By Angela Jameson
John Burton-Race, chef-patron of the two-Michelin-starred L'Ortolan restaurant in Shinfield, Berkshire, is set to make his long-awaited debut in London this summer with a foray into informal dining.
Kim Burton-Race, the chef's wife, has bought a lease from Bass on premises at 168 High Holborn, currently trading as Bar Oporto. The husband-and-wife team plan to gut the building to create a three-floor, all-day bar and restaurant operation, which has the potential to be repeated elsewhere.
"I've been waiting to go up to London for a long time and had several opportunities to do a L'Ortolan-style restaurant. But I wanted to get back to where I started from and I wanted to make some more money," Mr Burton-Race said.
The venture, due to open in August, will feature a 60-seat bar at street level serving one-plate light meals: for example, a Mediterranean plate or a Japanese plate for about £4 to £6 each.
"These are not bar snacks. The food will be simple and light. We want to push British beer and food that goes with it," said Mr Burton-Race, who also plans to have Champagne on draft.
A 60-seat basement restaurant will serve a wide-ranging menu of simple, light dishes with French to Eastern influences. With wine, average spend per head in the restaurant will be about £20.
The informal eaterie will concentrate on the dinner trade and after-theatre custom from the nearby Shaftesbury Theatre.
Above the bar, a galleried landing will provide an overflow area, where Mr Burton-Race plans to serve cooked breakfasts from 7.30am. Afternoon teas with sandwiches and pâtisseries will also be served here.
If the venture succeeds, the formula will be repeated elsewhere in London, with the support of the brewing giant. "Bass are 100% behind us, and if this takes off they will want to replicate it," he said.
The refurbishment programme will cost about £150,000 and the restaurant's name is likely to be derived from Mr Burton-Race's. However, L'Ortolan will still receive his full culinary attention.
A £75,000 refurbishment of the main dining room at the Berkshire restaurant has recently been completed. Further refurbishment of the conservatory dining room will take place in late summer.