One of London’s most iconic vegetarian restaurants, Food For Thought in Covent Garden, is set to close after more than 40 years of business because of the area’s rising rent prices.
The busy cafe, known for serving up consistently good food at reasonable prices and being popular with celebrities such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Mark Strong, will be closing for good on 21 June this year.
A statement on the restaurant’s website said: “The time has come to call it a day. For more than 40 years Food For Thought has withstood the corporate march, refusing to be processed, packaged or pocketed. For as long as was viable we have remained resolutely independent, offering food that is unashamedly home-spun and hand-made. We have loved being here and hope you have too.”
Laura Roberts, 29, who has been working as a waitress at the cafe for two years, said the closure feels like the end of an era: “It’s very sad. We’ve had lots of support from local people that have been coming for years, but unfortunately it just seems impossible to drag Food For Thought into the future because of the rent hikes.”
The news comes at a time when many small businesses in the capital are falling victim to spiralling rents. In nearby Chinatown in the West End, which has been an enclave of oriental food since the 1950s, eateries are being forced to shut as owners are struggling to pay the rising prices.
Roberts feels London is changing and closures such as this have become inevitable: “If you can’t pay the rent then you can’t carry on. It’s only chains that can afford to be around here now. I wonder which one will replace it.”
Jeremy Lee, a chef and London restaurant owner, is similarly pessimistic. “It’s very sad that this is happening so much in our beautiful city,” he said. “Most likely another hideous, ugly block with no one living in it will take its place. There’s very little left in Covent Garden and London is beginning to look just like any other city.”
Lee added: “Of course things must go on, but if London can’t even support small places like this then it’s quite peculiar. I will miss this area very much. Developers seem to have carte blanche on everything now, it’s very odd.”
According to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the chef and food writer, Food For Thought’s closure will represent a real blow to London’s culinary scene.
“It’s a great shame if any vegetarian restaurant is closing, particularly one of such calibre,” he said. “Vegetarian food is on the march, more and more carnivores are eating it. Restaurants that are not vegetarian are making the effort to serve more veggie food, so this is very much going against the rule of play.”
He added: “Food For Thought goes right back, along with Cranks. It was one of the original veggie places in the capital. This is a real shame. Covent Garden is a nightmare for rents and Londoners are losing out as a result.”
The owners say the restaurant will not be reopening elsewhere.