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Fri 14th Sep 2018 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Center Parcs reports Ebitda boost as turnover nears £470m: Holiday park operator Center Parcs has reported an Ebitda boost as revenue soared to almost £470m. The company, which operates self-catering cottages and lodges in forest settings at five locations in England, saw sales of £469.0m for the year ending 26 April 2018, compared with £440.3m a year earlier. Adjusted Ebitda increased to £226.1m, compared with £213.0m the previous year. Operating profit rose to £173.4m, compared with £165.1m the year before. Pre-tax profit was down to £58.3m, compared with £70.5m the previous year following exceptional and non-underlying items of £29.2m, £26.9m of which was as a result of refinancing of the group’s debt. Heavy snowfall in March this year forced the temporary closure of its Longleat Forest site in Wiltshire – only the fourth time a village has shut in more than 30 years of trading. The weather also restricted guest arrivals and activities at its other locations. As a result, the directors estimated lost revenue totalled £1.6m, while the overall reduction in Ebitda for the year was about £1.5m. Occupancy levels increased 0.3% to 97.6%, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Founded in 1968 in the Netherlands, Center Parcs opened its first village at Sherwood Forest in July 1987. It has since opened four more at Elveden Forest in Suffolk, Longleat Forest, Whinfell Forest in Cumbria and Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire. It is currently building its first site in the Republic of Ireland, a £203m investment located in Newcastle Wood, County Longford, which is due to open in summer 2019 and create 1,750 jobs. Center Parcs UK was acquired by commercial real estate firm Brookfield Property Partners in August 2015.

Industry News:

Full speaker schedule for Propel Multi Club Conference revealed, two free places for operators: The full speaker schedule for this year’s final Propel Multi Club Conference has been revealed. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 1 November at the Grange Hotel, St Paul’s, London. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at anne.steele@propelinfo.com. The speaker line-up is Christie & Co managing director of pubs and restaurants Neil Morgan; Zonal marketing director Clive Consterdine; Andrew Ball, of sector accountancy specialist haysmacintyre; Martin Dinkele, deputy managing director of Morar HPI; James Nye, managing director of award-winning, nine-strong Anglian Country Inns; Matt Snell, managing director of 19-strong Gusto; Good Life Eatery founder Yasmine Larizadeh; Simmons Bars founder Nick Campbell; John Upton, former managing director of Leon, member of the McDonald’s UK leadership team and now board member of Motherclucker and Naked Deli; Mark Jones, chief executive of Carluccio’s; Joe Grossman, founder of 12-strong Patty & Bun; and David Singleton, area vice-president, franchise operations and development EMEA/south Asia, Hard Rock International

Gourmet Burger Kitchen starts streamlining portfolio with Southport and Newport closures: Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) has started streamlining its portfolio by closing sites in Southport, Lancashire, and Newport in South Wales. The company, which has more than 100 sites and is owned by South African-based Famous Brands, recently appointed Deloitte as restructuring advisers to look at deals with landlords on rent cuts and site closures. When Propel asked Deloitte if the two closures – in Ocean Plaza, Southport, and Friars Walk shopping centre in Newport – were as a result of its involvement the company would not comment. It also would not comment on whether the closures were part of a planned programme or if a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) was imminent, as reports had previously suggested. The Southport restaurant has closed less than two years after its launch. The venue was the brand’s 74th restaurant when it opened in February 2017 at a former Bella Italia site. The venue won the best-designed restaurant category at this year’s Casual Dining Awards. A spokesman for GBK told the Liverpool Echo: “Our restaurant in Southport hasn’t performed as well as we expected so we’ve taken the very difficult decision to close it. Despite everyone’s best efforts, sometimes in this industry the specific challenges of a restaurant mean things just don’t work out. It’s a sad time for us.” Meanwhile, the company has removed all branding from its restaurant at Friars Walk shopping centre in Newport. Friars Walk centre director Simon Pullen told the South Wales Argus: “As has been well documented over the past year, it is a difficult trading climate for the casual dining market across the country and this is having an impact on restaurants such as GBK and forcing it to look at its portfolios and streamlining as it feels necessary. This unfortunately means the closure of some profitable units.” Speculation GBK could be forced into a CVA surfaced in July, when Famous Brands said it was considering “strategic options relating to a subsidiary”. Like-for-like sales at GBK dropped 10.6% in the 22 weeks to the end of July. The first GBK restaurant was opened in south London by three New Zealanders in 2001. Famous Brands, which also owns the Wimpy burger chain, bought GBK for £120m two years ago, saying it saw “substantial growth potential”.

