In an arena as competitive as the London dining scene, where countless venues open and shut within a year, Chris Corbin and Jeremy King’s hugely successful 35-year career masterminding restaurants is even more remarkable. Having first met in 1981, the pair forged their business alliance with the purchase of their first acquisition Le Caprice, followed by The Ivy in 1990, transforming the run-down Theatreland favourite into one of London’s most famous restaurants.
A celebrity clientele soon made the restaurant one of London’s notoriously most competitive bookings, with a waiting list stretching for months. After Harden’s Guide voted The Ivy ‘Favourite London Restaurant’ for nine consecutive years, the pair sensed the need for a new challenge, selling off their company Caprice Holdings and transforming a former bank into The Wolseley – which went on to achieve the highest-grossing turnover of any individual restaurant in the UK.
Several decades on, Corbin and King’s ambitious portfolio continues to expand, with popular restaurants such as the Art Deco Brasserie Zédel, all-day café The Delaunay, Viennese-inspired Fischer’s and now their first hotel, The Beaumont. The pair’s recipe for success is simple but effective. “A flexible, interesting menu of well-cooked food with wide appeal, a democratic approach to pricing and a mix of customers ultimately provides an environment that people feel recognised and comfortable in,” says King. For the restaurateurs, London is also the key contributor to their success: “London is a city of immigrants and this has positive benefits in so many respects,” explains King. “It opens us up to many cultures and different cuisines and it means we attract chefs from all over the world who bring new ideas and different ways of working. We are also a city of outward-looking people, and we have a sophisticated customer base that is used to going out and wants to try new things – meaning London has a vibrant, sustainable, enduring restaurant scene.”
"London is a city of immigrants and this has positive benefits in so may respects – it opens us up to many cultures and different cuisines."
The city’s changing landscape also informs the direction of Corbin and King’s portfolio: “As the centre of London becomes more and more expensive for the people who live and work full-time in the city, local restaurants are becoming increasingly important,” explains King. “We have echoed this in our moves to Chelsea, Marylebone Village and now Islington. The quality of local restaurants is improving all the time – customers want personal connections with the restaurants they frequent often.” Despite the fast pace of change on London’s dining scene, King believes the best can endure. “It’s hard to keep pace with the number of restaurant openings in London and, over the past 30 years, famous chefs have come and gone and restaurants have opened and closed,” he explains. “What I am interested in and what is enduring is those restaurants run by the truly passionate – those people who start with the aim of giving a customer a good time and do not view them as merely a source of income.”