Lutyens Restaurant pays tribute to Fleet St history

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A new restaurant at 85 Fleet Street in London features a design that harks back to the role the building once played as the headquarters of Reuters news agency, one of the major media organizations on the “Street of Ink.”

Fleet Street was renowned as a buzzing center of the printing and newspaper publishing industries from 1500 when Wynkyn de Worde established a printing press near St Bride’s Church -- with its 18th-century “wedding cake” spire added by British architect Christopher Wren -- until the latter part of the 20th century when media organizations moved away.

Now, chef David Burke creates culinary delights for customers in several dining spaces modernized by contemporary British designer Terence Conran on the two lower floors of the original building, which was designed and built in the 1930s by British architect Edwin Lutyens.

“It’s very simple and very generous food,” said Burke, originally from Dublin and formerly a chef at London’s Bibendum restaurant, adding that the menu is based on “regional French food with some modern British and Irish touches.”

“Fish and shellfish would be my favorites,” he said when prompted to name a preferred dish.

On offer are clams, prawns, lobster and a wide variety of oyster dishes, but the menu also features a broad range of meat, including veal and rabbit.

The floor in the bar incorporates stock prices in the tiling, a reference to Reuters’ role as a financial news service. As well, pictures of Paul Julius Reuter, who founded Reuters in 1851, hang on the walls. One of the private dining rooms in the cellar is named after Reuter.

The members club, also in the cellar, features images celebrating 17th-century British diarist Samuel Pepys, who was born on the site.

In earlier days, Reuters and the Press Association shared the building. The Reuters newsroom was based on the fourth floor until it moved out in 1994. All remaining Reuters operations were moved from the building in 2005 and a small Reuters London bureau remains nearby on Dorset Rise. Reuters is now Thomson Reuters and most of its London editorial news operations are based in Canary Wharf.

Tales of the old Fleet Street and its many pubs are legendary among journalists.

Retired journalist Chuck Frankel, who worked on the Reuters Nordesk editing copy for North American readers between 1956 and 1958, recalls that there were two pubs on the ground floor where Lutyens Restaurant is now.

“At least one served pub lunches, but I forget which,” said Honolulu-based Frankel, who is originally from Chicago. “I rarely had enough money to eat a pub lunch, favoring instead the Reuters canteen, the Black and White Cafe and somewhere called something like Manzies, where you got two veg, potato and an alleged meat for a half crown.”

After Reuters, Frankel worked for the Chicago Tribune, Hawaii’s Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the Beijing-based English-language newspaper China Daily.

“The old story about sausages -- you should not look too closely on how they are made -- applies to news stories, so I find it apt that part of 85 Fleet Street is a high-priced restaurant,” Frankel said.

Editing by Andrew Dobbie