Restaurateur Sam Harrison is returning to London after three years away from the capital with the launch of Sam's Riverside at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, west London.
Harrison previously owned Sam's Brasserie in Chiswick and Harrison's in Balham, which opened in 2005 and 2007 respectively. Both were sold to Hawksmoor's sister brand Foxlow in 2015.
Speaking to The Caterer, Harrison said he had looked into purchasing a small hotel in Oxfordshire, even putting an unsuccessful offer in for one property. "I'm quite glad that somebody outbid me!" he explained.
Harrison first saw the Hammersmith site that will be home to his new restaurant in July last year and fell for it immediately. "It felt really special and called out to me as soon as I saw it. Something in my gut said ‘this is the next thing for you'."
Harrison praised the food scene in the area referencing the River Café, the Gate and new operators arriving with the White City development, adding that he hopes Sam's Riverside will add something special to put West London "back on the map again".
He explained: "I think west London has a lot of small restaurants but not many big, special venues where you can go for a really fun and glamorous night out. I want this to be, like my last restaurants, an all-day affair but with a wow factor. I want this to be the most glamorous restaurant in west London, somewhere you can go every day but also a fun, buzzy and glamorous night out."
The 90-cover restaurant will house a bar as well as an additional 40 seats outside for al-fresco dining and a 16-seat private dining room.
The menu is still undergoing development, with a chef that is yet to be named, however Harrison would like it to "have a strong lean towards seafood and shellfish".
He said: "I spent four years working for Rick Stein in Cornwall and then he was an investor in my last two restaurants so I'm passionate about good seafood and don't think we have enough in London. We are also working on the idea of having a raw bar or an oyster bar within the restaurant itself. We are right on the river so maybe we can bring it to west London."
Despite the current restaurant scene which has seen the downfall of casual dining restaurants around the UK, Harrison is "optimistic" about his latest venture.
He explained: "It's very tough trading out there but I've always believed that if you're good and you work every day to deliver the best product that you can, you have half a fighting chance of surviving. I think there's been a little bit of a turn against some of the chain operators now which might give independents the chance to rear their heads again and stand out. Lots of the chains are fabulous and have great offerings but I think we should be proud of independents and we should encourage people to be doing unique offerings so I'm quite optimistic actually."
Riverside Studios has been in Hammersmith since 1933 and is currently undergoing a total redevelopment due for completion towards the end of 2018.
Sam's Riverside is due to open in February 2019.
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