John Salt in Islington has parted company with head chef Ben Spalding less than two months after the opening of the restaurant and bar.
The restaurant opened with Spalding at the helm in November for a planned six months residency, which has now been cut short.
Spalding said the departure was down to differences with pub company 580 – which also operates the Owl and Pussycat in Shoreditch and the Fellow in King’s Cross – over the future of the restaurant.
“When teams part ways you hear a lot said about ‘different directions.’ That is the case with John Salt and I,” he said. “They wish to present a different food offering. I wish them well, but their plans are not my plans. So the next time you eat food in a restaurant with Ben Spalding as its chef, I’d like it be in a restaurant owned and run by Ben Spalding.”
In a statement John Salt said: “Together we have made the joint decision to finish on a high, and to follow the different directions we both wish to pursue.”
Spalding joined the restaurant having resigned from his role at Simon Rogan’s London restaurant Roganic in April. At the time he said the decision had been made to enable him to pursue his dream of opening his own restaurant.
John Salt had received mixed reviews with the Independent’s Lisa Markwell describing the offer as “extraordinary cooking”, while the Guardian’s Marina O’Loughlin warned that the food was “occasionally thrilling, occasionally alarming”.
Dishes such as “chicken on a brick”, where guests were encouraged to lick a house brick coated in a caramel glaze pairing chicken liver mousse with crispy chicken skin, circled by a mix of sweet corn kernels, lingonberries, pearl barley and a white onion purée, had created a considerable buzz and the restaurant had a many bookings for the new year.
Spalding said he was aware there was a long list of diners booked for 2013 but hoped to be able to cook for them at his own restaurant.
He added: “We’re looking for investors and at restaurant locations now with a view to creating something very special. I’m hoping I’ll be able to invite you to my own restaurant very soon.”
John Salt said that new plans for the restaurant would be revealed in January.
By James Stagg
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