New dining venues develop City of London's social heart

In the 19th century it was chops, beefsteaks and ale; in the 1980s caviar, champagne and lost afternoons. In the modern City of London, you can acquire a dining habit for almost anything: Wagyu beef, tonkotsu ramen, lobster macaroni.

The diversification of food in the City is particularly striking at Broadgate Circle's new dining development, which comprises 11 restaurants covering dim sum (Yauatcha), pizza (Franco Manca), tapas (Jose Pizarro), seafood and meat grills (via "new concept" Crab Tavern) and other global tastes.

Matthew Pinsent, head of City offices for British Land, which co-owns Broadgate, says: "We felt we needed to create a new social heart to Broadgate . . . Retaining and attracting top-quality staff for our occupiers required an improved and integrated work and social environment."

The new "dining and leisure" development is also intended to "attract a weekend and family audience as part of a more diversified place-making strategy". Dining and drinking create "critical mass" and an "enlivened environment", Mr Pinsent said.

The idea of the City as an increasingly lively place is echoed by Nick Jones, the Soho House Group entrepreneur who is developing a 252-bedroom hotel with eight restaurants within the disused, grade-one listed Midland Bank building at 27 Poultry.

"The building we've found is a monument to the old City of London, one that was old and stuffy. I thought how amazing it would be to take this impenetrable building, with its masses of upstairs rooms that were closed to the bank's customers, and open it up for people to use and enjoy," he said.

The exterior and banking hall were designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in the early 1920s, which at the time was the world's largest clearing bank. The bank's vaults made an appearance in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger (in the scene where Oddjob meets an electric demise).

The new site will not be a Soho House members' club, but "something open to the public. I see this building as a stepping stone that will link the creative communities of Soho to Shoreditch. Something new and exciting," Mr Pinsent said.


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>Investment in food offerings is also visible on the City fringes around Liverpool Street and Spitalfields. Nuno Mendes, executive chef of Chiltern Firehouse, has opened a new Portuguese restaurant here, Taberna do Mercado, and a branch of Ottolenghi also opened recently, alongside numerous burger chains.

In 2018, Liverpool Street will receive another influx of potential eaters via the completion of Crossrail.

"We expect significant benefits to flow from Crossrail, including increased footfall through Liverpool Street and Broadgate. This will drive office occupier appeal to a broader audience of companies, who will recognise the great value for money . . . in this evolving area around Liverpool Street/Shoreditch," said Mr Pinsent of British Land.

For Peter Rees, former City planner, the activity in the restaurant industry "reflects the health of the City as we see the business centre getting back to what it used to be".

"Business is done on the move. Even in the higher echelons people don't have an office environment any more," Mr Rees said, noting that the restaurant table once again becomes the meeting room table. "It's as much to do with the age-old strength of the City as a place of gossip and buzz."

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