The double-dip recession does not appear to have dampened restaurateurs' appetite for prime London sites, as it emerged that two Michelin-starred Alvin Leung will have shelled out £1m to acquire and fit out his new Bo London venture.
UK leisure property specialists Cedar Dean Gilmarc said that prices in London were hitting record levels, sparked by the reputation of UK chefs and the international profile of the 2012 Olympics.
Leung is understood to have paid almost £500,000 for the lease of his property in Mill Street, Mayfair, and is expected to require another £500,000 to fit it out.
Morris Greenberg of UK leisure property specialists, Cedar Dean Gilmarc, said: "Britain is the place to be and, despite the low trading during the Olympics, London restaurant business is simply booming. If you have a restaurant in the capital it says you are at the top and leases are hitting record levels because of unprecedented interest."
Although the number of diners has dropped during the Olympic period it has not put off entrepreneurs and international food companies.
"The restaurant business is one of the high-spots of the economy right now. International and private money is flooding into the UK," added Greenberg. "The banks are still slow to lend but that it not stopping the boom. London, in particular, is now an arena where international chefs need to be to have that global impact. Attracting someone of Alvin's stature shows just how strong interest is at the moment. He is a major name in world food and he wanted to be in London."
Self-taught Leung, who started his career in hospitality as a waiter in London, has enjoyed a meteoric rise after buying his first restaurant in Hong Kong for £3,000 only a decade ago. The 48-year-old is renowned for his 'X-treme Chinese' style.
Leung said: "London has a global importance and if you are accepted here then you can go to other countries. It is like being a fashion designer in France, it says that you can perform at the highest level. London has this amazing reputation for food so opening here is a smart move for me."
He added: "I was born here so there is a lot of sentiment but it is primarily a good business move. I take Chinese food to another level where it is considered fine dining and somewhere you want to take your family, your partner or your clients to impress them. There will be lots of unique dishes at Bo London and I want to be inspired by the food of Britain to present new, exciting dishes that have a connection and heritage in London and the UK."
Cedar Dean Gilmarc said it had also seen restaurant chains such as Cote, Wahaca, Burger & Lobster and Bills scrambling for London floorspace to meet the huge demand for affordable as well as high-end food in the capital.
Greenberg added: "People have realised that the banks are not the sole source of lending money and they are getting on with business without them. Only ten per cent of funding now comes from banks. We have investment from Russia, Italy, Japan and now we are seeing serious and committed money coming in from Thailand.
"Jason Atherton received Singaporean backing for his restaurant Pollen Street Social and is doing phenomenal business. People want to follow him. You can be doing well in New York or Paris but having a restaurant in London says you've arrived on the world scene. The Olympics has also been a catalyst along with road and transport improvements in the capital. It promotes confidence. In terms of the restaurant market, London is the place to be. The restaurant business is the best it has ever been and that is great news for the entire nation."
By Neil Gerrard
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