Overall ranking: 95 (95)
Restaurateurs rating: 29 (31)
Oliver Peyton – Snapshot
Oliver Peyton is the founder and chairman of Peyton and Byrne (formerly Gruppo Ltd) whose restaurants have been as applauded for their architectural achievements as for their gastronomic standards.
While all but one of his trail-blazing openings of the 1990s have now closed, Peyton has bounced back in the public catering sector.
Peyton’s current London-based portfolio includes Mash in Great Portland Street, the eco-friendly Inn the Park in St James’s Park, the National Dining Rooms at the National Gallery (with a second restaurant planned for October 2006), the Meals café and Peyton and Byrne British Bakery at the Heal’s store in Tottenham Court Road, and the Wallace restaurant at the Wallace Collection museum.
Oliver Peyton – Career guide
Oliver Peyton, who is 44, was born in County Mayo. His three sisters – Caitriona, Siobhan and Marie – are all actively involved in his businesses.
Peyton studied textiles at Leicester Polytechnic. He spent much of his youth opening and running nightclubs and spent some time as a drinks importer.
He took the restaurant scene by storm in 1994 when he opened the trendy Atlantic Bar & Grill in London in 1994 and the designer Coast in Mayfair in 1995.
Mash and Air opened in Manchester in 1996, followed by a London Mash in 1998 (which remains to this day) 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 opened its doors in April 2004 to mark a new phase in Peyton’s career.
Oliver Peyton – What we think
Peyton, a restaurateur over-brimming with ideas, has been responsible for a series of strikingly diverse and multi-faceted venues.
His vibrant 170-seat Atlantic Bar & Grill was an overnight success with its art deco makeover, downstairs ballroom and modern British menu and it launched the concept of the style bar. His next venture, Coast, adopted a more feminine, maritime style.
Mash & Air in Manchester was entirely different. Built around a micro-brewery and serving both British and Italian cuisine, the complex included two bars, two restaurants – the upmarket Air and the more casual Mash brasserie – and a private dining room. The London Mash comprised a brewery, a restaurant, a bar, an off-licence and a deli across three floors.
Peyton’s penchant for combining upmarket and mid-market dining under one roof was underscored in 1999 when he opened the fine-dining Italian Isola teamed with the less formal Osteria d’Isola and bar in the basement.
But Peyton’s star seemed to be fading in 2000 as changing neighbourhood demographics in Liverpool and stiffer local competition in London prompted him to close Manchester’s Air in January and Mash in August, followed by Coast in September. In 2001, flagging sales at Isola prompted Peyton to merge Osteria with Isola and replace it with the Iso-bar. He sold the restaurant at the end of 2004.
The Atlantic Grill & Bar, too, closed its doors in December 2005 following a dispute over rents with landlord Regent Palace hotel, but Peyton hopes to revive it following a redevelopment of the building in Glasshouse Street.
Undeterred, Peyton bounced back in 2004 in partnership with the Royal Parks Agency to launch Inn the Park, a 200-seat British-style restaurant and café in St James’s Park.
This new direction was signalled back in May 2000 when Peyton took on the catering at the Somerset House museum in London. As well as running award-winning French restaurant The Admiralty, his events catering company Gruppo Events handled the takeaway deli, the summer café and corporate hospitality. Peyton sold the business for £3.6m to Compass in 2002.
Inn the Park was as architecturally innovative as Peyton’s earlier ventures. The £3m new-build was designed by architect Sir Michael Hopkins and interior designer Tom Dixon beneath a sloping grassy mound with a rooftop boardwalk and it picked up a Time Out Eating & Drinking Award for Best Design in 2005. Its green credentials extended to the use of natural ventilation and organic and sustainably-harvested ingredients. It picked up.
2006 has brought a whirlwind of new Peyton offerings, starting with the February launch of the British restaurant and bakery, the National Dining Rooms, at the National Gallery. Here head chef Dunford Wood offers a different county menu each month alongside the a la carte menu – starting with his native Norfolk.
September added three new venues to the Peyton collection when the flagship Heal’s store in Tottenham Court Road unveiled Peyton’s Meals Café on the first floor and his Peyton and Byrne British Bakery in the lobby.
Later in the month, Peyton opened the glass-ceilinged Wallace restaurant at the Wallace Collection art museum in Manchester Square, Marylebone. The French restaurant is headed up Thierry Laborde, who has worked at the Michelin-star L’Oranger and Le Gavroche.
Peyton won a fiercely-contested pitch to open a second restaurant at the National Gallery and his David Collins-designed National Café opened in the East Wing in mid-October.
Peyton also found time to co-judge the Great British Menu cook-off on BBC where 14 top names competed for the chance to devise the dishes for the Queen’s 80th birthday party.