Friday Five: the week's top news

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Friday Five the week's top hospitality stories

Related tags asma khan Rishi Sunak JKS Restaurants Gordon ramsay Thomas Straker

Our most read news stories this week include Asma Khan's to relocate her Darjeeling Express restaurant for a second time, a disappointing mini-Budget and the full reveal of the brands that will go into JKS Restaurants' Arcade Food Hall.

- Asma Khan has said she plans to relocate her Darjeeling Express restaurant,​ currently located in London’s Covent Garden, for a second time. Speaking On BBC’s Saturday Kitchen this weekend, Khan, who moved Darjeeling Express from its original Soho location to Covent Garden back in 2020, confirmed she is ‘in the market’ for a new site and is looking for one with an open kitchen in order to better allow her all-female kitchen team to be more visible. “I think that I may have to move,” she said. “[Covent Garden] was brilliant during the pandemic, and I haven’t said this publicly anywhere, I am going to move [the restaurant] because the real stars of the show are my women in the kitchen. “At the moment we’re in a basement kitchen, which is true for most West End places. Anyone who knows anyone who wants to lease a restaurant to me, I am in the market.” Darjeeling Express began life as a supper club for 12 guests before Khan opened it as a restaurant in Soho’s Kingly Court in 2017.

- Hospitality businesses have been left disappointed after Chancellor Rishi Sunak failed​ to offer fresh financial support in his Spring Statement to help firms weather rising cost inflation pressures. Coming on a day when the annual rate of inflation rose to 6.2%, the Chancellor pledged to build ‘a stronger, more secure economy’, targeting measures to try combat the cost of living for people with a cut to fuel duty, a doubling of the Household Support Fund and a rise to the National Insurance income threshold. However, beyond a small rise to the Employment Allowance, he failed to offer any meaningful support to businesses dealing with unprecedented and, by any measure, extreme cost inflation pressures. Calls had long been growing for the reduced 12.5% rate of VAT for hospitality firms to be retained beyond April, when it is set to revert back to its pre-pandemic rate of 20%.

- JKS Restaurants has revealed the rest of the brands that will be opening at its upcoming Arcade Food Hall next month.​ They are Hero Indian Fast Food (North Indian street food classics); Shatta & Toum (Middle Eastern shawarma kitchen); Manna (American diner-style food); Arcade Provisions (day-to-night deli); Sushi Kamon (Japanese sushi and omakase experience); Saborcito (the little sister to Nieves Barragán Mohacho’s Sabor, which is part of JKS Restaurants); and Benham & Froud Jelladrome (a new concept from dessert brand Bompas & Parr). These will be joined by chef and Asian ingredient expert Luke Farrell’s full-service Southern Thai restaurant called Plaza Khao Gaeng as well as Indonesian street food kitchen Bebek! Bebek! , which were announced last week.

- Gordon Ramsay has said the Covid-19 pandemic has ‘wiped the arrogance from the industry’,​adding that it had also wiped the slate clean of ‘crap’ restaurants. In an interview with the Radio Times, the chef argued that that while the past two years have been ‘devastating’ for the restaurant industry, the upside is ‘the crap’s gone’. Asked if he meant any particular chains, Ramsay responded: “Well, just shitholes in a prime position and taking advantage because they’re in a great location and they’ve got the footfall. “But now we’ve wiped the slate clean, which is good.” Ramsay’s restaurant group, which includes a number of casual dining brands including Street Burger and Bread Street Kitchen & Bar, as well as a number of singular, high-end restaurants, has been on a major expansion drive over the past 18 months.

- Former Elystan Street and Casa Cruz chef Thomas Straker is set to launch his first solo venture this June on Notting Hill’s Golborne Road.​ The inspiration behind Straker’s - which is being billed as a ‘lively, neighbourhood restaurant’ - will be exceptional, seasonal produce cooked with simplicity and flair. Known for his popular wild cooking videos, Straker had been due to open a Mediterraneaninspired restaurant in Queen’s Park called Acre. The 40-cover space will have an open kitchen with counter seating along with wooden wall panels and low lighting. A mix of snacks, small and larger plates will form the base of a ‘constantly evolving menu’, with guests encouraged to muck in and order for the table, enjoying the food family style. Many dishes will have an Italian influence, with the launch menu including the likes of gnocco fritto with guanciale; clams with nduja and basil; and whole grilled seabass with white peach, green beans and almonds.

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