Great British Menu chef Johnnie Mountain has branded his restaurant business the English Pig a “disaster” after he closed it ahead of a deal which would have seen another operator take over the site – a deal which subsequently failed.
Mountain, who set up the restaurant at 4 Millbank in London in 2011 using his own money, estimates that he has now lost around £150,000-£200,000 and is selling off kitchen equipment and furniture in order to pay off some of the debts he owes.
The restaurant closed on 1 August, just as Mountain left to go on holiday, in the belief that a new operator was set to pay him £140,000 to take the site on.
However, no formal contractual agreement existed, despite Mountain’s attempts to obtain one. “On the verbal agreement that I had had with a man that I trusted 100%, I stupidly closed my business,” Mountain said.
While he was away, he discovered that the deal had fallen through after the operator made extra demands on the landlord for a 12-month rent-free period and a £200,000 contribution towards fit-out.
He admitted that the deal appeared to be a “godsend” because until recently, the English Pig had been struggling.
“I had made a few mistakes there. When it first opened it was all wrong, I was trying to do the Michelin thing and that didn’t work at all. It scared a lot of people off. We also didn’t get a lot of PR behind it. It was my fault,” he said.
“I then turned it into the English Pig and did pork only, which ostracised people. It was a huge investment for me and I borrowed money that I shouldn’t have borrowed. To be honest it was a real disaster. I struggled from day one. I expected the customers to come in direct from the building and therefore thought marketing wasn’t required. But people didn’t want to come in from the building because it was such a pretentious bloody place in the first place.”
He added that the irony was that two months before he started finding staff jobs elsewhere and winding down the restaurant, he had been in the restaurant working 70-80 hours a week, and it had finally been starting to make money as he moved away from the pork-only concept.
Mountain is now looking to sell kitchen equipment collected from his last two restaurant ventures, as well as a range of other assets, which he values at a combined total of around £200,000, in order to pay off his creditors.
He is then considering relocating to the USA, where he has recently been involved in filming the BBC America TV series, Chef Race.
It marks the latest chapter in a colourful career, which led to Mountain’s appearance on Great British Menu in 2012. Mountain famously walked off the show and swore in the direction of two-Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing after he was given low marks for one of his dishes.