The Criterion in Piccadilly Circus, one of the West End’s most famous and lavish restaurant sites, is to re-open next month as a branch of the Indian restaurant Masala Zone.
Designed by architect Thomas Verity in the Neo Byzantine style, the glittering, Grade II-listed Criterion opened in 1873 and hosted the movers and shakers of late-Victorian London – it even featured in the first Sherlock Holmes story. *It was relaunched with fanfare by Bob Payton in partnership with Forte (and Nico Ladenis) in 1994 – a short-lived incarnation shortly to be followed by more fanfare and the arrival of Marco Pierre White in 1995. In recent years, it has re-entered obscurity (quite an achievement given its interior and central position) operating as tourist trap Italians (with the magnificent murals latterly obscured) before closing in autumn 2022.
The new tenants, family company MW Eat, operate a small group including some of London’s swishest Indian restaurants, Amaya, Chutney Mary and Veeraswamy. Masala Zone has branches in Covent Garden, Soho and Earl’s Court, and wins consistent praise in the annual Harden’s guides for “fabulous Indian street food and thalis” that represent “good value for money”.
Ranjit Mathrani, chairman of MW Eat, said: “We are delighted to be adding Masala Zone Piccadilly Circus to the MW Eat portfolio. To be opening in such a central location is exciting, and we look forward to welcoming customers to enjoy the wealth of tastes India offers.”
The new restaurant will accommodate 150 guests, with another 32 in dining privately in the Leopard Room. It will initially open for lunch and dinner, with breakfast and afternoon tea to follow.
*The latter half of this paragraph has been edited to mention Bob Payton and also to correct details about its operations in recent years.