The Lowdown: the return of the Naked Chef

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

The return of the Naked Chef Jamie Oliver opening new London restaurant

Related tags Jamie oliver group Jamie oliver Restaurant Chef

Four years after the collapse of his UK restaurant group, Jamie Oliver is gearing up for a grand return with a new concept in central London.

I’m going to guess Turkey Twizzlers and jerk rice won’t be on the menu…
Seems unlikely. We suspect that Eton Mess may well be out too after Oliver turned up outside Downing Street brandishing a great bowl of it in protest of the Government’s U-turn on its anti-obesity strategy last year.

You could be right. What do we know about this new venture, then?
To be honest, not much. It has been confirmed that the as-yet unnamed restaurant will launch at London's Theatre Royal later this year​ and will see the chef go back to his ‘culinary roots’, taking inspiration from the dishes he used to cook in his mum and dad’s pub restaurant. “It’s about celebrating Britain’s rich and diverse food scene in what I hope will be an iconic, trusted restaurant in a very special place,” he says. The menu will be ‘seasonal’ and ‘champion British suppliers’ including Creedy Carver and Cobble Lane Cured.

Sounds like it’s being positioned at a more premium level than Jamie’s Italian…
Absolutely. Kevin Styles, who was hired as chief executive of the Jamie Oliver Group last year, confirmed as much in an interview with TheTimes​last weekend. “We are not going into the mid-market,” he told the paper. Instead, he described it as aiming at ‘polished’ status, while remaining ‘accessible’. In total the restaurant will hold about 150 covers and offer pre-theatre and kids' menus alongside its à la carte offering.

Can we expect to see more Jamie Oliver restaurants in the UK beyond this one?
Styles has certainly suggested as much, telling The Times​ that the launch forms part of a five-year plan for the Jamie Oliver Group. “We are doing one and seeing how it goes,” he said. “We know when you get this right… that there are very healthy returns to be made.”

Seems a bit risky, given how things turned out last time…
When Oliver’s UK restaurant empire fell into administration back in 2019, the cost was huge. It led to the closure of the chef’s nationwide Jamie’s Italian chain, as well as his Barbecoa and Fifteen restaurants. More than 1,000 jobs were lost in the process and £83m was left owed to creditors. Oliver himself lost around £25m as a result of the collapse.

Why go again? It’s not like his career hasn’t continued to thrive
There is that. An almost constant stream of bestselling books and prime time cookery shows doesn’t seem to sate his appetite for more. Maybe he’s a glutton for punishment. After all, the restaurant landscape into which Jamie will be stepping is far more unstable than it was four years ago. But restaurants have always been a huge part of his career. Lest we forget it was cooking at The River Café that led to him being discovered and eventually becoming a household name. And while his UK restaurant operation fell into disrepair, his international business has continued to thrive​. To date he has around 70 restaurant sites operating across 23 different countries in Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East, and South America

So, he’s still a big deal overseas?
You could say that. Indeed, his international success appears to have given him the confidence to make another play for the UK market. “Losing my UK restaurants was without doubt one of the hardest times of my life,” he said when announcing the new London opening earlier this month. “But being a positive part of the restaurant industry is very close to my heart. We learnt lessons as we grew the international restaurants – there are now more than 70 across the world – so I’m very excited to open this restaurant in London and with an exceptional team, once again, serve the public. This opportunity truly means the world to me.”

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