Previously operated by Novus Leisure under the Balls Brothers city bar format, the 300-capacity Bishopsgate Exchange site will be the largest Dirty Martini unit when it re-opens in mid-September, operating as a flagship for a ‘more innovative’ offering from CG Restaurants.
“Bishopsgate Exchange will introduce quite a few things that Dirty Martini customers haven’t seen before,” CG Restaurants’ chief executive Scott Matthews told BigHospitality. “There will be a lot more product innovation, more flavour combinations.
“But the focus will remain the same – it’s all about keeping the product fresh and the service at a high standard. Everything is delivered daily and made in-house, we don’t want to compromise on driving cost rather than product.”
The group, which also operates the Fire & Stone, Tutton’s and Bitter Sweet brands, has the funding to support the Dirty Martini expansion to 12 sites. The new venues will ideally all be in London, following on from the existing outlets in Covent Garden and Hanover Square.
“We believe there’s another one, possibly two in the city,” added Matthews. “We’re looking at several sites at the moment; there could be another one, possibly two in the West End as well.
“I would hope to have another one secured within the next month or two. Next year, we want to get one ready for around March April time, so we’d get that settled before this Christmas.”
Gap in the market
Matthews has moved is way up the ranks at CG Restaurants & Bars, from operations manager to operations director and now as chief executive. He said it was the strength of the Dirty Martini brand that made it the spearhead for the group’s expansion strategy, ahead of Fire & Stone, which has units in London Westfiled, Covent Garden, Oxford and Portsmouth.
“Fire & Stone is very good in its own right but we feel Dirty Martini has the gap in the market to expand into. That’s not saying we wouldn’t open another fire & Stone – if something came up in the West End for that brand then I’d definitely consider it.
Bitter Sweet (in Soho) is unique and continues to trade well. Tutton’s (Covent Garden) is a machine in its own right - it’s one of the best locations in the UK and over the past couple of week it’s been smashing records.”
But at the moment we’re very focused on Dirty Martini. This is a good time for us. We don’t want to take any sites on that aren’t 100 per cent right, this isn’t the time for mistakes.