Things are looking rather different at Langan’s...
Indeed. The interior hadn’t really been changed since it was launched in 1976 save having a few things bolted onto it. When we came in it had the feel of a stately home that someone had been modifying over the years. We had to take it all back to bare brick, rewire and replumb it and then put it back together in as sympathetic way as possible; we renovated all the period features and put them back in. The contemporary art on the walls was a signature of the original so we have retained many of the pieces (the restaurant used to have a policy of allowing hard-up artists to pay for their meals with their work).
How long did it take?
We acquired the site and the IP in November 2020, so from concept development to relaunch it took 12 months (the business collapsed following the first Coronavirus lockdown). We always knew it was still going to be Langan’s but we had to pin down exactly what that meant in 2021 and what direction we wanted to take the business.
Have you managed to retain any staff?
No. The business had been closed for nearly a year prior to us taking on the site so they had all moved on. We have contacted some of the people that used to work here on LinkedIn, though, and we have a few interviews planned in with former Langan’s staff. And we would of course welcome others getting in touch.
Tell us about your background
I started out with Terence Conran on a management training programme and went on to work for D&D London running a number of its key sites. After that I worked with Richard Caring, overseeing Birley Clubs (which includes Annabel’s, Mark’s Club and Harry’s Bar) as operations director. I’ve spent most of my career in Mayfair so Langan’s is a good fit for me. My business partner James (Hitchen) is the founder and former chief executive of East Coast Concepts, the operator of the Neighbourhood and Victors brands.
How did you come to acquire Langan’s?
James and I hatched a plan to buy it over a few negronis. He called me the next day and we decided to go for it (with the support of a number of other investors). There was a lot of interest in the restaurant; 10 parties put bids in and four got to the second round. The lease was a big part of the attraction as there are a fair few years left on it and it’s within the act. We did a nil-premium deal with the landlord for the lease and separate deal with Langan’s former owners to acquire the IP.
Tell us about your senior team
Our head chef is Julien Jouhannaud and our wine list has been created by Guillem Kerambrun, who are both ex-Alain Ducasse. Overseeing front of house is Samuel Bernard, who was one of the top GMs at D&D London. I worked with him at Le Pont de la Tour in 2005. He also opened Bob Bob Ricard.
What’s Jouhannaud’s brief for the menu?
Langan’s was originally pitched as a Parisian brasserie but had lost its way. Standards have changed since the 1970s and over the last five to 10 years things had become quite muddled. They had tried to follow trends. I seem to remember there being a pulled chicken burger on the menu at one point. We have created a British-French brasserie deluxe that’s big on premium ingredients. Everything is recognisable and executed at a very high level.
What’s on the menu?
Dishes include spinach soufflé with anchovy and hollandaise sauce; leek vinaigrette mimosa with hazelnuts and pickles; dressed crab on toast; steak Diane; fresh macaroni with lobster, spinach and tarragon; and crêpes suzette. There’s a lot of theatre. We’ve opted for a a very classical service style. There are a lot of bodies on the floor and we use the brigade system that’s fallen out of favour over the last few years. We have a head waiter, a sommelier, a chef de rang and a commis on each section. It’s labour intensive but it creates a real sense of occasion.
What about the wine list?
We had to start from scratch with the cellar. Guillem has created a 400-bin list and we also have a ‘secret’ list for wine lovers that our sommeliers can present at their discretion. It’s called Peter’s list (after Peter Langan, who founded the restaurant with actor Michael Caine) and features some very fine wine at tempting prices. We’re very much focused on the Old World, in particular Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux. That’s not to say there aren’t some fantastic New World wines out there, but we believe the feel of Langan’s lends itself to those classic powerhouses of the wine world.
Where does Langan’s sit on Mayfair circuit? What’s its USP?
It’s a large place which means it’s accessible. It’s not difficult to get a table and we have a policy of holding seats back for regulars and VIPs. We’re open all day and have a 3am license. People can pop in whenever they like, you don’t have to book months ahead. We’ve been very happy with the reopening so far. There’s a real buzz and a lot of regulars have returned.
What are your longer term plans for the brand?
Peter and Michael always wanted to bring Langan’s to the US. We’d like to pursue that. LA would be an obvious choice given its links to the art and celebrity worlds but we’re also looking at Miami and New York. But first we need to get this one right and really define what Langan’s is.