Police are hunting a couple who enjoyed a £572 meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant before stepping outside to smoke a cigarette and disappearing without paying the bill. The pair, who took a table at L’Autre Pied, in Marylebone, had ordered dessert before apparently slipping out and vanishing into the night. Intriguingly, they booked under the name Lupin – a possible reference to Arsene Lupin, a French gentleman thief. Of the man and his blonde companion’s actions, director David Moore said: ‘I was just in shock. They were there from the outset to rip us off.’
Scotland Yard is investigating last Wednesday evening’s alleged incident and checking to see if similar frauds have been perpetrated elsewhere. The suspected couple, though to be in their late twenties, arrived just after 9pm at the restaurant, just off Marylebone High Street. As well as a bottle of Larmandier pink champagne costing £124, they drank a £285 bottle of 1997 Bollinger. With starters of foie gras and mackerel and main courses of hare and venison, the food came to £86 in a total bill of £572, around three times the average.
The restaurant said the male suspect was about 6ft tall with brown hair and a beard and wore blue jeans and a jumper. His companion is thought to have worn a dark-coloured sleeveless dress with a scarf. Mr Moore said the restaurant and its sister, the long-established Pied à Terre, will now require customers to leave their credit cards behind the bar before going out to smoke. ‘No one will be happy about it. People think it doesn’t matter if some fat cat restaurant is getting ripped off, but it affects everybody.’ Leonora Popaj, the restaurant’s general manager, said the policy would be similar to that operated by nightclubs and bars, which take customers’ coats or have bodyguards outside to ensure nobody leaves without paying.
‘I never thought this crime was going to happen in this level of restaurant,’ said Ms Popaj. ‘You have to be very brave or very stupid to do it.’ ‘It is an ever-present risk for restaurants and always has been,’ said Peter Harden, co-publisher of the Harden’s London Restaurants guide. ‘Restaurants should be careful of knee-jerk reactions that may alienate people.’