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Wednesday, 10 August 2011

KITCHEN staff brandishing rolling pins drove out robbers terrorising customers at a high-end London restaurant owned by Aussie Chef Brett Graham.

Terrified diners in London told how rioters brandishing baseball bats smashed their way into a top restaurant and forced them to hand over wedding rings, cell phones and wallets.

Staff at two-Michelin-starred The Ledbury, in the affluent west London suburb of Notting Hill, were forced to confront the gang of intruders with rolling pins and kitchen utensils Monday evening in a desperate bid to protect customers.

The looters, wearing masks and hoodies, stormed the well known restaurant late in the evening and immediately began threatening those inside with machetes, knives and bats.

Graham, who has appeared on MasterChef, said he was proud of the staff at The Ledbury, in Notting Hill, who stormed the mob with rolling pins, knives and other kitchen implements.

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“Probably a mob of 50/60 young kids and a few more slightly older smashed down the front door. The door was locked. The staff realised there was going to be trouble, locked all the doors, got all the customers against the opposite wall and basically these guys come in and smash the door,” the chef, originally from Newcastle in NSW, told ABC Radio.

“The kitchen staff realised what was happening, they grabbed loads of stuff and all just ran outside shouting and screaming and, f---ing, get out. So, you know, shouting at the guys and they cleared out pretty quickly,” he said.

Mr Graham said he’d never seen anything like it as youngsters demanded valuables from the customers.

“It's just ridiculous. It's little kids who don't know what they're doing,” he said.

One customer posted on her blog NakedSushi that one looter tried to pull the rings from her fingers.

"The restaurant staff was yelling at us to get away from the windows. Before I knew it, the front door, a solid piece of glass shattered and people came crashing in with hoodies, masks, and random weapons," she wrote.

"The looters were yelling at us to get down and throwing stuff all over the place. I got down and started taking off my wedding and engagement ring to hide somewhere, but unfortunately wasn't fast enough. One looter came up and demanded my phone. I didn't have it with me since it was in my purse and it was out of arm's reach. I also didn't want to lead him to my passport, so I said I didn't have one.

“He told me to take off my rings and grabbed my hand, trying to yank them off. His friend tried to help too, but the rings wouldn’t come off and I just yelled at him that I’d take them off myself,” Louise Yang said.

"In hindsight, now that I know that gun control is so fierce in England and he only had bat, I should have held on to my rings better and maybe slugged him in the face."

“The kitchen staff at the Ledbury went beyond their call of duty by rushing up from the kitchen with rolling pins, fry baskets, and other dangerous kitchen tools and scared off the looters.

“Then they provided well-needed glasses of alcohol including champagne and whisky. 

“When word came that the looters were coming back a second time, they ushered us into the bathrooms and told us to lock the doors. A few minutes later, they led us into the wine cellar and told us to lock ourselves in there,” she said.

Maggie and Clive Wilkinson, in their 50s, were celebrating their 29th wedding anniversary when they heard an enormous crash as the youths broke through the windows.

"Thirty people burst in, it was like something out of a movie," Maggie Wilkinson told The (London) Times. "They had baseball bats, things like that. They were shouting at people, 'We want your money, your wallets, your watches, your phones.' Everyone was screaming."

She hid under the table, concealing her watch in her bra.

"Everything in the restaurant was being smashed. They turned tables over, it was mayhem," said Clive Wilkinson, who defied the attackers, saying he did not have a watch and they would not take his wallet.

The Wilkinsons returned to pay for their meal, but the management would not accept any money. The owner Brett Graham, the celebrated Australian chef, vowed it would be "business as usual" at The Ledbury.


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