Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to close Bristol restaurant

Celebrity chef, writer and restaurateur Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is to close his River Cottage Kitchen restaurant in Bristol owing to “challenging market conditions”.

Image: River Cottage

The restaurant, based on Whiteladies Road in Bristol, is to close after seven years in a decision the River Cottage restaurant group blamed on “rising costs and challenging market conditions”.

A statement also noted that the size and location of the restaurant meant that it was “no longer a viable option for the business”.

Fearnley-Whittingstall, the founder of River Cottage, still operates restaurants in Axminster and Winchester, as well as his farm and cookery school, referred to as River Cottage HQ.

The Bristol restaurant will close on 27 March and the group is hoping to offer staff alternative employment at its other sites “where possible”.

Fearnley-Whittingstall commented: “Following a full review of our business we have made the difficult decision to cease trading at our Bristol site.

“We’ve had a wonderful seven years in Bristol and I am deeply saddened that we cannot find a way to continue trading here. I have a strong personal connection to Bristol, having lived here just around the corner from the restaurant for most of the last four years. I very much hope that River Cottage will return to the city in the future.

“I would like to thank our amazing team who have worked tirelessly over the years making our restaurant a fantastic place to eat and drink. A huge thanks also to all our wonderful customers who have supported us over the years, and our brilliant suppliers who have helped us to serve the finest produce of the region.”

The group will now focus on its remaining sites, as well as expansion plans for its cookery school, including the construction of an additional guesthouse and further event spaces.

The restaurants form part of River Cottage Holdings, which includes Fearnley-Whittingstall’s publishing, brand licensing, restaurant and cookery school businesses. According to accounts filed with Companies House in November 2019, the company has undergone a restructure to address losses that the business has accrued.

In addition, the four-strong board of directors has also produced a three-year forecast which includes “significant cost cutting across the group”. The group is forecasting a loss in the 2019/20 financial year, despite a loan of £3.1 million raised by a “major shareholder”. This shareholder has provided a letter of support stating he will provide additional financial assistance should further action be required.

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