Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for December 17th, 2018

Remembering Peter Boizot

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 17th December, 2018

3FE2B540-18B3-4045-A8FE-5FD8184CA09BThe entrepreneur, jazz lover and philanthropist Peter Boizot, who died earlier this month aged 89, was not one’s usual idea of a successful business. Affable, generous and at times curiously diffident, he nonetheless had the secret of many self-made millionaires: he had a brilliant idea and ran with it. That idea was to mormalise pizza as a British favourite dining out food, through what would become a huge network of restaurants under the name Pizza Express. The menus were largely familiar (and therefore teassuring) but the locations were often in unusual or beautiful converted premises. His two top restaurants were Pizza on the Park, near Hyde Park Corner, which hosted many jazz performances, and Kettner’s in Soho, the once grand Victorian dining establishment with several private rooms, where Oscar Wilde famously feasted with his young panthers. It was there that Peter launched, along with a Westminster Liberal, Harry Ball-Wilson, the monthly Kettner lunches with visiting political and historian speakers, usually of a Liberal bent. Peter wasn’t always able to attend them himself, but when he did, many bottles of wine would magically appear, to fuel lively and convivial conversation. The lunches continue today, under the auspices of the Kettner Society, but in the splendid surroundings of the National Liberal Club.

Soho was central to Peter’s life, though his London home was on Lowndes Square. It was in Soho that he heard jazz at Ronnie Scott’s and where he both ate his first pizza and opened his first pizza restaurant. However, his heart remained in his home city of Peterborough (which he fought twice, unsuccessfully, as a Liberal parliamentary candidate) and whose cultural and social life was the beneficiary of much of his charitable action. Though the last few years of his life were removed from his earlier social and business whirl, he will be much missed by legions of friends and faithful customers.

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