Glasgow licensing bosses consult on extending hours for ‘responsible’ late-night venues: Licensing bosses in Glasgow have launched a consultation about extending the hours of “responsible” late-night venues in the city. The city council’s licensing board is seeking views on a 12-month pilot scheme to allow “late-night entertainment venues”, including pubs and clubs, to open until 4am. The move could also mean licensed premises are allowed to open until 5am on ten days throughout the year including at Christmas, new year and bank holidays. It also includes proposals allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to remain on licensed premises until 11pm, with the curfew for those under the age of 16 being 9pm. If the licensing board does push ahead with the pilot scheme, premises that can demonstrate they make a positive contribution to the night-time economy would be invited to apply. Those businesses would need to show evidence they have invested in safety and security measures, staff training and would potentially need to gain “gold” status in the Best Bar None industry accreditation scheme. Police Scotland confirmed it would not oppose the pilot. Licensing board clerk Mairi Miller told the Evening Times: “The background is around the unique status of the city centre in that there is a feeling it would be more appropriate to look at a European model where, rather than a rush to finish drinks at 3am, there is a gradual end to 4am. There’s a recognition it wouldn’t automatically be given to existing late-night premises. It’s looking at the premises that already show a commitment to operating responsibly.” If approved, the pilot scheme would be reviewed after 12 months with the views of Police Scotland and the NHS taken into account. Licensing board members put forward the consultation after a study by the Moffat Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University found the city’s night-time economy generated £2.16bn per year and supported 16,600 full-time jobs. The consultation closes on Friday, 5 October and the final policy statement is expected to be published by the end of the year.

SA Brain joins Hospitality Cymru: Brewer and retailer SA Brain has joined Hospitality Cymru, part of UKHospitality, after being attracted by a “range of new promotional possibilities”. Nolan Spratt, director of managed houses at SA Brain, said: “Hospitality Cymru offers exciting opportunities to join up with colleagues to help inform and influence key decision-makers. It closely matches our company’s ambitions as we continue to grow and expand.” Hospitality Cymru executive director in Wales David Chapman added: “We are delighted to have recruited such an influential employer and iconic brand in Wales. SA Brain is a leader in an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people and pays a fortune in taxes and rates. Now it has a voice to match its status and footprint.” SA Brain is set to open a new brewery next year and operates more than 100 managed pubs across Wales.

Company News:

Asahi UK reports continued growth through brand investment and expansion of Pilsner Urquell tank sites: Premium beer business Asahi UK has reported continued growth through brand investment and expansion of its Pilsner Urquell tank outlets. It reported turnover increased to £335,621,000 for the year ending 31 December 2017, compared with £239,200,000 for the nine months to December 2016. The company was sold to Asahi Group on 10 October 2016 following the purchase of SABMiller by Anheuser-Busch InBev and Asahi UK changed its accounting period from March to December to align with its parent company’s financial year. Asahi UK saw a pre-tax profit of £46,299,000 compared with £32,323,000 for the nine months earlier, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Dividends of £37m were declared and paid in the period ending 31 December 2017 (2016: £26.0m). In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Asahi UK has net assets of £28.5m (2016: £6.7m). The position of the business has remained consistent year-on-year as earnings are paid out as dividends during the year, this reflects our dividend policy. In the year ended 31 December 2017, the company’s underlying growth was achieved through continued investment in brand marketing campaigns, including the House of Peroni. Further investment in the Peroni Nastro Azzurro brand image included an updated campaign and new product innovation. Also, the company continued to execute outdoor marketing events in relation to the Pilsner Urquell and Kozel brands, in addition to the expansion of Pilsner Urquell tank outlets.”

