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More Restaurants opening in London than ever before

More restaurants opened in London in the past year than ever before marking a golden age for dining out in the capital, according to the latest edition of the Harden�s restaurant guide.

Harden�s London Restaurants recorded 158 openings in the capital in the past 12 months to August, marking an increase of more than 10% compared with the previous year, which saw 136 openings.

This beats the previous openings record of 142 in 2005.

However, the number of restaurants closing in London has also increased dramatically from 65 closures in 2006 to 89 closures in the 12 months to August this year.

Peter Harden, co-editor of the guide said: �London�s restaurant scene continues to evolve faster than ever and we are now seeing new openings annually at about three times the rate of 15 years ago.�

Harden warned that the current increase in restaurant failures would probably continue with a number of eateries likely to be forced into closing their doors permanently in the coming months

Brazilian restaurant Mocoto in London�s Knightsbridge has closed its doors, just six months after it opened.

The restaurant, which was located on the old site of Oliver Peyton�s Isola, held its last service last Wednesday (1 August), and has gone into receivership.

Unconfirmed rumours suggest Gordon Ramsay Holdings has expressed an interested in taking over the site.

Mocoto, the brainchild of former proprietor David Ponte who recently sold off the majority of his shares in the business, opened at the end of January, more than a year later and �1m over budged than originally planned.

Designed by Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld, the restaurant was spread over two levels and included an informal "boteco" bar/brasserie on the ground floor and a more formal 80-cover dining room in the basement.

The restaurant billed itself as London�s �first authentic� Brazilian eaterie serving classics with many ingredients imported from Brazil.

Head chef was Darryl Healy with Jason Bedford as restaurant manager

Hibiscus, Claude and Claire Bosi's renowned restaurant, will have a new site in London's Maddox Street, Caterer can reveal.

The couple completed the deal for the property this week, having closed the doors of their acclaimed two-Michelin-starred restaurant at its original site in Ludlow, Shropshire, in April.

The reincarnated Hibiscus will open at 29 Maddox Street, a new-build site, in mid-September. The 48-seat restaurant will have a 16-seat private dining room and a team of 18 staff, including a 10-strong kitchen brigade. Most staff have transferred south with the Bosis from Ludlow, including sous chef Marcus McGuinness and head chef Marcus Eaves.

Bosi commented: "I'm so lucky. We've only lost one commis from the kitchen team. I've got a brigade that is full of talent which is really looking forward to the challenge in London."

The restaurant will open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner and has been designed by David Davies. Bosi plans to offer a similar pricing structure as previously in Ludlow. He said: "I'm transferring Hibiscus, not starting a new restaurant. The idea is to continue and build on what I have been doing."

So Is the London Market close to Burnout?

Richard Harden, co-editor, Harden's Restaurant Guide, says it's all in the numbers - or maybe not

Words can paint pictures, but sometimes only numbers can tell stories. One of the simplest ways of telling the story of the London restaurant scene is by counting the number of new arrivals - and departures - each year.

At Harden's, we don't claim our figures are perfect - nor would any statistician - but, as far as we know, we are the only people who have been monitoring these details consistently for the past 16 years.

In this way, we have thus tracked the mid-1990s boom (when three restaurants opened for every one that closed), and the dog days in the aftermath of the second Gulf war - the only time that the openings/closures ratio declined almost to the 1:1 "replacement" level.

From our figures, the overall picture becomes pretty clear: there was a step-change in the mid-1990s, after which openings were pretty flat - around the 100 mark from 1996 to 1999. They bounced back again for the millennium, and have remained locked in a narrow range - 120-142 - ever since. Sounds pretty "steady as she goes", doesn't it?

What's much more interesting, though, is the percentage of restaurants that close from year to year. For all the time we've been tracking it, there's been an apparently inexorable cycle at work in the percentage of restaurants closing annually. It peaked in 1992, 1997 and the infamous annus horribilis in 2003.

You don't need to be Carol Vorderman to realise that there's a pattern emerging here. The two complete cycles to date (1992-97, and 1997-2003) have followed spookily similar paths: after the peak, closings fall for two years then make a ragged ascent, over three or four years, to the next peak.

Since the last peak in 2004, we've had three years (not two) of falling closings, but it does seem that the cycle is now due (even overdue) for a turn. If that's right, the market is now set for potentially three years of rising numbers of closures.

Of course, the past may be no guide to the future at all, but we wouldn't like to bet on it.

Do you think the restaurant boom is over?

Gaby Huddart, editor, Square Meal
Definitely not. The list we have of new places to review is literally as long as my arm. Places are not closing any faster than normal. There is the usual weeding out of restaurants that have either had their day or didn't quite do their sums right. We have an "RIP" file for places that have closed, and it's no bigger now than usual.

Kirsten Falk, general manager, Kensington Roof Gardens, London
We are definitely in the middle of a boom but we are very dependent on what happens around us, so if there are any terrorist issues or other instances like that, we will be affected. I think the boom will continue for most people, as long as the political and economic atmosphere remains stable.

James Grant, general manager, Wiltons, London
Restaurants will continue to open and restaurants will continue to close at the same speed, because owners need to grasp what customers want in order to build a regular client base. Wiltons has done well for more than 200 years and is continuing to do well. The restaurant boom will, I think, continue.

Richard Shepherd, owner, Langan's Brasserie, London
I don't think it will ever end. There will always be somebody who wants to open a restaurant and just as many that close. I think there will be a lot of restaurants hitting the brick wall by the end of this year, but there are a lot of silly people out there who see the industry through rose-coloured spectacles and think of it as a glamorous option.

Gordon Ramsay�s grip on the popular imagination is in danger of �stifling� the London restaurant scene, claims eating out guide Harden�s.

Five of Ramsay�s restaurants were named in the top 10 gastronomic experiences listing in the new edition of the London guide.

He was also voted the capital�s top chef, for the 11th year running.

�It is no criticism of Gordon to say that for one man, or brand, to achieve such dominance over London�s top-end restaurant scene risks becoming stifling,� said guide co-editor Richard Harden.

Bruce Poole garnered plenty of plaudits, coming second in the chef rankings and second in the top gastronomic experience listing with his restaurant Chez Bruce in Wandsworth.

Rising star Morgan Meunier of Morgan M restaurant in Islington placed third in the chef category.

But it wasn�t all good news. Oxo Tower took the title of most disappointing restaurant, while second place went to the world famous Ivy in Covent Garden, which was described as being �ever more at risk of slipping from classic to clich� status�.

Cipriani restaurant in Mayfair received the biggest tongue-lashing from the Harden's, coming sixth in the most disappointing experience cooking and second in the most overpriced ranking.

Harden�s called it �a vulgar Euro-trash trattoria with rip-off prices and surly service�.


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