that too) it's been open season on the London restaurant grapevine for speculating on who would take over. Well this morning, the hotel finally put an end to all that with the announcement that Simon Rogan would be opening there in the Spring of next year.
Hot Dinners caught up with Rogan just a few hours after that announcement to try and winkle out some more information about what'll probably be the biggest opening of next year in London.
Can you talk us through the deal and how it came about? Actually when did it all happen?
I signed on the dotted line last Thursday. It's great to have all the stress of the announcement out of the way. After Roganic we knew we wanted to have a shop window in London - to have a voice in London. The success we had with the Midland in Manchester told us that a hotel deal was the preferable deal we were looking for when we came back to London. You can only get away with something like Roganic once. What would happen next had to be something of a plush beast which would have cost us a hell of a lot of money.
So you were talking to other London hotels then?
There were other things that were put in our lap - one in particular which was quite advanced when I got the call from Claridge's out of the blue.
Obviously Claridge's is a hell of a gig but what made you so sure this was what you wanted?
As soon as I met the team at Claridge's I thought they were my type of people. I wanted to bring something new and fresh but in return I really thought they can offer me something - a way to be a better chef. They're a very slick operation. We can rub off on each other and create something really special.
And what about the space itself?
If you looked at it now you wouldn't recognise it - it's been completely stripped back, everything is gone. We've knocked down some of the walls - we're starting with a blank canvas.The process has meant there's been a few nooks and crannies revealed for the first time in years and we're hoping to make use of them. So the restaurant will be in the shape it used. But it'll be more unique and more befitting to the 21st century. We didn't want it be just another five star hotel dining room. There'll be a lot of open space. People can come and visit the kitchen, there'll be a bigger private dining room [pauses]. That's assuming there's going to be enough budget for all of this...
There'll be a new bar area attached to the restaurant - and a completely new entrance created... the whole flow of the restaurant is going to change.
Will you be making any changes to that teeny bar area?
There'll be a new bar area attached to the restaurant - and a completely new entrance created coming into the restaurant so you won't come in through the fumoir. It'll be on Davies street - the whole flow of the restaurant is going to change.
It's early days but can you give us an idea of the direction the food will take?
We've been very busy behind the scenes at Aulis (Rogan's development space in Cumbria). We've doubled the amount of staff working there and the'll be developing new dishes. The style of food, the ethos and DNA will be L'enclume, but it'll be a different direction and structure.
We've got to respect where we are; Claridge's is a timeless classic Mayfair address so that means we might relax our policy on British-only ingredients, by offering foreign caviar. We're talking about those kind of things at the moment.
Will you be looking to win back the restaurant's Michelin star (Claridge's lost its star in 2010)?
I've realised to my cost this year that nothing's certain with the French. I was certain that Manchester (The French, Rogan's restaurant at the Midland hotel in Manchester) would get one this year - it didn't. Our thoughts are we're just going to create a great, busy restaurant and those other things tend to follow on from that.
Who will be heading up your team at Claridge's?
Dan Cox is Executive Chef, Andy Tomlinson is Head Chef and Matt Starling will be the soux chef (all of whom worked in those positions at Roganic). So there'll be a bit of blood from Roganic running through Claridges veins. We've just opened up our recruitment page and I expect we'll be getting some pretty special applications.
The Evening Standard described you as "the surprise choice". Why would you say you're the right choice for Claridges?
Over the last couple of years with what we've achieved in our very British ethos and the way we do things, as far as I'm concerned I'm the perfect choice! And I was secretly yearning for it to go to a British chef. At Claridge's, there should be a British chef at the helm.
Simon Rogan's untitled restaurant at Claridge's will be opening in Spring/early Summer 2014. Reservations will not be taken until 2014. To keep up with their news sign up for updates at the Claridges website.