Chick ‘n’ Sours to open Islington restaurant this month for third London site: London-based fried chicken restaurant concept Chick ‘n’ Sours is to open its third site in the capital, in Islington. The 60-cover venue will open in Upper Street on Thursday, 27 September featuring a bar, open kitchen and outside space. The restaurant will offer a number of new dishes trialled at the concept’s debut site in Haggerston, which reopened last month following a major refurbishment, and a pop-up in Brixton. New dishes will include Korean glazed burger the Seoul Destroyer, while the Weekend Treats menu will feature hot chicken and kimchi cornbread waffles. Chick ‘n’ Sours was founded by Carl Clarke and David Wolanksi. Clarke said: “Islington holds a special place in my heart. There used to be a wicked buzz round here and I spent many a long night at places such as Medicine Bar and The Embassy. I’d like to bring back that amazing north London mix of good food and fantastic music to our Chick ‘n’ Sours in Upper Street.” Wolanksi added: “There is a lot of negativity surrounding Islington at the moment but there’s a new wave of independent and quality openings happening and, hidden among the huge chains, there are some real gems that have stood the test of time. We’re well up for the challenge.” Chick ‘n’ Sours launched in Haggerston in 2015, with a sister site opening in Seven Dials the following year. Clarke and Wolanski also operate CHIK’N in Baker Street.

Michelin-starred chef Rohit Ghai to open first solo restaurant, in Chelsea: Rohit Ghai, former executive chef of Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Jamavar, will launch his first solo restaurant, in Chelsea in November. Kutir, which means “hut” in Sanskrit, will be a joint venture with Abhi Sangwan, who Ghai has worked alongside for many years. The concept will open in Lincoln Street offering a “punchy, authentic and traditional menu” inspired by the feasting style of traditional royal hunting expeditions in India. Kutir will offer a tasting or “expedition” menu of six courses alongside an a la carte menu featuring highly seasonal ingredients with an emphasis on game and seafood. Sangwan, who will operate front of house, will compile the regularly changing cocktail menu with a focus on ingredients found in India’s wilderness. Ghai said: “I have loved each restaurant I’ve opened in London but it feels even more special to open my own – and this is a passion project for me. Kutir is inspired by my and Abhi’s early careers in luxury Indian heritage hotels within wildlife sanctuaries across India. We both fell in love with the lush green landscape and were fascinated by the regional, seasonal cuisine. I have been dreaming about serving this menu and have been refining these dishes for a long time. I can’t wait to introduce my guests to a menu that goes far beyond the usual Indian restaurant offering.” Ghai was also executive chef at Bombay Bustle and worked at two other Michelin-starred Indian restaurants in London – Gymkhana and Trishna – alongside a number of other high-profile roles.

Harcourt Inns to open fourth London site, in Chiswick: Harcourt Inns, the venture from former Racine chef patron Henry Harris and James McCulloch, owner of The Harcourt in Marylebone, will open its fourth London site, in November. The Harlot will open in Chiswick under Harris’ direction in conjunction with a yet to be announced head chef. Front of house will be overseen by Ruth Leigh, formerly of Le Café Anglais and Dock Kitchen. The menu will lean towards the Mediterranean region, with “Sicilian inflections” and showcasing the best of simple, quality ingredients such as olive oil and tomatoes. The majority of produce will be sourced locally from small, family-run or independent suppliers. The drinks list will include beer from London brewers, wine, champagne, French spirits and classic cocktails. Formerly housing modern European restaurant Carvosso, the 6,000 square foot space in Chiswick High Road is a former police station and stables with capacity for up to 120 covers. The name is a tribute to Hogarth’s series of paintings The Harlot’s Progress. The decor will include a double-fronted entrance, a ground-floor space with a brass bar, high stools and poser tables, and floor-to-ceiling windows in the dining area. The courtyard will have a retractable canopy roof, while two private dining rooms will open on to the main space. Harcourt Inns’ other sites are the Three Cranes in the City, The Coach in Clerkenwell and The Hero of Maida in Maida Vale.

Emily Roux to launch Notting Hill venture next month: Emily Roux is to open her restaurant in Notting Hill next month. Roux will launch Caractère with husband Diego Ferrari, head chef at Le Gavroche for the past three years, on Thursday, 4 October. She will be the third generation of the Roux family to operate a restaurant in the UK. Caractère will open in Westbourne Road in a unit that formerly traded as Bumpkin and the Good Leaf restaurants. Combining Roux and Ferrari’s love of classic French and Italian food, the menu is an “expression” of their culinary backgrounds and includes dishes elevated from the meals they “love to cook for each other at home”. As the name Caractère suggests, the menu will be divided into six “character traits”, with up to three dishes in each section. The sections are “curious” (small plates/starters), “subtle” (vegetable-focused small plates/starters), “delicate” (fish – main courses), “robust” (meat – main courses), “strong” (cheese) and “greedy” (desserts). Emily Roux is the daughter of Michel Roux Jr and granddaughter of Albert Roux Sr. Albert Roux and Michel Jr have run Mayfair restaurant Le Gavroche since 1981.

