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Brian Clivaz and Laurence Isaacson buy L'Escargot in £2m project

07 February 2014 by
Brian Clivaz and Laurence Isaacson buy L'Escargot in £2m project

Restaurateurs Brian Clivaz and Laurence Isaacson have bought L'Escargot restaurant in London's Soho.

The move, which saw the pair acquire the site from Marco Pierre White's White Star Line for an undisclosed sum, is part of a £2m project to revitalise the restaurant's reputation as a London institution.

L'Escargot was opened in 1927 by M George Gaudin, and is reputed to have been the first restaurant in Great Britain to serve fresh snails. It has played host to several iconic figures in the world of hospitality over the years, including former maitre d', Elena Salvoni.

After Gaudin's retirement it had several owners, including wine writer Jancis Robinson and her journalist husband Nick Lander who took it over in the 1980s. It closed in 1992 following the recession of the early 1990s, and was re-opened by White and business partner Jimmy Lahoud in 1994 with David Cavalier and Garry Hollihead in the kitchen.

The new head chef at the restaurant is Oliver Lesnik, son of Mario (Marjan) Lesnik, the renowned former maitre chef de cuisine at both Harrods and Claridge's.

Oliver's career has seen him spend six years working for Michel Bourdin at the Connaught, and then with Angela Hartnett when she worked there, and he has also worked with Jean Christophe Novelli, until becoming the head chef of London's the Cadogan hotel in Knightsbridge.

Clivaz told Caterer and Hotelkeeper: "We want to give L'Escargot a bit of love and turn it back into that traditional bourgeois French restaurant that you always wanted to discover when you go to Paris that has been there forever and a day.

"Oliver and I have a problem in that we both have well-known fathers in the catering business. My father was head of catering at British Airways and I was always Tony Clivaz's son, and Oliver has always been Marjan's son. One day, all of a sudden the parents suddenly become our fathers.

"I have told him he can't spend as much money on truffles as his father used to - but the odd one here or there is permissible."

Clivaz, the chairman of Langan's Brasserie and founder of Home House, and Isaacson, co-founder of the Groupe Chez Gérard chain of restaurants, took over the running of L'Escargot a few days ago, and the menu has already changed. It will be gradually refurbished room by room, with designs by Russell Sage. It will continue to offer around 80 seats in the restaurant downstairs, while the six upstairs private dining rooms will become a private dining club.

Meanwhile, Clivaz added that sales at Langan's are 30% up on last year, thanks to a refreshed look, better food and service, and improved technology.

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