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London's most influential restaurant group has defied the gloom in the consumer sector by investing in a new venue.

D&D London, until recently known as the Conran group, has backed a venture by chef Anna Hansen, called Modern Pantry.

This is the first time that the group, which owns some of London's most iconic restaurants such as Pont de la Tour, has backed an outside venture.

"This is an interesting model for us - acting as backer for great chefs - and if it takes off, I can see us doing more along these lines," said Des Gunewardena, the chairman of D&D.

It is understood that the investment in the restaurant, which will also contain a delicatessen, is in excess of 1m, with D&D taking a 50pc stake and Ms Hansen taking a 50pc stake.

The deal follows some of the UK's biggest restaurant companies saying that trading had slumped in recent months as consumers cut back on spending.

Mr Gunewardena said: "We're investors for the long term, not on the basis of what may happen next year."

He would not give any details of current trading, but said he had noticed that some expense accounts had cut back on expensive wine.

The restaurant in Clerkenwell, on the outskirts of the City, should be open for business by summer 2008. Ms Hansen is the co-founder of Providores, also in London, one of the restaurants that helped pioneer so-called Pacific Rim fusion food

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