Friday five: the week's top restaurant stories

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Credit: Thom Bartley
Credit: Thom Bartley

Related tags Restaurant

This week's top news stories include a new restaurant from chef Alex Claridge, Borough Market’s Turnips slamming the market’s management for closing its restaurant, and Popeyes' annual sales surpassing £100m.

- Birmingham-based chef Alex Claridge is opening an omakase style restaurant​ in the city’s Jewellery Quarter this summer. Called Albatross Death Cult, the intimate 14-cover restaurant is described as being a ‘raw, unedited, and decidedly stripped back sibling’ to Claridge’s Birmingham restaurant The Wilderness. It will serve a menu of around 12 courses to 14 guests sat around a monolithic kitchen counter for one sitting per service, with dishes served by the chefs. The menu will feature mostly seafood and coastal ingredients ‘that smack you in the face like ocean spray’. The restaurant will be located in a Grade II canal side warehouse at 1 Newhall Square that Claridge had previously run as a bar, and takes its name from the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner​.

- The director of the fruit and vegetable company behind Borough Market’s Turnips has hit out against the market’s management for withdrawing permission for its restaurant to operate. In a statement provided to Restaurant​, Charlie Foster alleges that the Borough Market Trustees have 'gratuitously curtailed' Turnips without explanation​. “We were given no prior notice of, or justification for, this unilateral termination of our agreement and our flourishing restaurant, the destruction of which in no way benefits the Borough Market Trust,” the statement reads. Chef Tomas Lidakevicius announced that his high-reaching vegetable-centric restaurant Turnips was to close earlier this month.

Annual sales at Popeyes UK have passed £100m​, according to CEO Tom Crowley, as the group’s estate nears 50 sites. The fast-growing fried chicken QSR brand, which is backed by TDR Capital in the UK, has just opened a drive-thru in Manchester on Bury New Road, marking its second location in the city. Popeyes entered the UK market in November 2021 and now operates an estate of 47 sites, which includes restaurants, drivethrus and delivery kitchens. Crowley said: “In just 30 months the outstanding Popeyes UK team have created a business with +£100m annual sales, a pipeline of ‘top drawer’ new sites including +25 for the year ahead and we are now achieving our highest product ratings…. ever! It doesn’t feel like work when you are alongside some of the most talented people in the industry.”

- London’s Ikoyi has partnered with Uber Eats to offer what is claimed to be the UK’s cheapest two Michelin-starred menu​. Created by executive chef Jeremy Chan, the five-course menu features the creative, spice-based restaurant’s original take on Jollof rice and will be available for two days only. Priced at £60, the menu will be available for Uber One members based in central London on 10 May and for all Uber Eats customers on 11 May. There is also a drinks pairing available for £25 that features two cocktails, an Eko Lager and a soft drink.

Whitbread is to exit 126 sites from its branded restaurant estate and convert a further 112 into new hotel rooms as part of a new ‘accelerating growth plan’ (AGP)​. The group, whose portfolio includes the Bar + Block, Brewers Fayre and Beefeater brands, says the two-year plan will result in the reduction of around 1,500 roles across its UK workforce. According to the group’s financial results for the year ended 29 February 2024, published this week, the 126 restaurants earmarked for disposal generated revenue of £147m and a loss before tax of £9m; while those marked for conversion, which will be situated next to Premier Inn sites, generated revenue of £121m and a loss before tax of £19m. In total, the group’s UK business, which also includes the Premier Inn hotel chain, reported a pre-tax profit of £588m, a 19% increase on the year before.

For more of this week's headlines, click here​.

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