When news broke yesterday that Gordon Ramsay had paid £1.2 million for a Chelsea restaurant site, it was interesting for two reasons. First, the fact that El Gordo would be opening his third restaurant in London in twelve months shows that for all his time in LA the chef still has designs on our city. But second it shows that Ramsay for all his TV blustering must be a bit of a softy at heart. Because 11 Park Walk is much more than a nifty bit of property development. It's the address where Aubergine, the restaurant where Ramsay's career took off, used to stand.
In a statement released to the press yesterday Ramsay said: "I’m so excited to announce a return to this site! It was 21 years ago that I first started there and it’s a site that is really close to be heart with so many fond memories! It’s amazing to reflect on how far we’ve come since then and I can’t wait to get it open.”
For those of you who aren't familiar with Aubergine's history, it was opened by Ramsay way back in 1993 as his first restaurant and was where the chef earned his very first Michelin star. Fay Maschler has since described it one of her rare game-changer restaurants in London.
Ramsay left the restaurant under a storm cloud in 1998 when he walked out, taking his staff with him to open his now three Michelin-starred restaurant on Royal Hospital Road. But even before he left, the restaurant was the origins of a feud with former mentor Marco Pierre White after Ramsay nicked the restaurant's reservations book - a total goldmine in the days pre computer bookings - and blamed the theft on Marco. Although Ramsay denied this for years, he came clean seven years ago in an interview with the New Yorker. According to The Standard he's intending to display the famous book in a glass case when he opens there.
Of course Ramsay's not the only chef to make good on a dream to return to a site he has fond memories of. When Angela Hartnett opened Cafe Murano in St James last year she was returning to the site where Petrus used to stand and where she'd once worked alongside Marcus Wareing as Sous Chef.
Back to the present day - so what kind of restaurant will Gordon be opening? Ramsay told The Standard it'll be a 60 seat restaurant, opening in August. But it wouldn't be called Aubergine. “The signing of the new site is very exciting for us as a Group as we continue to explore new opportunities," says Ramsay's right hand man Stuart Gillies, "11 Park Walk is steeped in history and it’s so nice to be back in there, bringing together everything we’ve learnt along the way.”
"The concept is not yet decided," a spokesperson for the group told Hot Dinners, "but [it] won't be fine dining."
Gordon Ramsay's as-yet-unnamed restaurant will open in August 2014 at 11 Park Walk, London SW10 0AJ