Harrods Expands Into The Hotel Business

While most people know of Harrods as a lavish department store in London, the brand will soon be opening a chain of luxury hotels. Owned by the Qatar Holding Company, who purchased Harrods two years ago, the plan is to build properties in major cities like New York, Paris, London, Kuala Lumpur and Sardinia.

“Qatar Holding ultimately intends to grow Harrods into a global enterprise that defines the luxury retail and leisure sectors,” said the company.

Qatar Holding also owns the recently completed The Shard, Europe’s tallest building, so we’re interested to see how the hotel project turns out. Construction is slated to begin next year in Kuala Lumpur. They’re looking to invest more in Malaysia, as they believe the economy there is growing. The project is estimated to cost about £406 million.

What do you think of Harrods expanding into hotels?

[Image via Sokkk y]

Pop-up restaurants: dining for a new decade

First, it was underground supper clubs. Now, everything’s coming up pop-ups. As with food trucks, this form of guerrilla cheffing borne of economic need has become a global phenomenon. Equal parts dinner party and dinner theater, a pop-up refers to a dining establishment that is open anywhere from one to several nights, usually in an existing restaurant or other commercial food establishment.

The impermanent nature of pop-ups means no real overhead or utilities, and little food cost and labor. They’re not enough to sustain chefs financially, but are instead a great way for them to make a name for themselves and draw some income in between (or during) gigs. Pop-ups also give chefs a chance to stretch themselves, stylistically or ethnically, although some prefer to let local ingredients shine. Most pop-ups give props to sustainability by sourcing product from local farms, which is part of what gives these fly-by-night operations such a wonderful sense of place.

I first heard about pop-ups while couch-surfing in San Francisco two years ago (my own pop-up form of survival after relocating back to the West Coast from Colorado). Chef Anthony Myint, the brainchild behind SF’s Mission Street Food pop-up, which started in 2008, was serving much-lauded, locally-sourced dinners Thursday nights, each time with the help of a guest chef. The food was unpredictable with regard to cuisine or style. The location? Lung Shan, a nondescript Chinese restaurant in the city’s vibrant Mission District (FYI, my favorite place for great, usually cheap, eats). I remember thinking at the time, “More, please.”Fast-forward 24 months, and while the pop-up is no more, the venture was so successful, Myint is now co-owner of San Francisco’s popular Commonwealth, as well as newly minted (har) chef at the forthcoming Mission Bowling Club. And Joshua Skenes of Saison, one of Food & Wine magazine’s newly crowned Best New Chefs, started the restaurant as a pop-up.

San Francisco has long been an incubator for innovative ideas involving food, so it’s no surprise pop-ups are, ah, popular there (click here for a recent round-up). Meanwhile, fellow 2011 Best New Chef Jason Franey, of Seattle’s Canlis, has also been getting in on the pop-up. In February, he cooked a one-night gig at “Hearth & Home,” held at one of the city’s Macrina Bakery locations (another tip: if you’re in town, visit Macrina in its own right. Four words: chocolate-orange pound cake).

The pop-up trend–which now applies to boutiques, galleries, clubs, coffee houses, and bars–has gone national. Los Angeles, San Diego, New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Boston, Portland (Oregon), Miami: all popular for restaurant pop-ups. Oakland has seen phenomenal response to its Pop-up General Store, which features a twice-monthly gathering of food vendors held at a catering kitchen. Founded by former Chez Panisse Chef Christopher Lee and his former sous chef Saimin Nosrat (of Berkeley’s defunct Eccolo), the venue features all the deliciousness you would expect when a group of mostly former Chez Panisse cooks and food artisans get together and prepare things to eat.

Pop-ups are even crossing the pond. The New York Times reports that, starting today, Singapore is sending some of its top chefs and a pop-up kitchen on a yearlong trip around the world, with nine stops planned in Moscow, Paris, London, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Delhi, Sydney, and Dubai. Dubbed Singapore Takeout, the goal is to showcase the city’s eclectic, multi-ethnic cuisine. The kitchen is a converted 20-by-eight-foot shipping container. Also hitting the road is chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry, Ad Hoc, Bouchon, and Per Se. He’ll be featured in a ten-day pop-up at Harrods, London later this summer.

Tip: Due to the nature of pop-ups, the best way to find them is to Google the words, “pop-up restaurant, ____ (city).” You can also go to Pop up Restaurants for news. Get popping!

Harrods considers luxury hotel on rooftop

What’s better than a sale at Harrods and mid-afternoon tea? A sale at Harrods and mid-afternoon tea from your hotel room at the top of Harrods.

The new owners of the iconic London department store are considering plans to open a luxury hotel on the roof, according to the London Evening Standard. The article claims the Qatari owners of the landmark store think a luxury “Harrods Hotel” would be a success with wealthy, foreign visitors. We tend to agree.

The store is located in the trendy Knightsbridge district, also home to the five-star Mandarin Oriental hotel, Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel and The Stafford London by Kempinski.

Could this be a trend? Might other department stores start planning hotels in their presence? In Massachusetts, the Natick Collection, which houses everything from Nordstrom’s to Levi’s, also has condos and business apartments on the top floors of the mall. Strategic planning? Absolutely!

We want to know: Would you stay at a hotel located on top of a department store, or would the temptation be too much?

[via USA Today]

Harrods changes ownership – still not British owned

The iconic Harrods department store has new owners. For a staggering $1.91 billion, Mohammed Al Fayed sold his most famous investment to the Qatari royal family.

The Harrods brand name is attached to more than just the Knightsbridge store – Harrods also operates smaller stores at airports, and on the QE2 cruise liner and provides luxury air charter service through Air Harrods.

Despite being rather kitchsy and pricey, a trip to Harrods is a real must visit on any first trip to London. The store is immense, and the food department alone is enough to entertain you for hours.

The Qatari royal family made the purchase through their investment arm, Qatar holding, which is a fully owned affiliate of Qatar petroleum. Al Fayed purchased Harrods in 1985, and was only the fourth owner. He has invested millions in the store, adding improvements like his stunning Egyptian escalator. In 2005 he unveiled a statue of his son Dodi and Princess Diana who died in a car crash in 1997.

(Image from: CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)