English ICA in a stew over restaurant row

A simmering dispute between the English ICA and its caterers has boiled over into court action.

Solicitors acting for the institute have filed a High Court writ for £230,000 against Gardner Merchant Management Services (UK) Limited, which provides its internal catering and runs its basement ‘nouveau-British’ restaurant, Esca.

The company ousted celebrity cook Prue Leith (above) from the job when the institute’s catering contract came up for tender at the end of 1997.

Replacing Leiths at the institute initially sparked grumbling among Moorgate Place gastronomes, but Esca’s culinary performance soon found favour.

However, institute finance chiefs have not digested the change so easily.

According to the writ, Gardner Merchant, formerly Marriott Management Services, had agreed to make certain guaranteed payments to the institute.

The catering company should have paid £345,618 plus VAT for 1998, but has paid only £240,626, it said. Despite demands from the institute’s solicitors, Gardner Merchant has failed to pay the balance of £233,525.38, the writ said, as well as interest, which the institute is also claiming.

The institute refused to comment on the dispute.

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