Following the closure of Oxeye, restaurateur Sven-Hanson Britt damningly described London as being “plagued” with a “staid and vapid restaurant scene”.
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Britt shared on Instagram that the “last couple of months” had been the most difficult of his life. Referring to the Nine Elms restaurant as his “third baby”, he announced that it would be closing and declared: “I’m absolutely confident, especially in the latter days, that the guests we welcomed received the best hospitality imaginable and undeniably, some of the best food in London, all from a hungry, dynamic and beautiful team.”
MasterChef: The Professionals finalist Britt opened the tasting menu-only restaurant in 2021 after a Kickstarter campaign.
Announcing in the post that “there will be something new coming, hopefully soon”, he then concluded: “Soon I will be ready to add something a bit more interesting to the staid & vapid restaurant scene that London is currently plagued with.”
On Twitter, the reaction to Britt’s thoughts at the end of his Instagram post has been somewhat mixed.
Publican Oisín Rogers, who will be opening a new pub in Soho with Flat Iron founder Charlie Carroll, this autumn, joked: “Staid and Vapid is my favourite tasting menu restaurant.”
Replying to that, food writer Joe Warwick gave his summary of what he felt Britt really meant by his statement: “‘Everyone else is sh*t because my restaurant failed.'”
In response to Warwick, Britt stuck to his guns: “I’m allowed an opinion at the same time as closing my restaurant. My opinion is that dining in London is pretty boring right now, except a handful, and it’s such a shame. Places are being forced to ‘play safe’ as it’s such tight times and that’s led to the ubiquity we see.”
The of these “tight times” on London restaurants has certainly been profound, as db discovered when interviewing several restaurateurs last year.
Tom Fahey of the Isle of Wight’s The Terrace suggested that the outrage over Britt’s comments was misguided: “Get off it, the London restaurant scene has been staid and vapid since 2015 with about 2% notable exceptions. If you’re one of them kindly accept it and keep fighting the staid vapidity.”
Replying to his tweet, the account for steakhouse group Hawksmoor chimed in: “Apparently there are 24,000 restaurants in London, so almost 500 are daring, exciting places.”
Britt isn’t the only one to be critical of London’s restaurants in recent weeks – singer Lily Allen claimed that “standards have slipped in London’s restaurant scene” across the board with the exception of, in her view, Barrafina and Afghan Kitchen.
The closure of Oxeye may also come as something of a shock because Britt recently trialled bigger booking deposits in a bid to deter customers from not showing up with great success.
This article was originally published by the drinks business and has been shared with permission.