This week’s exclusive Diary includes saying goodbye to an old favourite; Wagamama’s revived expansion programme; Coca Cola’s staggering performance; Admiral’s Paveley being probed; and M&B’s German operations. Celebrity eaterie exits While most of London’s restaurant sector is holding up well, Diary hears that one of the capital’s more eclectic gastronomic delights, Pomegranates in Pimlico has been sold by Christie + Co to developers for use as residential or office accommodation. Between 1974 and 2009, the enigmatic and amiable Welsh restaurateur Patrick Gwynn-Jones’ eaterie played host to a Who’s Who of popular culture — from Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Diana Ross and Morecambe and Wise, to the late, great Sir Henry Cooper and James Hunt — not to mention the Princess Royal and Princess Margaret. Town hall twists and turns Dairy hears that the continuing saga over the sale of Horsham Town Hall has taken another turn, with sales details for the property again landing in a number of restaurant operators’ in trays over the last month. Bill’s Produce was a long-time frontrunner for the site but was seemingly put off by local opposition to converting the hall to a restaurant. Gondola was also mentioned as a candidate but has recently exchanged on a site opposite for its Ask Italian brand. Bowling them over And also in Horsham, but interesting nonetheless. Wagamama opened a site on busy West Street as part of its revived expansion programme. It features more by way of tables for groups of two and four, and less in the way of communal tables. And it’s a test of the brand’s potential in slightly smaller towns. Well-placed sources report that the site is beating budget by a handsome £8,000 to £10,000 a week. Factory findings The pub trade’s got talent, Part 47. Gary Downham is a builder who has invested £500,000 in the Hare at Roxwell, Chelmsford, a former derelict pub now taking more than £20,000 a week. His heavily researched food offer includes borrowings from trips to Florida where he’s noticed the success of the Cheesecake Factory (sales: $1.433bn from 150 units). It’s paid off with a homemade desserts servery doing cracking takeaway business. Plenty of fizz Last week, M&C Report carried the latest results from Coca Cola Enterprise UK. It begs the question: Is this the most successful beverage company in the UK (with almost £1.7bn of sales and just over £250m of profit). It means CCE is bigger in turnover terms than our biggest brewer, Heineken UK and dwarfs it profit-wise. Is Diary missing somebody? Puzzlers for Paveley A well-known City figure attended our Tenanted summit the week before last. He was impressed by the upbeat presentation by Admiral Taverns executive chairman Jonathan Paveley. Here’s the note he dropped Diary: “Thought Jonathan Paveley was very good yesterday, though the comments regarding the business missed out on the fact that had the financing markets not existed to allow Admiral to leverage up back in 2006, Admiral would not exist in anything like its current form. Also helpful to have had the banks write-off a load of the debt. “There is going to be a lot of pub mergers and acquisitions coming up as the banks will have written down many of their loans on a market-to-market basis, and so will be able to write up some (big?) profits when they come round to selling them.” Smart cookies those bankers, finance at the top of the market, write down vast sums and then achieve a big book profit as you sell to bargain-hunters at the bottom of the market. Bonuses (and trebles) all round, as Private Eye would say. Speculation brewing A well-connected Diary reader was keen to know the identity of the regional family brewer that we suggested might be in play last week. He was even keen to hazard his own guess on its identity. Interestingly enough, our company was his second candidate behind a company whose trading heartland lies more down the M4 corridor. Well done Charles Talking of family brewers, it’s a big well done to Charles Wells, which has won top honours in the Publican Awards for Best Tenanted Pub Company two years out of the last three - it had to make do with a Highly Commended in the most recent awards. Its imaginative and pro-active management includes a strategy to recruit high quality multiple tenants. A number of tenanted operators have agreed heads of terms to let pubs to Orchid Pub Company, the excellent 300-strong company led by Rufus Hall. Nobody else, though, has got as many sites actually let to them - Orchid has just signed its fourth lease. Achtung Alex Diary has already established that they don’t go out much in Germany, spending less than 25% of the amount UK households spend on eating out and going out. In fact, Mitchells & Butlers runs one of the country’s largest branded chains in Alex, selling more breakfasts and brunch than any other bar in Germany. “On some days, around 10,000 guests visit our flagship bar in Hamburg’s famous Alsterpavillon,” M&B proudly proclaims. Now, after a number of years of, er, stasis, M&B is planning a new Alex opening. Diary believes it’s one of those deals where a developer has approached with an offer than can’t be turned down. Miller time Hats tipped to Nick Miller who is leaving his perch at the top of Miller Brands UK to join funky London brewmeister Meantime. Miller, who has to rank as one of the most likeable people in the whole of the booze trade, has overseen pretty explosive growth at Miller UK. Diary was gazing at the Miller Brands accounts a week or so ago and noted turnover had jumped impressively, from £126m to £168m, in its most recent year. So why the move to Meantime? Diary sources indicate that Miller, who has, as they say, a young family, wasn’t too keen on a possible next move abroad.