High rents drove me out of Leeds claims French restaurateur

Ripon has been chosen as the new home of the popular La Grillade restaurant after its owner refused to meet the “horrendous” rent demands of landlords in Leeds.

Guy Martin-Laval , owner of La Grillade which is set to reopen in Ripon.
Guy Martin-Laval , owner of La Grillade which is set to reopen in Ripon.

The establishment’s Marseilles-born owner Guy Martin-Laval said he took the decision to shut his French restaurant in Wellington Street just before Christmas after 33 years in Leeds because of rental costs and he feels that Leeds no longer offers the right conditions for single operators like himself to thrive.

The restauranteur, who initially considered reopening elsewhere in the city, said: “Since January, in Leeds, every place I wanted to open was asking absolutely horrendous rent and it’s like Leeds was trying to get rid of private operators.

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“It is okay as a multiple operator to pinpoint Leeds as a place to be and have 20-30 other places elsewhere to support it if things are tough in Leeds. After six years of recession; it’s been difficult for everyone but I had not made anyone redundant, my landlord was asking for another rent increase so I just shut the door.”

At the time, Mr Martin-Laval said the “final straw” was when the Leeds City Council food and health team insisted that the restaurant pre-cooked its steak tartare before chopping it and that raw eggs could not be served in an egg shell.

Mr Martin-Laval’s new premises in Kirkgate, opposite Ripon Cathedral, are due to open in September and will offer around 60 covers plus private dining space.

“One day I was passing by and thought it was a good spot,” he said.

“I got in touch with the landlord and he was the most incredible man and said he wanted to see someone making a success of these premises. It’s wonderful when you have a landlord that wants you to succeed.”

He said he was encouraged to opt for the spot as many of his clientele are based nearby in North Yorkshire. Prospective dinners can expect a similar experience to what made the restaurant its name in Leeds, he added.