Overall ranking: 46
Restaurateur ranking: 14
Oliver Peyton – Snapshot
Oliver Peyton is founder and chairman of Peyton and Byrne, a restaurant group that has carved a niche opening sites in famous London landmarks. Currently in the group’s portfolio are Inn the Park, located in St James’s Park; the National Dining Rooms and National Café at the National Gallery; and the Wallace restaurant at the Wallace Collection. In addition, the group runs cafés and shops at the British Library, St Pancras station, the iconic home furnishings store Heal’s, the Institute of Contemporary Arts and the Wellcome Collection.
Since 2006 Peyton’s public profile has risen considerably after his regular appearances as a judge on the BBC’s Great British Menu.
Oliver Peyton – Career profile
Oliver Peyton was born in 1962 in County Mayo. After attending Summerhill College in Sligo he spent a year in New York, working as a waiter for a part of it. He then returned to the UK to study textiles at Leicester Polytechnic, but left after two years.
In the 1980s he opened two nightclubs – the Can in Brighton and Raw in London – but moved into restaurants in the early 1990s. His first two major sites, the trendy Atlantic Bar & Grill, which opened in 1994, and Coast in Mayfair, which opened a year later, took London by storm.
Mash & Air opened in Manchester in 1996, followed by a London Mash in 1998 and Isola in Knightsbridge in 1999. In 2002 Peyton took over the catering at London’s Somerset House museum and art gallery.
Inn the Park, an eco-friendly restaurant in St James’s Park, opened its doors in April 2004. This was followed by three new restaurants and a bakery in 2006. The National Dining Rooms opened in February followed in October by the National Café, both at the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square. In September Heal’s got the Peyton touch with Meals, a contemporary café located on the first floor of their flagship store on Tottenham Court Road, as well as a Peyton and Byrne British bakery on the ground floor.
More gallery openings followed in 2007 with the arrival of a Peyton and Byrne café at the new Wellcome Collection on Euston Road in June. Three months later the Wallace restaurant in the sculpture garden of the Wallace Collection launched, while the end of the year saw a second Peyton and Byrne bakery open at St Pancras station.
In 2008 the company opened the ICA Café & Bar at the Institute of Contemporary Arts on the Mall and, in April 2009, Peyton and Byrne took over the catering at the British Library including a café, first-floor restaurant and an espresso bar on Euston Road. Most recently, a Peyton and Byrne self-service restaurant, café and bakery launched in autumn 2009 at the British Library.
Oliver Peyton – What we think
Peyton is described by his fellow Great British Menu judge Matthew Fort as the Phineas T Barnum of restaurateurs. “He has a penchant for the spectacular and the idiosyncratic,” said Fort.
While he may not be quite the silver-tongued opportunist that Barnum – the 19th-century US entrepreneur behind circuses and freak shows – was, Peyton nevertheless has the Midas touch when it comes to opening food outlets and sports a remarkable ability to spot good opportunities and deliver products with a certain level of panache.
His reinvention from opening out-and-out restaurants, such as Atlantic Bar & Grill, to launching cleverly pitched cafés and eateries within museums and landmarks shows the rewards that can be achieved by the clever restaurateur who spots a hole in the market and creates a product to fill it. A slow colonisation of public spaces will undoubtedly continue from his company Peyton and Byrne.
His restaurants’ strong personalities – peddling honest, seasonal and accessible British cuisine – are slick affairs that seamlessly combine upmarket with midmarket and are neither too generic nor too fancy to alienate the huge numbers who traipse through their landmark locations each year.
Peyton’s participation in the Great British Menu has also made him something of a television personality and has given him further platform to endorse British cooking and ingredients – an interest that inspired his first cookbook, The National Cookbook, which he published in collaboration with the National Gallery in 2009.
Oliver Peyton – Further information