Ex-Aston Villa and West Ham star now working at his favourite flashy London French restaurant
Former Aston Villa and West Ham star Thomas Hitzlsperger hung up his playing boots back in 2013 and has taken a dramatic career change to become the owner of one of London's flashiest French restaurants.
The 41-year-old also turned out for Everton and VfB Stuttgart in an impressive footballing career that included a Bundesliga title in 2007, a Euros 2008 runner-up medal with Germany and a third-place World Cup finish in 2006 with his national side. Since retiring, Hitzlsperger has most prominently worked as CEO at his former side Stuttgart, between 2019 and 2022, but is also a foodie with a little-known side hustle in the capital - as reported by The Sun.
The football star was approached by plush Soho venue L'Escargot shortly after the pandemic, having been a regular at the eatery while living in London. He explained how the collaboration came about to Iron Cast: "That started ten years ago, I went in and I loved it there. Sometimes, you go into restaurants or places in general and think there is something about this that I really enjoy.
"So I kept going back and still loved it. I got to know the management and when Covid hit, people reached out to me and asked if I wanted to get involved with the restaurant. I had just left Stuttgart and I thought 'why not'. I learned a lot at Stuttgart in my role as the CEO and other different roles and that was the next step up. In this industry, I love food, I love being in London, it was already a big brand so I was tempted to just do it to see how good I can be in this industry. It is really hard work, but I love it and really enjoy. There are some West Ham fans that have been there and I love it when it is buzzing. I hate it when it is quiet and I am looking to avoid that as best as I can."
L'Escargot is known to attract famous clientele, having been a favourite of Princess Diana. The business is more than a restaurant too with a cocktail bar, live music and private dining rooms that can be rented out for events.
Ex West Ham star dishing up snails for £18
The restaurant won a Travellers Choice Award in 2023 under Hitzlsperger's beady eye and is, therefore, no real surprise to baulk at some of the prices listed on the menu. The snails are, of course, the main attraction for customers and cost £18 for six while the most expensive meal on the A La Carte menu is the Fillet of beef 'Rossini' at £60. Afternoon tea is available for £48 and there is a two-course 'Menu Fixe' deal that gives customers the chance of having two courses for £25 at certain hours.
Hitzlsperger's business knack comes in no small part from a qualification achieved at the prestigious Havard Business School, which he did alongside fellow former Hammers star Mark Noble. He told The Iron Way: "Nobes and I went to Boston Harvard Business School, we didn't know and only realised when I saw a list of people attending. We had four days together and did all those case studies. It was just inspirational, the group of people and the way they talk about former athletes and what they do after their career. This had a huge impact on me. I thought why not own parts of a company so then I am responsible and there are no excuses anymore. I just want to run a business where it is down to me whether it is successful."
L'Escargot London TripAdvisor reviews
L'Escargot averages a score of four stars on TripAdvisor with 1,106 diners giving their experience at the restaurant. The venue is marked particularly high for its food and service. One happy eater in January wrote: "Went for dinner pre- theatre with friend. Had a wonderful time. Food amazing - and plenty of it. I had French Onion Soup and the Confit Duck with dauphinois and haricot verts - which was all delicious!. My friend had goats cheese and beetroot tartine and the mushroom risotto - which she said was the best she’d ever tasted. And the service was fantastic."