Bon Pan Asian director bids to launch noodle concept in Liverpool: Fiona Chen, director of buffet restaurant brand Bon Pan Asian, has submitted plans to launch a noodle concept in Liverpool. Chen wants to open Naked Noodle at a site in Bold Street formerly occupied by El Mexicana restaurant, YM Liverpool reports. Bon Pan Asian, which serves more than 150 dishes including sushi, teppanyaki, curry and pizza, opened its second site, in a former Poundworld unit at Clayton Square Shopping Centre in Liverpool, in February. The restaurant on the corner of Elliot Street and Great Charlotte Street was the company’s second UK branch, joining its debut site at Intu Potteries Shopping Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. At the Liverpool launch, Chen said: “We expect this to be another successful site in our growing group of restaurants.”

Corbin & King confirms ninth London restaurant, in St John’s Wood: London-based restaurant group Corbin & King has confirmed it is to open a site in St John’s Wood, north west London, its ninth venue in the capital. Soutine is due to open towards the end of this year or in early 2019 at a former Carluccio’s site in High Street. The company said the restaurant would be “bespoke” rather than the beginning of a chain. Co-founder Jeremy King told Hot Dinners: “I am delighted we have received the keys to a new site in St John’s Wood. Not that we will be open much before the end of the year as there is much to do to design and build it. It is very much in the spirit of what I see as a strong artistic heritage in the area – the St John’s Wood Art School being an immensely influential institution and a ‘feeder’ to the Royal Academy.” In June, Corbin & King made its regional debut in Bicester Village, Oxfordshire, after launching Cafe Wolseley at the designer outlet shopping centre. The company’s London portfolio includes The Delauney in Aldwych, Brasserie Zedel in Soho, Fischer’s in Marylebone and Bellanger in Islington. 

Leon focuses on vegan options for new autumn menu: Natural fast food brand Leon has launched its autumn menu with a focus on vegan and vegetarian dishes that cost less than £5. New dishes include lentil masala, which is spiced with ginger, cumin and mustard seeds in a coconut sauce and served over Italian brown rice, and Lebanese mezze salad. New breakfast dishes include a truffled mushroom pot (two free-range poached eggs with grilled mushrooms in a truffle sauce). Leon has also partnered with Hemsley+Hemsley co-founder and author Jasmine Hemsley to add her Golden Milk restorative to the menu. The warm vegan drink is made with turmeric, cardamom, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon and jaggery. On Tuesday (11 September), Leon made its US debut by opening a restaurant in Washington DC, the company’s 60th site in total. There are 52 Leon restaurants in the UK, while the company is set to make its Irish debut, in Dublin, later this year.

Former pizza delivery driver turned franchisee opens 11th Papa John’s site: Former pizza delivery driver Siddhartha Chirumamilla has opened his 11th Papa John’s franchise, in Dunfermline, Scotland. His portfolio is split between south east England and Scotland, including sites in Rutherglen, Glenrothes and Kirkcaldy. The Dunfermline site is a new-build store in Woodmill Road at the centre of a new development. Chirumamilla said: “I used to work for Papa John’s when I was studying for a degree in automobile engineering in London. At the time I would never have guessed a few years down the line I would be managing multiple Papa John’s across the UK. With 35,000 households within range of delivery, Dunfermline represents an exciting opportunity to reach a wider customer base and grow my portfolio of Papa John’s stores further.” Papa John’s has more than 350 sites across the UK and over 5,000 stores in more than 40 international markets and territories.

Gluten-free brewer Bellfield targets £1m funding: Bellfield Brewery, the UK’s only dedicated gluten-free micro-brewer, is aiming to raise £1m to support growth and accelerate sales in international markets. The company plans to raise the finance via existing investors, which include angel syndicate Equity Gap and the Scottish Investment Bank, as well as new private investors. Launched in March 2016, Edinburgh-based Bellfield Brewery said it had already secured a number of large contract wins and was experiencing strong demand for its beer as a result of sustained growth in the craft beer sector and demand for gluten-free products. A new 2,000-litre brew plant will be operational by December primarily producing keg beer. Founder and director Alistair Brown said: “We have delivered on our ambition to produce gluten-free beer that stands up to anything in the market in terms of taste and quality. We are now seeking additional resources to capitalise on the strong demand we are experiencing for our products in the UK and internationally.” Bellfield is being supported by chartered accountants Henderson Loggie and law firm Harper Macleod.

