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The Xtra Diary: ‘Goulash Co-op’ plan to dish up menu changes at the Gay Hussar

Published: 19 December, 2013

THE Gay Hussar’s famously rich and fortifying menu – that has survived unchanged for more than 60 years – would be expanded to suit the more delicate palate if a group of politicos is successful in buying the restaurant.

While the Greek Street institution has become a destination for gossiping politicians and journalists, its Hungarian delicacies including wild cherry soup, veal wiener schnitzel, sautéed duck livers and venison goulash and galuska have not – for some, it seems – been the biggest draw. 

The “Goulash Co-op” business plan says: “The Gay Hussar’s menu has, famously, been unchanged in living memory. While all the familiar and much loved dishes will – we promise – remain, they will be augmented by some new ones, specials and a lighter summer menu. A high food quality will be maintained and the restaurant will not be allowed to rest on its culinary laurels.”

It added: “Care will be taken not to spoil the restaurant’s treasured ambience and patina built up over the last 60 years.”

The left-leaning Goulash Co-operative Ltd – set up by former Tribune editor Mark Seddon, Tom Watson MP and cartoonist Martin Rowson among others – has insisted all is not lost after its bid was rejected by owner Corus Hotels. 

On Monday, Mr Rowson tweeted: “We believe there’s still all to play for”.

The business plan says that there has been a period of decline at the Gay Hussar, which has been blamed on the recession and building works for the Crossrail project. The co-op says it will boost profits by opening on Sundays for the first time and holding more events including “seasonal dinners for trade union executives” and “the possibility of licensing the building for civil partnership ceremonies”.

Customers would be given the opportunity to join the current “Hall of Fame”, a wall of Mr Rowson’s portraits of heavyweights from 20th-century politics and journalism.

In a statement issued after their bid was rejected, the co-op said: “While it has been confirmed that the bid from the Goulash Co-operative was not the highest received, it remains unclear who the other bidders are and what their intentions might be for both the restaurant and the staff.”

Mr Watson has said that the co-op, which has more than 150 investors, is seeking an urgent meeting with the owners. Shares (see above) in the co-op are still available to the public in £500 blocks.

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