Subscribe To Wharf Life

Poplar: How Canary Wall is offering climbing sessions from £6 near Westferry DLR

London Climbing Centres’ east London bouldering facility includes a training room and Yoga studio

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

“New climbers are always surprised by the warmth of the climbing community – spend an evening on the mats and, if you’re ready for a chat, after an hour you’ll have made a bunch of friends,”  said Sara Petersen, manger of London Climbing Centres’ (LCC) Canary Wall.

Located near Westferry DLR station under a series of railway arches, the facility offers an extensive range of bouldering walls including one outdoors.

There’s also a training room, a Yoga studio, a cafe and a gear shop on-site.

Bouldering is a sub discipline where climbers take on short, often demanding challenges using holds on walls that are less than four metres high. 

Deep crash mats underneath provide safety instead of ropes and harnesses, allowing complete freedom of movement. 

Fitness-wise, climbing offers a comprehensive all-body workout helping to build strength, flexibility and endurance.

Then there’s the mental challenge of working out the best ways to move to reach the top.

The complexity of the challenges, which are typically colour-coded and graded for difficulty, also has another benefit.

Bouldering can be a sociable activity

“In bouldering, climbs are trickier, both physically and mentally, to complete than in roped climbing,” said Sara. 

“That’s why we call them ‘problems’. You’ll need to rest and assess each climb before tackling it, which is when conversations with those around you typically strike up.

“Usually you’ll end up working out the problem together.”

To help foster that community Canary Wall, which opened its doors in August 2020, offers a calendar packed with social climbs, induction sessions and friendly competitions. 

“For work colleagues and businesses, the centre also offers social events, team building and corporate membership deals.

Sara said: “We’re always thrilled to introduce climbing to those who’ve never tried it before. 

“It’s always so exciting to watch someone discover their new favourite sport during their first ever climb and know that we’ve helped grow the community just that little bit more.”

Standard adult day passes at Canary Wall cost £15 at peak times, £11 for off-peak and £6 for super off-peak (9am-11am on Sundays).

First-time climbers receive a discount card that can be used to claim 50% off a second visit and half price shoe hire, a five-entry pass for £47 including shoe hire and 10% off climbing shoes at LCC shops. 

Monthly memberships cover access to all walls run by LCC with prices for off-peak deals starting at £55. 

Punch card packs are also available with £240 for 20 climbs, bringing the price down to £12 per session. 

Canary Wall, which is located on Trinidad Street in Poplar, is open weekdays 6am-11pm and 9am-9pm at weekends.

Canary Wall is located under a series of railway arches

Read more: How Barry’s is challenging east London businesses

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Canary Wharf: How firms can compete in The Battle Of The Wharf at Barry’s

Barnd is challenging businesses to a two-week contest in February at its Crossrail Place studio

Barry’s is challenging local businesses in Canary Wharf

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

what’s all this?

Barry’s in Crossrail Place is hosting a competition for businesses based in and around Canary Wharf.

tell me more

It’s called The Battle Of The Wharf and takes place over two weeks in February.

how does it work?

Teams of three or more people from a business or organisation take part in as many classes as possible at Barry’s Canary Wharf between February 14-28, 2023.

what’s involved?

For those who don’t know, Barry’s is home to 50 or 60-minute exercise classes billed as “The Best Workout In The World”.

These take place in a crimson-lit studio called The Red Room and are based around high intensity interval training using treadmills, dumbbells and bodyweight.

what will happen?

Participants can expect to burn up to 1,000 calories per session under the guidance of instructors, who curate potent playlists of uplifting beats to spur people on.

is the Battle Of The Wharf for anyone?

First timers or Barry’s regulars are all welcome to sign up for the contest.

Teams of three or more can compete, but the bigger the team, the more chance of winning

who wins?

The team with the most classes taken wins both glory and two weeks of complimentary walk-in classes. That means the bigger your team, the more chance of winning. 

are there terms and conditions?

Participants must be signed up for classes to count. All classes must be taken at Barry’s Canary Wharf in Crossrail Place, using the registered email address for the contest.

Businesses can sign up for The Battle Of The Wharf here

Read more: How Dishoom Canary Wharf is all about a story

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Isle Of Dogs: How TLZ Movement is tackling waste in fashion from Craft Central

Founder Nadia Piechestein repairs, reworks, alters and creates clothes at The Forge in east London

Nadia Piechestein of TLZ Movement

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

At the heart of TLZ Movement is the joy of taking something that already exists and changing it to make something new.

Nadia Piechestein studied fashion in Buenos Aires before going on to found one of the first ethical fashion brands in Argentina. 

Her clothes were made with sustainable khadi cotton, made by a cooperative, with the clothes produced by another cooperative in the city that offered classes to former prisoners to help with their rehabilitation.

As a dancer herself, her styles focused on costumes for performance as well as pieces to exercise in.

Relocating to London a few years ago, with her husband Herman, she arrived with her collection in the UK, bought a sewing machine and initially started making clothes here.

“But then I decided not to make any more clothes at all, because I think we already have enough on this planet,” said Nadia. 

“My idea was to make existing clothes better so people can keep them rather than throwing them away.

“So I stopped making clothes and I started repairing, customising and altering them. 

“That’s what I do for customers, but I also teach people how to do it themselves.”

Nadia at work in her Craft Central studio on the Isle Of Dogs

TLZ Movement is now located at The Forge on the Isle Of Dogs’ Westferry Road and is a member of Craft Central, the charity that runs the facility.

Nadia essentially offers three core services.

She reworks existing garments, using up-cycling and dead stock materials from other producers that would otherwise go to waste.

She uses these to refresh and customise clothes for their owners to give them a new lease of life.

