Des Gunewardena announces new venture at The Royal Exchange

Des Gunewardena, co-founder and former CEO of restaurant group D&D London, announced today that he has signed an agreement with The Ardent Companies UK to open a new flagship restaurant, bar and event space at The Royal Exchange, The City of London’s leading luxury destination.

This will be the first project for Des since his departure from D&D. Des has taken 6,500 sq ft of space on a new 15-year lease, with the new venture occupying the North, South and East mezzanines of the main central courtyard, together with a newly-created outdoor terrace at the front of the building.

Details of food, drink and design concepts are to be announced closer to the venue’s planned opening in May 2024. The venue will also feature live music and entertainment.

The Royal Exchange is the City of London’s leading luxury destination with a range of high-end boutiques – including Tiffany & Co., Hermès, Montblanc and Omega – alongside dining options such as The Libertine and the Fortnum & Mason bar and restaurant.

The Square Mile is undergoing a wider luxury retail and social resurgence, with The Royal Exchange and the surrounding public realm upgrades playing a key role in the revival. As more workers return to the office, the scheme is reporting increasing visitor numbers, with footfall for the year to date up by around 50% and trading performance rising by 30% on average.

Des Gunewardena commented: “I have always loved the Royal Exchange since my first involvement with the building back in my Conran days. Ardent has some imaginative proposals for evolving what is already a very successful luxury retail and restaurant offer, and I am excited to be part of those plans.”

Andrew Hilston, managing director of The Ardent Companies UK, added: “We are hugely excited to welcome Des to The Royal Exchange, and can’t wait to see his concepts come to life. Alongside existing eateries, including The Libertine and The Fortnum & Mason bar and restaurant, Des’ arrival will further burnish The Royal Exchange’s reputation as one of The City’s best places for dining and socialising.”

Providing 51,400 sq ft of retail and socialising space around a historic covered courtyard, The Royal Exchange opened in 1566 as London’s first purpose-built trading centre. It once housed Lloyd’s insurance market and Queen Victoria unveiled the current building, the third on the site, in 1844.

Located opposite the Bank of England between Threadneedle Street and Cornhill, the retail element of The Royal Exchange was acquired by The Ardent Companies UK – a subsidiary of US-based real estate investment and asset management firm The Ardent Companies – in October 2022.

By Mark Adair – Correspondent, Bdaily

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