CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Landlords want to redevelop Cafe Rouge building in Hampstead

Long-term future of chain's Hampstead High Street restaurant unclear after planning bid

22 March, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Cafe Rouge in Hampstead

THE long-term future of the Hampstead branch of Café Rouge – the French restaurant chain – is unclear after the building’s owners revealed plans for a revamp.

Developers want to turn the first floor, currently used for private events, into a two-bedroom apartment and build a new, larger extension to the rear of the site in Hampstead High Street. They said there would still be a “prime ‘class A’ commercial use” on the ground floor after the work, although this planning code can be for a shop or a food provider.

Café Rouge, regularly mentioned by the eponymous character in Bridget Jones’s Diary, was formed in 1989 and has grown to more than 100 outlets serving bistro dishes, including croque monsieur and mussels.

The New Journal understands the company has at least two years left to run on its lease in Hampstead.

Paperwork filed at the Town Hall by planning agents Patalab, relating to the Hampstead site, says: “The driver for this project is that the overriding lease of the entire property, Café Rouge, is coming to an end. Consequently, there is an opportunity to substantially improve the property, both physically and in terms of land use.”

It adds: “The ground-floor façade is of little architectural significance, having been completely replaced with generic ‘Café Rouge’ folding doors. A future tenant will likely address the ground-floor façade. However, it does not form part of this application, with the exception of a small residential entrance.”

Hampstead is thought to be one of Café Rouge’s busiest branches and is popular with the area’s famous residents. This Morning presenting couple Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan are among past customers.

Janine Grifis, chair of Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum, said the changes would go against new local planning guidance, which could soon be ratified. “The first floor is a well-used public space and important to the profitability of the current tenant, Café Rouge,” she said. “It is used on a near-daily basis as a venue for meetings, private parties and events. “Having lost a number of pubs in recent years, there are very few similar spaces to hire in Hampstead.”

A spokesman for Café Rouge said: “We have security of tenure in place and it’s business as normal. We have no imminent plans to leave Hampstead.”

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