The Chateau restaurant on Coombe Lane has closed, with immediate effect, the latest part of Croydon’s business fabric to go under as a consequence of rising costs and the damage caused to its trade by the covid pandemic.
Originally opened in 1978 as Chateau Napoleon, the opulent and somewhat grandiose venue, nestling in the wooded hillside next to Coombe Gardens, was a favourite of Rotary Club lunches, political fund-raisers and civic get-togethers of be-chained mayors from across London.
The Chateau’s demise comes after a decade of development blight has scarred Croydon town centre, thanks to Westfield failing to deliver on their regeneration promises.
And it follows the likes of the Selsdon Park Hotel and Croydon Park Hotel, both of which have closed in the past two years, three Wetherspoons pubs shutting, Waitrose on George Street closing, as well as several long-established businesses in what was once branded by the council as “the restaurant quarter” that have not survived the economic ordeal of the 2020s.
Companies House records suggest that The Chateau’s business had been struggling for some months.
The restaurant was unable to re-open following the covid lockdowns until April 2021, having gone almost a year without the staples of its business of hosting weddings in the grand country house setting, and catering for the happy couples’ receptions afterwards, along with other events and parties in any of its five function rooms that could cater for “business meetings to grand balls” and as many as 300 guests.
Even when it did re-open, The Chateau could only provide al fresco dining at first, in order to be compliant with the covid regulations at the time.
Until last week, they were still promoting their Christmas day service, with a three-course meal on the big day for £85.
Despite the management’s best efforts to revive the business, offering three-course set menus for £26 this summer, this week the word got out that The Chateau was cancelling Christmas, as staff began the heart-rending task of ringing round customers who had booked tables or events and making refunds of their deposits.
“They have called me tonight and given me a full refund of £400,” one saddened customer posted on social media. “Very lovely gentleman and I feel very sad for them.”
One former customer remembered fondly, “I had my 50th birthday party there. Very sad to hear this news, it held lovely memories for me.”
Another posted, “So much of old Croydon is disappearing, it’s so sad.
“I was very much looking forward to my Christmas party night at Chateau Napolean, but they’ve called to cancel it as they’ve ceased trading due to the economy.”
According to one source who until the closure worked with The Chateau, the plan originally had been to trade through Christmas, but to close in January due to increase charges on their lease and other soaring costs. “They’ve tried so hard to keep going,” the source said, “but sadly they just can’t.”
Other, larger venues in the area, such as The Oaks Golf Club in Carshalton, report receiving a wave of late bookings as people seek alternative venues for their festive events.
The Chateau was housed in one of a series of historic large houses that are to be found in and around Lloyd Park and Addington Hills area that remains resolutely rural after a century or more of development elsewhere in Croydon.
With records indicating that there has been an estate in the area going back to 1221, The Chateau occupies Coombe Wood House, which was built in 1898 for Arthur Lloyd, the brother of newspaper publisher Frank Lloyd who gave his name to the large park when he handed the land over to the local council.
The then Croydon Corporation bought Coombe Wood House in the middle of the 20th Century for use as a convalescence and children’s home, until it was taken on in the 1970s as the restaurant, while its ornamental gardens and 14 acres of woodland were kept by the council as Coombe Wood Gardens.
Calls and emails to The Chateau today have gone unanswered.
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