Issue 36— October 1996
Blanc's neighbours see red
No doubt about Jericho's most controversial new business opening. The arrival of Le Petit Blanc in Walton Street in June attracted national media attention - along with anger from startled neighbours.
Originally planning permission for the site was granted for a modest pizza and pasta establishment. Then internationally famed chef Raymond Blanc took over the lease and voilà! we have one of the city's most exclusive restaurants on our doorstep - with all the prestige and problems that come with it.
"I would say he came in by the backdoor", says a resident of Shirley Place. "He never got planning permission for many of the things he has done, and they have continually failed to provide information to the Council planning committee so there are endless deferments." Neighbours have been up in arms about the rubbish, the smell, the noise, and above all the pressure on Jericho's already limited parking facilities.
Residents of Juxon Street were shocked to see their pavement at times awash with chicken fat. For all the smart Conran-designed frontage, Blanc's backyard presents a less glamorous aspect, with overflowing Biffa bins leaking out across the pavement and into the street.
The noise comes not so much from the clientele (a fairly select bunch) as from the frenzy of cooking activity required to satisfy their sensitive palates. The original kitchen was far too small so food has to be prepared in the basement and then transferred across the back garden, with all the attendant din of banging doors. Added to this is the noise from the kitchen extractor fan and the air conditioners, as well as an early morning wake-up call when the noisy trucks come to empty the refuse bins.
Newspaper reports suggested that residents were also being overpowered with delicious aromas. But as one local resident says: "It's the smell from the filth at the back we object to. And when the bins are emptied in the morning the road is absolutely covered in broken glass." Even the smell of frying bacon is hard on the nostrils first thing in the morning because the extraction filters are not very effective.
But what has infuriated many people is parking. They are amazed that a business that attracts 50-100 cars a day could ever have got planning permission. The original pizza parlour would scarcely have drawn in large numbers of vehicles. But attracted by Blanc's reputation, hungry diners (including many American tourists) are now converging by car from London and many other places outside the city, often parking illegally and obstructing the passage of fire and ambulance vehicles.
The furore surrounding the restaurant's opening stirred local residents into action and they have had a series of meetings with the management. As a result there have been some improvements. New General Manager Olivier Delaunoy (who seems to be more receptive to local concerns) responds that they have now enclosed one of the noisiest fans, and that they will build a wall to enclose the yard. As for parking, every diner now gets a map indicating where they can park legally. The restaurant has been investigating other possibilities that might include, say, using the school car park at night. But they will have to do something if the new system for more rigorous residents' parking enforcement happens in December.