Thinking small: London’s ‘intimate’ restaurant trend continues with 20-cover Bermondsey bistro

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Restaurant

Herve Durochat has already seen the benefits that a smaller restaurant can bring, with José full most nights
Herve Durochat has already seen the benefits that a smaller restaurant can bring, with José full most nights
On the same day that we announced a former MasterChef: The Professionals finalist would be opening a 14-cover restaurant in Notting Hill, BigHospitality has heard from another London-based restaurateur who is opening a similar-sized venue in Bermondsey.

Herve Durochat, business partner of José Pizarro and general manager of José, is opening a 20-cover bistro directly opposite the tapas bar on Bermondsey Street on 14 July.

The Frenchman has partnered with Alexandre Bonnefoy (ex-assistant head sommelier at the Arts Club) and Sylvain Soulard (ex-head Chef at Morgan M) to open Casse-Croûte, on the site of a small sandwich bar.

With a focus on value for money, Casse-Croûte will encapsulate ‘bistronomy’, serving a range of authentic, classic French dishes alongside an all-French wine list. Durochat told us it was the venue’s small size that initially attracted him to buy it.

“When I opened José I realised that a small site is fantastic,” he said. “It allows you to build up a great vibe and atmosphere. You’re able to recognise everyone that comes through the door - you can make the customers feel part of ‘the family.’”

Fully booked

Earlier today (28 June), BigHospitality reported that Marianne Lumb, a finalist in the 2009 series of MasterChef: The Professionals, is to launch her 14-cover restaurant in Notting Hill​in September. Story (40 covers), The Five Fields (40 covers) and Kitchen Table (19 covers) just a few of the other smaller restaurants to spring up in the capital recently.

Having previously worked with a number of larger restaurant groups such as Hakkasan and Soho House, Durochat says a smaller venue can offer up a number of crucial advantages for restaurateurs in a packed London marketplace.

“I did work for all those big groups where everything is on a bigger scale, but if you have a bigger site, it doesn’t mean you have more money coming in, it actually makes it harder to sell your restaurant’s ‘personality’.

“If you’re a 200-cover restaurant with only 50 covers, it doesn’t make you feel like you want to go and sit down, it looks empty. But when you’ve got 20 seats with 15 people, it already looks quite full and people want to be a part of it.

“José (which can cater for around 30 people) is a perfect example - it’s been open for two years and it’s just so busy all the time, people have started to come earlier to make sure they can get a seat and the restaurant is now full from 12 to 10pm.”

Banquet seating

The popularity of these smaller venues can also be seen abroad – a glance at the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list​would testify their appeal. They can initially be much cheaper for the restaurateur as well, but landlords are quickly becoming more aware of the extra appeal these sites can have, and prices are increasing.

Casse-Croûte will seat 12 on banquet tables, with a very narrow space between each other. Another banquet will seat up to six, and a three metre bar with six stools will complete the area.

Head chef Sylvain Soulard will be assisted in the kitchen by Romain Perrolaz Boulandet, ex-sous chef at the Saturne table cave in Paris. Durochat will continue to work with José Pizzaro at his two sites in Bermondsey Street.

Casse-Croûte restaurant will open on the former site of the Village Deli sandwich bar at 109 Bermondsey St on 14 July. 

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