Wolf lodges plans for fifth site, in Nottingham: Italian street food restaurant Wolf has submitted plans for its fifth site, in Nottingham. The company has applied to the city council to convert a former menswear shop in Market Street, reports The Business Desk. Wolf states on its website it has a “ferocious passion for all things Italian”. A spokesman added: “Our hunger for Italian street food and our commitment to use only the freshest ingredients allows us to deliver a culinary experience that excites. All our dishes are made from scratch in-store and are packed with Italian flavour and goodness.” Wolf has two outlets in Reading, alongside venues in Chiswick and Leeds.

Northern Ireland-based Bob & Berts to open first three Scottish sites: Northern Ireland coffee company Bob & Berts, which is backed by the BGF, has chosen Falkirk, Dunfermline and Stirling as its first locations in Scotland. Bob & Berts is fitting out premises in High Street, Falkirk, for its maiden Scottish store, which is scheduled to open at the end of this month. Its new outlet in High Street, Dunfermline, is due to open at the end of October followed by the Stirling shop. The outlets are part of the company’s plan to open 20 sites in Scotland and create 400 jobs backed by £2m of “patient capital” raised from the BGF in August 2017. The funding is also being used by Bob & Berts for further expansion in Northern Ireland. Highlighting Bob & Berts’ plans for further Scottish stores, the BGF said a number of “other local community-focused locations” across Scotland were currently in negotiation. Bob & Berts was founded by Colin McClean. He was joined in the business by brother-in-law David Ferguson in 2015. McClean told Herald Scotland: “We are excited to be bringing our business to Scotland, having spent time immersing ourselves in so many different locations and active communities.”

Reel reports pre-tax profit jump boosted by box-office blockbusters: Independent cinema operator Reel has reported a jump in pre-tax profit thanks to a boost from blockbuster films. Accounts for Reel Cinemas (Europe), which is headquartered in Loughborough in Leicestershire, revealed pre-tax profit soared to £1,965,514 for the year ending 31 December 2017, compared with £418,605 the year before. Turnover increased 1.7% to £10,975,157, compared with £10,788,512 the year before. Attendance figures dropped from 1.47 million to 1.42 million, while the average ticket price increased from £4.67 to £4.86. During the year, the group sold its cinema in York leaving it with venues in Borehamwood, Bridgnorth, Chippenham, Fareham, Burnley, Hull, Ilkeston, Kidderminster, Morecambe, Plymouth, Port Talbot, Quinton and Widnes. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The group has had another successful year and, although there have been reductions in attendances, turnover has increased 1.7%, which is considered to be in line with industry expectations. This has been attributable to increases in ticket prices and the successful box office releases in the second half of the year. The group continues to benefit from investment made in digital equipment, the reorganisation and refurbishment of some of its concession stands, and a focused sales drive in the prior period. The group will continue to focus on maintaining its position as a profitable and successful cinema chain. The principal strategy for achieving its objectives is continued investment in all its sites, improving the quality of the facilities, the design of layouts, and investigating potential expansion of existing sites through increased screen numbers.”

The Cheese Bar extends £200,000 crowdfunding campaign: The Cheese Bar has extended its £200,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube by two weeks as it aims to open a restaurant in Covent Garden for its second London site. Mathew Carver, who traded at music festivals as The Cheese Truck, opened the first Cheese Bar in Camden Market in March 2017 after raising £126,000 on Crowdcube. Now he has returned to the platform in a bid to open a site in Covent Garden and is offering 5.41% equity in return for the investment. So far, 226 investors have pledged £105,490 with 14 days remaining. The ground floor Covent Garden space will be lined with display fridges showcasing maturing cheese. Cheese will be British only including varieties from La Latteria and Gringa Dairy in Peckham, while small plates will include smoked mozzarella sticks with chilli jam alongside larger dishes such as blue cheese raclette with salt beef and crispy leeks. In a nod to The Cheese Truck, the restaurant will also offer cheese toasties. The candlelit basement wine bar will offer cheese boards and charcuterie alongside a 70-bottle wine list to complement the cheese. Carver said: “There is nowhere else in the world with a cheese scene as exciting as the UK’s so we’re looking forward to bringing even more incredible cheese to central London. The response to our first crowdfunding campaign was unbelievable so we’re hoping London’s cheese fans have an appetite for more!”

