About Time You Met: John Nugent, Owner of Rotunda Bar and RestaurantBy Angelica Malin
Previously Chief Executive of Searcy’s, working on diverse projects such as St Pancras International, the Royal Opera House, the National Portrait Gallery and the ‘Gherkin’, John Nugent has over 16 years experience in the food and drink sector. Owner of Rotunda Bar and Restaurant in King’s Cross and Green & Fortune (the company behind bars in Sea Containers and Kings Place Cafe), we chatted to John about the recent renovation at Rotunda, the evolving London food scene and his favourite drinking spots in the capital:
10 years ago King’s Cross was an entirely different place – what made you want to open a restaurant there?
I’ve lived in and around the area for many years. I saw the many attempts to regenerate the area, but all to no avail. Then there was a significant game changer with the decision to move the location and London terminus of Eurostar to King’s Cross St. Pancras. This to me signalled that in time the area would change, and since then the area has transformed out of all recognition. I was fortunate to be involved on the St. Pancras project with the launch of the Champagne Bar and the following year Rotunda at Kings Place was launched.
What has been your proudest moment since opening Rotunda in 2008?
There have been many high points; from seeing our first delivery of beef and lamb from the farm in Matfen, to having survived ten interesting, turbulent and fantastic years. There have been so many changes and coming and goings in the restaurant world during this time.
You’ve just completed a big renovation of Rotunda and Green & Fortune – why did you choose now and how do you think this will affect the business?
I felt it was a good time to review and look forward. Reinvesting in the business shows the confidence we have in Rotunda. Improving the facility and learning from the past is always a good thing. I want Rotunda to continue to be a thriving place welcoming such a vast mix of great customers and friends.
What’s your favourite dish on the new menu?
On the meat side, the new grills are cooking the steaks so beautifully – particularly the rib eye steak. I’m really pleased with the breath of the menu, especially the non-meat items and side dishes, like the radishes served with smoked sea salt aioli, as well as the pit-cooked peppers with wild rice, miso and tahini.
What’s next for Rotunda?
Continue doing what we do well; look after our customers, engage well with the local and wider community, and deliver great experiences.
There are so many restaurants in London which open and close so quickly – what’s the formula for lasting so long?
Diversification is key, at Rotunda we are not your normal restaurant. Our bar is a success in its own right. We host a lot of large parties both inside and on our waterside terrace and our private dining room is also constantly used. All these add up to the total mix of Rotunda and each part is as important as the other.
You have worked in the London restaurant scene for over 20 years, how do you think it has changed since you started out?
It has changed out of all recognition; variety, choice, new food styles, improving standards, customers’ needs, all very positive, which is what makes this such an exciting sector to be involved in.
What do you most love about London’s food scene?
It sometimes feels like a rollercoaster – constant change, new things happening all the time and incredible choice.
Are there any new food trends you’re seeing?
Trends continue to innovate, however we must always remember that we are in the world of hospitality, experience and the human touch is as important as fleeting trends.
Favourite place in London for a drink?
So much choice. The Ned for a little bit of razzmatazz and to lift your spirits, Sky Garden for when your tourists’ friends are in town, The Town of Ramsgate for a trip down memory lane, Plaquemine Lock for a decent local experience. and Millers for a great after work drink
For more information on Rotunda, see the website here.
90 York Way, King’s Cross, London N1 9AG