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Chef on why Norwich’s Last Brasserie remains closed

PUBLISHED: 12:44 10 August 2020 | UPDATED: 17:52 10 August 2020

Norwich's The Last Brasserie which remains closed even though coronavirus restrictions have eased. Pic: Archant

Norwich's The Last Brasserie which remains closed even though coronavirus restrictions have eased. Pic: Archant

Archant

Norwich’s Last Brasserie – formerly The Last Wine Bar – is set for a change of ownership in a bid to give it a “chance of success” post coronavirus.

Chef Iain McCarten is set to take over the Last Brasserie - formerly The Last Wine Bar - completely when it reopens. Pic: ArchantChef Iain McCarten is set to take over the Last Brasserie - formerly The Last Wine Bar - completely when it reopens. Pic: Archant

The restaurant in St George’s Street, which was saved from permanent closure by a consortium of investors last year, is still closed after the outbreak and all staff, including its chef, are furloughed.

But the restaurant – which has been running for more than 30 years – is set to reopen soon with chef Iain McCarten at the helm rather than the consortium of business owners.

One of the investors confirmed they were planning to pass ownership completely to Mr McCarten but that contracts were not yet signed.

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Other changes on reopening will include a deli-style operation selling food from a shop front at the Last – but both the brasserie and bar will remain offering the usual menus.

Mr McCarten said the business had got a government bounce back loan – which helps businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25pc of their turnover. But he warned the timing had to be right to reopen.

“If we get it wrong, we might never reopen again,” he said. “But our plan is to reopen soon, I am bored of cooking at home and can’t wait to get back in the kitchen again. The Last was doing really well but then coronavirus happened and we have been closed since March.

“It’s a big restaurant, if we’d opened on July 4 it might not have gone very well, speaking to a couple of restaurants which have reopened, there weren’t people coming out in July but I think people are now doing so. Deep down, we were always planning to reopen in late August-September.

“For small restaurants, it’s easier, but we are triple the size. We are going to use our size to our advantage and look after people if they want a private family reunion.”

Mark Loveday, one of the investors and a partner at local financial investment firm Loveday & Partners, said they were not pulling out of the Last but stepping back as part of “succession planning”.

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“We took over the Last not as a financial decision but to reinvigorate a place we all loved, it was like a mini crowd funding, but Covid has changed the landscape, now each restaurant has to adjust its business model to survive. The focus in March 2019 was to save the Last, but we have done all we needed to do and we need to give Iain, as owner operator, the best chance of success.”

The former Last Wine Bar faced closure after its then owner retired after more than 30 years.


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