Overall ranking: 8 (20 in 2012)
Restaurateur ranking: 2 (6 in 2012)
Chris Corbin and Jeremy King are restaurateurs who, over the past four decades, have launched some of London’s best-loved restaurants. Today, their Midas touch is as strong as ever across their seven-strong group. The pair’s first hotel, the Beaumont, not only scooped the Hotel of the Year – Independent award at the 2017 Cateys, but it helped increase annual turnover at Corbin & King Hotel Group by 24% to £54.2m in 2016. The five-AA-star, 73-bedroom hotel, which opened in 2014, generated revenues of £11.9m. Following a corporate restructuring, the six London restaurants – including recent additions Fischer’s in Marylebone and Bellanger in Islington – are part of the Corbin & King Restaurant Group.
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Dubbed the Rolls-Royce of restaurateurs, Corbin and King have acquired legendary status and were inducted into the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame in 2015. It’s a long way to have come since 27-year-old King, at the time the maître d’ at the US-style Joe Allen restaurant, and 29-year-old Corbin, then manager of the French-influenced Langan’s Brasserie in London, were poached by designer Joseph Ettedgui to join his takeover of the faded Le Caprice in 1981. Ettedgui left, and within a few years Le Caprice was the toast of London – even Princess Diana had her favourite table, number nine, at a restaurant where it was famously hard to get a reservation. The Ivy followed in 1990 and seafood restaurant J Sheekey in 1997, both immortalising Corbin and King in the eyes of London diners – the Ivy was voted favourite restaurant for nine consecutive years by Harden’s from 1997.
The pair sold out in 1998 and remained as Caprice Holdings directors until 2002, before returning in style in 2003 with the Wolseley, a grand café on London’s Piccadilly serving over 1,000 covers a day. More than 15 years on, it’s still one of the capital’s most popular spots.
In the intervening years, the pair have added Colbert, Brasserie Zédel, the Delauney, Fischer’s and Bellanger, all in London and inspired by the grand cafés of central Europe.
It is not just the pair’s timeless approach to interiors – replete with art deco influences – but a resolution to serve people what they want to eat rather than what the chef wants them to eat, and “to treat people as we would like to be treated” that has seen them become such an enduring and influential presence.
The same ethos was present when the pair fulfilled a long-standing ambition and opened their first hotel, the Beaumont, in 2014.
Through all their success, they are still determined to act as restaurateurs, not restaurant owners; and hoteliers, not hotel owners. “Restaurateurs roll up their sleeves, they get their hands dirty, they are seen in their restaurants every day,” King told The Caterer.
It was for their services to the hospitality industry – as well as to charity and the arts – that they were each awarded an OBE in 2013.
Their one blip occurred in October 2016 when Corbin & King returned the lease on the Beaumont to the freeholder, Grosvenor West End Properties, and assumed the operation of the hotel under a management agreement. At the time, Corbin told The Sunday Times that he had overspent on the budget to open the hotel.
In 2017, Thai-based Minor Hotels paid £58m for a majority shareholding in Corbin & King, a deal that will see Corbin & King’s brands emerging across UK regions and within properties across Minor’s global portfolio. The first out-of-London restaurant is expected to open in Bicester Village, Oxfordshire.
Photo by Cat Garcia