Alex Wrethman, owner of Charlotte’s Group, got his first job at the age of 15 at a local neighbourhood restaurant called Charlotte’s Place. Starting as a pot-wash, Alex got to know the restaurant well and began training as a chef with Charlotte herself. The warmth of this family run business and his love for hospitality made his mind up. He knew, one day, he would want to open his own restaurant.
After several years away in Manchester studying Business Management and working in a number of bars and restaurants, he returned to London and visited Charlotte’s Place one evening. Alex stayed after dinner for a drink with his old friend Charlotte and she confided that she was tired of the business after 20 years and ready to retire, offered him the restaurant and a deal was done that evening over a few bottles of Beaujolais!
Alex took on the challenge to bring Charlotte’s Place back to life and after years of hard graft, it earned its reputation as a great British restaurant within the local area and beyond, doing the best business in its history. Charlotte’s Place now has 2 AA rosettes and has been named in the Top 10 Best British Restaurants in London and Top 100 Best Restaurants in the UK by OpenTable.
The recession in 2009 offered a rare opportunity for small operators to grab high foot fall town centre sites at nil premium. Alex chose Chiswick, another affluent local area he knew well, and identified the ideal premises for a new Charlotte’s concept. He contacted the landlord directly and, after initial negotiations, the final proposal was agreed over a friendly lunch at Charlotte’s Place.
Alex’s new project was a younger bar and dining concept leveraging on his experience of working at the buzzing, fast paced environment of the Living Room in Manchester. The aim was to translate Charlotte’s reputation for quality and seasonality to the drinks offering as well as the food in a more informal environment and with accessible pricing. Charlottes Bistro opened in February 2010 billed as ‘more daughter than sister to Charlotte’s Place in Ealing’ and in 2015 was awarded Good Food Guide London Restaurant of the Year and Best Loved Local by Time Out Love London Awards.
In 2012 Alex launched Gin School at Charlotte’s Bistro at the forefront of the UK gin trend explosion. Gin School has become famous for drinks education and tasting events with artisan small batch producers. It received high profile press coverage in TimeOut, Evening Standard and Harpers Bazaar, and even became the choice of event for many artisan brands to launch their new gins.
Experiencing high demand from customers to learn about drinks beyond gin, it evolved in 2016 to include tastings from cool craft producers of not just gin, but anything and everything – whisk(e)y, tequila, vodka, beer, wine, vermouth and even softs occasionally! We now host free to attend events every Monday at Charlotte’s Bistro and Charlotte’s W5 in west London as well as special ticketed events across Charlotte’s Group venues.
After years of continued success with the award-winning Charlotte’s Bistro, Charlotte’s Place and Gin School, Alex’s next opportunity surfaced right on queue
In 2013 Alex was approached by long standing Charlotte’s Place regular, Ian Dobie, MD of St George west London, with a proposal to be one of the first commercial tenants and the opportunity to restore a near-derelict Victorian stable block in Dickens Yard at the forefront of a burgeoning food & drink scene in Ealing.
To prepare for expansion we invested in our infrastructure creating a head office with in-house Human Resources, Operations, Brand Design, Marketing and PR whilst the role of Alex evolved to CEO focussing on strategy, concept development and business growth. Our new brand identity, Charlotte’s Group, was created in anticipation of Charlotte’s W5 joining the family. The intention was for all three projects to have a sense of belonging to one company with common values and a goal to be a leading British hospitality group.
And so… With the support of the new head office team, the amazing heritage building given to him by St George and Ealing being Alex’s home patch he took this opportunity to do something personal, fresh and innovative. The highly anticipated Charlotte’s W5 opened in early 2016…