Although traditionally associated with sharp suits, skyscrapers and corporate types, the City of London has been undergoing a surprising reinvention since Covid in a bid to become the capital’s new dining hotspot.
Earlier this month, luxury restaurant brand the Wolseley opened up a new bar and restaurant on the Square Mile – having previously restricted themselves to the West End.
The glitzy new establishment is unashamedly opulent and is frequented by businessman, celebrities and tourists alike who pay high prices for luxury cuisine outside of the traditional city centre.
Flanked by new venues like Wagtail and One Lombard Street as well as the ever heaving Leadenhall Market, the new Wolseley seems to point to a sea change for the financial district – one that seemed unthinkable just a year ago.
According to industry tracker CGA and consulting group Alix Partners, the number of restaurants in the City decreased by 28 per cent between September 2019 and September 2023.
Luxury restaurant brand the Wolseley opened up a new bar and restaurant on the Square Mile
A short distance away Leadenhall Market is heaving every day with workers and tourists
The City of London has reversed its culinary fortunes to become a dining hotspot
In the last year alone, just 1.3 per cent of sites in the City have closed
But in the last year, the City has been the highest performing district in London for maintaining its hospitality industry only losing 1.3 per cent of sites.
With workers now returning to the office more regularly after Covid, the City is once again swarming with life, but unlike before not everyone is on their lunch break.
Tempted over the river from London Bridge by the scenery and the culinary attractions, many tourists are now also enjoying the fruits of the city – which is good news for business owners.
Sue Cloke is the director of Cheese at Leadenhall, a popular haunt of the market that has welcome customers since 2005.
She told the MailOnline that the area had more of a ‘buzz’ about it than it did.
She explained: ‘It has become a more interesting place to visit. There are obviously a lot of tourists around at the moment, but there’s also a lot of out-of-towners coming into London and into the City of London as there’s more to do here now.
‘There’s more to see and more choices to dine at as the restaurants are more varied.
‘There’s certainly more to do here once people have arrived and that stops them going some place else like the West End or wherever.’
With people returning to the office and the emergence of the district as an attraction new food spots are constantly popping up
Luxury steak chain Gaucho’s operates in the area and is a favourite for corporate lunches
The City of London has seen an increases in People spending money in restaurants and bars
With Christmas around the corner restaurants in the city are bracing themselves for the busiest time of year
Kevin Lewis of Wagtail says he expects all businesses along the Mile will soon be reaping the benefits
After 23 years in the same spot, Sue’s content with her regulars and the steady income stream of corporate events, but says that since Covid, more and more restaurants are popping up as competition.
She says: ‘There were a lot vacant sites two or three years ago but now there aren’t which is probably a very healthy situation for trading really, for us it’s more competition.
‘It’ll be much more vibrant and busy, and also encourage people to come into the city.’
Elsewhere on the Mile, exclusive rooftop bar and restaurant Wagtail is gearing up for the seven week Christmas season and is confident of big profits.
Assistant General Manager Kevin Lewis tells MailOnline that after a quiet period he expects all businesses along the Mile will soon be reaping the benefits.
He explained: ‘We have just come out of a three week seasonal low after summer where we generally see a drop.
‘We are now in our seven week Christmas period so we’re very busy. The majority of our guests from Monday to Thursday are corporate.
‘They spend quite a lot, currently our spend per head is about £80. Tourists are coming here, but they tend to stay more to the St Paul’s side of the city.
‘We’re a hidden gem so it’s starting to pick up. Since Covid, this area has been reinvented somewhat – there’s loads of good places to eat here now.’
The area has always been a popular drinking spot but now more and more restaurants are popping up
Abdul Manan says his restaurant Spice Trader is not as busy as it once was
He is hopeful that as more workers and tourists come back to the city things will improve
However, while it’s good times for some, other businesses say that despite their luxury neighbours they haven’t seen a return to pre-Covid levels of trade.
Abdul Manan runs Spice Trader on Philbot Lane and has been welcoming guests to his basement Indian restaurant for decades.
However, he says the City of London institution is not as busy as it was meaning they don’t open on weekends.
He explained: ‘Our restaurant has actually lost a lot of business since Covid. We are still waiting for the city workers to fully come back.
‘We don’t see many tourists, but what we have found is it’s slowly getting back to normal.
‘It’s busier than last year, but we still don’t open on the weekend as there’s nobody here.
‘When it’s good, it’s good. If we have a big corporate lunch, one table can be about £400 – it’s good business.’