Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Nigel Platts-Martin, the Square, the Ledbury, Chez Bruce

06 December 2012
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Nigel Platts-Martin, the Square, the Ledbury, Chez Bruce

Overall ranking: 35 (ranked 40 in 2011)Restaurateur ranking: 10 (ranked 13 in 2011)

Nigel Platts-Martin - Snapshot

Nigel Platts-Martin is the restaurateur behind five of London's most popular restaurants: The Square, which he co-owns with chef Philip Howard and which holds two Michelin stars; The Ledbury, which he co-owns with Howard and chef-patron Brett Graham - also the holder of two stars; and the one-Michelin-starred restaurants Chez Bruce, the Glasshouse in Kew and La Trompette in Chiswick, all three of which he co-owns with chef Bruce Poole in Wandsworth.

Nigel Platts-Martin - Career guide

After buying what was a failing brasserie on Wandsworth Common called Harvey's in 1986, with no clear vision of what to do with it, he invited White to take over as head chef. The restaurant opened in January 1987 to rave reviews, winning a Michelin star 12 months later and a second three years after that.

In 1991, he opened a second restaurant, the Square in St James's, alongside Philip Howard, a former chef de partie at Harvey's, which gained its first star in 1994 and a second in 1998. When White parted ways with Harvey's in 1993, Platts-Martin invited Bruce Poole, who had worked under Howard at the Square, to reinvigorate it, and the pair opened Chez Bruce, which holds one Michelin star and remains one of London's most popular neighbourhood restaurants.

Platts-Martin and Poole went on to open the Glasshouse in Kew in 1999 with former Chez Bruce chef Anthony Boyd behind the stove and La Trompette in Chiswick in 2001, both of which have a Michelin star. In 2005, he opened the Ledbury in Notting Hill with Howard and former Square chef Brett Graham. It won its first Michelin star in 2006 and its second in 2010.

Nigel Platts-Martin - What we thinkÂ

Some diners might not even know his name, but the media-shy Platts-Martin has - over the past 23 years - opened some of the capital's most successful restaurants. His business acumen, policy of promoting from within and empowering his chefs and his refusal to overstretch his empire has nurtured stability and growth in his restaurants. At the height of the pre-recession era, in 2006, they were serving 190,000 customers a year and achieving annual sales of £13.2m.

It wasn't all plain sailing. At first Harvey's and the Square struggled to make money, due to the owners' collective lack of experience. Platts-Martin, however, was willing to roll up his sleeves and learn, even working the reception desk at the Square for two years to establish where the restaurant's business came from.

Writing about him in his book The Art of the Restaurateur, Nick Lander ascribes Platts-Martin's success to three things: his early years as a merchant banker with SG Warburg, which made him see restaurant acquisitions as business transactions; his brief legal career, useful in handling the complexities of multiple leases; and his passion for Burgundy - a bottle of Savigny les Beaune 1979 stirred him to eat in as many French restaurants as possible.

While some restaurant empires fade over time, Platts-Martin's continues to be as popular with customers as with critics. His five sites currently hold seven Michelin stars (Michelin Star restaurants in London) - between them, and regularly feature in the top 10 in diner-voted guides: in 2011 the Ledbury was rated the best restaurant in London by Harden's while Chez Bruce and La Trompette in Chiswick made it into the top 10 European restaurants at TripAdvisor's inaugural Travellers' Choice Restaurant Awards in June 2012 - landing in seventh and tenth place respectively.

The restaurants have proved so financially successful that Platts-Martin has funded the opening of new venues through cash-flow, not bank borrowings.

Howard sums him up: "Nigel is a relentless perfectionist who is able to maintain a clear vision of what we are trying to achieve and how and with whom we should achieve it."

Platts-Martin's achievements won him an award for Outstanding Contribution to the Industry in the Carlton Restaurant Awards 2000, followed by the Independent Restaurateur of the Year Catey in 2004. In 2009, he received an MBE.

Nigel Platts-Martin's ranking in the 2011 Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100 >>

Le Gavroche named best restaurant in Europe by TripAdvisor >>
Nigel Platts-Martin: The quiet man? >>

Chez Bruce is a gastronomic jewel, says John Walsh >>

Brett Graham's Ledbury serves best food in London, according to Harden's >>

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