by Senior Reporter and Patrick Sawer from The Telegraph, November 6, 2017
It was to have been the acclaimed chef’s first foray into London’s restaurant scene, so when it was announced that Tom Kerridge was to take over the Rib Room at the five star Jumeirah Carlton Tower critics and diners licked their lips in anticipation.
With two Michelin stars at his gastro pub The Hand and Flowers, and one at the Coach, both in the Buckinghamshire town of Marlow, there were high hopes he would find similar success in the capital.
But there is now bitter disappointment as it emerges that the Knightsbridge restaurant has opened without his hand at the pass, with no apparent explanation.
Kerridge’s partnership with the Dubai-owned hotel had been announced late last year as heralding a new era for the Rib Room, which has been a dining destination since it first opened in 1961.
Katie Benson, Jumeirah’s regional vice president for Europe, said at the time: “Tom is one of the country’s top culinary talents and we are delighted to be working with him and his team to create London’s most exciting new restaurant next year.”
Kerridge, 44, said he planned to introduces a ‘swinging Sixties’ feel to the restaurant, recalling the era of mini-skirts, psychedelia and pop-art of the Rib Room’s first decade.
But relations between the Wiltshire-born chef and the hotel appear to have soured since the announcement was made.
Last week Kerridge revealed that Dubai Holdings, the owners of the Jumeirah Carlton Tower had “changed its intentions” for the Rib Room and gone ahead without him.
The Telegraph understands that Kerridge was given no reason for the change of mind.
He said: “We are all hugely disappointed that this project is not working out as we wanted since we had exciting plans to create a dining experience that would have celebrated the heritage of the building.
“However, Jumeirah have made a decision to re-open The Rib Room this week without any notification and without the restaurant transferring management. The fact that there has been no sign of the planned refurbishment has left us in a very difficult position.”
Angry at what they saw as the decision of the hotel to go back on the deal Kerridge’s advisors are at pains to make it clear the newly-opened Rib Room had nothing to do with him.
In a statement they said: “We would like to reiterate and make clear that the reopening of the Rib Room this month has absolutely nothing to do with Tom Kerridge, The Hand and Flowers or The Coach, contrary to the considerable publicity earlier in the year which identified that the Rib Room would be the first London opening for Tom within 2017.”
One industry insider said: “It’s very disappointing as people had been looking forward to Tom’s first London venture. He’s a very popular person, loved in the industry. But I imagine he will open something in London eventually. He’s got the appetite for it now.”
Kerridge’s parents split when he was 11 and he began cooking for himself and his younger brother after school while his mother was at work.
While at school he had a number of small TV roles but was inspired to go to catering college in Cheltenham after reading Marco Pierre White's book White Heat.
He says he is "not a Michelin-star kind of guy", describing his food as “bold, unpretentious cooking with brilliant, seasonal ingredients” and saying: I don’t go in for that ‘temple of gastronomy’ thing – I just want people to have a nice time, and that includes the warmth of hospitality.”
The Jumeirah Carlton Tower refused to explain why it had decided to go ahead with the restaurant's re-opening without what would have been its star attraction.
A spokeswoman for the hotel said: “I’m afraid we are unable to comment on The Rib Room and Tom Kerridge at this time.”
This article was written by Senior Reporter and Patrick Sawer from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].