Starbucks commits to operating 10,000 ‘greener stores’ by 2025: Starbucks has said it will operate 10,000 “greener stores” by 2025. The company said as well as environmental benefits, its Starbucks Greener Stores initiative would save the company $50m in utilities expenses during the next ten years. Starbucks will audit all company-operated stores in the US and Canada against its new framework in the next 12 months. The Greener Stores programme will be co-developed by experts such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and audited and verified by a third party. The programme will focus on energy and water savings including the use of country-specific solar and wind projects, cutting waste, and ensuring materials and products for stores are responsibly and sustainably sourced. Starbucks president and chief executive Kevin Johnson said: “We know designing and building green stores is not only responsible, it is cost effective.” WWF director Erin Simon added: “When companies step up and demonstrate leadership other businesses often follow with commitments of their own, driving further positive impacts.”

Thatchers lodges plans for new cider mill to boost production: Somerset cider-maker Thatchers has submitted plans for a new cider mill as it looks to expand production. The company has applied to North Somerset Council to build the 63,292 square foot mill at its Myrtle Farm home. The company has undergone significant growth in recent years, with production rising from 12 million litres in 2009 to 66 million litres in 2017. The company believes it will need to produce a further nine million litres in 2019 to keep pace with current demand. In its application, the company stated: “While plans to improve warehousing and packaging are in place, the business is also keen to create a cutting-edge fruit delivery and processing building.” If approved, the company intends to have the site finished in 2019. Managing director Martin Thatcher told Insider Media: “This investment is about our confidence in the cider market and in the future of world-class cider-making at Myrtle Farm. Our existing mill has served us well for many years but we’re looking to increase our capacity to meet growing demand. The new mill will use less energy and be sustainably powered by energy generated on-site. There’s a lot of talk about fruit cider but, as I see it, there’s a raft of innovation and variety within the apple cider category, and this is where our focus lies.”

Liverpool-based Peaberry Coffee House And Kitchen opens second site: Liverpool-based Peaberry Coffee House And Kitchen has opened its second site in the city. The independent, vegan-friendly coffee shop concept, owned by husband and wife Graeme and Clare Farrington, has opened the venue at The Colonnades in Albert Dock. It features a 45-seated casual restaurant on one side and an open kitchen with sandwich counter and bar on the other, reports the Liverpool Echo. The business offers all-day breakfast, fresh sandwiches and extravagant milkshakes. The concept launched in St John’s Road in May last year and takes its name from the Brazilian “peaberry” coffee it serves.

Signature Living gets go-ahead to turn historic Belfast courthouse into £10m hotel: Aparthotel developer and operator Signature Living has had its plans to turn a Belfast courthouse into a £10m hotel approved. The 77-bedroom Lanyon Hotel, named after the building’s original architect, could open as early as autumn 2019. Built in 1850, the courthouse is one of Northern Ireland’s best-known listed buildings. However, it has been derelict for 15 years. The company said it would seek a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore courtroom number one. Signature Living founder Lawrence Kenwright told the Belfast Telegraph: “There is a lot of work to be done, some parts of the building have decayed and need replacing, others need restoring. We will be sympathetic to the heritage of the building. This is what we do, we take old buildings and convert them. We did a similar thing in Cardiff. Every room will have a story to tell, the style will be in keeping with the building but we will funk it up to make it strong and memorable.” Signature Living is set to launch the George Best Hotel in Belfast in early December, while it is also developing a hotel in the city’s Cathedral Quarter.

Looking Glass Cocktail Club team launches Shoreditch drinking and dining den: The team behind Shoreditch bar Looking Glass Cocktail Club has launched a drinking and dining den nearby. Iron Bloom has opened in a former iron factory in Great Eastern Street spread over three floors, including a DJ booth inside an industrial lift. The British-inspired menu consists of small sharing plates such as English lamb cutlets served with tabbouleh and citrus curd; and a wagyu beef and bone marrow burger with smoked bacon, gruyere, roast shallots and truffle mayo. The drinks list focuses on cocktails. Looking Glass Cocktail Club launched five years ago in a former warehouse in Shoreditch.

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