Nadia also offers a more standard alterations and repairs service to ensure clothes fit correctly to start with or to rescue damaged garments.

For this she is happy to create visible or invisible repairs depending on her customers’ desires.

Then there are her workshops at The Forge, where participants can learn mending techniques, how to use a sewing machine, copy their favourite clothes, weave and rework. 

“I’m not against the theme of having a bright new garment – that’s my inspiration,” said Nadia.

“If you’re bored with a piece in your wardrobe, you can bring it to me and I will put something new into it.

Nadia uses scraps of fabric to create new clothes

“That way you get the feeling of having a new piece of clothing again.

“The best way is to think of it as caring for your clothes, as keeping them and continuing to love them. It’s also something nobody else will have.

“For Christmas this year, I asked friends for garments they no longer wore – I didn’t tell them what I was doing.

“Then I reworked them, gave them back and my friends were amazed. When they wore them, they had that story to tell.

“When I make visible repairs or additions, the more people can see the time and effort that has been put into something.

“It connects the owner with the maker and shows how much you care about a garment.

“Here at Craft Central and in London, I collaborate with other makers and textile businesses a lot, using pieces and scraps of fabric that would otherwise go to waste.”

Nadia also sells iron-on patches to repair of customise garments with

In a world of ceaseless pressure and communication, the convenience and discount pricing of fast fashion is an ever-present temptation.

Never in the UK have so many garments been available to consumers so cheaply. 

But at what cost to those engaged elsewhere in the world making them – or for the planet in terms of the resources necessary to produce them and the inevitable waste mountain they create?

To help address some of these issues, Nadia has created iron-on patches that can be used both to repair and customise clothes.

Made with khadi cotton sourced from India, they can be applied with a normal household iron, so no need to get out the thimble.

Available in a variety of designs with prices starting at £18 for six, they are aimed at time-poor individuals looking for a rapid fix or update to their apparel.

“Patches can go in the washing machine at less than 40ºC and should last a long time,” said Nadia.

“I would encourage people to think that wearing them is a statement about Planet Earth.

“It shows that you care about the environment and it spices you up as a person.

“People can buy them online and use them to create any shape they want – they just need to cut them.

“It’s something that can be really creative and they are great for kids too who are always putting holes in things.

“With TLZ I’m really happy with what I’m building here now.

TLZ Movement’s patches can simply be ironed on to clothes

“I’ve been part of London Fashion Week and London Craft Week – I really want to boost what I’m doing now and expand in east London and into the City. 

“It would be great to see the patches stocked in small shops so that people can embrace repairing and customising their clothes.

“The majority of my customers are from the Isle Of Dogs and I have so much gratitude for that – there are no words. I love them.

“I also want to reach a new audience through teaching so people can understand all the good things they can do.

“That’s why I’ve started creating team building events for businesses and organisations. 

“People can come with their colleagues, have some drinks and learn the basics of sewing before being challenged to repair a garment that they can then take away.”

Nadia also works with arts companies to give performance costumes new lives after their stints on stage.

TLZ Movement’s next event is set to take place on February 18.

People are invited to bring damaged garments to The Forge for a free mending session using her signature patches between 11am and 4pm. 

Read more: How Dishoom Canary Wharf is all about a story

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Deptford: How APT Gallery is set to be filled with artists’ collaborative experiments

Co-curator Nicola Rae talks science, art and why she’s not completely sure yet what will go on display

Nicola Rae is reflected in a mirror from a telescope

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

If you think this article is going to explain exactly what will fill the Art In Perpetuity Trust Gallery from February 16 to March 5, you’re in for a disappointment.

But sit with Space Lab co-curator and artist Nicola Rae for a chat about the exhibition and you can’t help but feel a little awed by its ambition.

Her studio space at the creative enclave on the banks of Deptford Creek is currently festooned with tripods as part of her collaboration with the Gravity Laboratory at the University Of Nottingham

These await various pieces of equipment that will focus on a series of fluid vortices, part of an investigation into gravity, water and acoustic waves. 

Magnets will spin, stirring liquids in tubular glass vases, while a camera is used to capture something called schlieren distortions.

Quite how it will all come together is still a work in progress.

This is just one of seven co-creative experiments conceived for Space Lab by Nicola and co-curator Ulrike Kuchner, an artist, astrophysicist and creative producer.

“We have spent more than a year on this show,” said Nicola.

“We put in an application for grant funding to the Science And Technology Facilities Council and were amazed that we got everything we asked for.

“In a way we shouldn’t have been surprised, because Space Lab is an incredibly exciting project.

“Ulrike, as a post-doc researcher at Nottingham, has a lot of connections and she feels strongly that often collaborations are not as in-depth as they could be, focusing instead on public engagement or the dissemination of research by scientists.

“So we set off with the idea of going deeper. We also wanted the artists and scientists to have a really big space for the work they create.

“We call Space Lab an expanded field of experiments –  it is the idea of going beyond limits, outside the remit of scientific experimentation.

“Everyone involved is very interested in process. I haven’t seen all the finished work yet, including my own, but we have set really ambitious targets.

“Some of it will work and some of it won’t. Some will change in curation from how it appears in the studio when it’s placed in the gallery.

“We want all those elements to be free flowing, allowing things to happen.”

While the experiments are too complex to list comprehensively here, one to watch out for is bio-designer Anshuman Gupta’s BioBorgs – biocomputers that imagine a reality where organisms can act autonomously, based on environmental threats. 

These respond to the research of collaborator and exoplanetary astronomer, Amaury Triaud, into the Trappist-1 system.

Its planets are most optimal for evidence of life beyond our solar system.

“We wanted to set this ambition that the artists would contribute meaningfully to the science,” said Nicola, who has been based at APT’s studios since 1995 and has taught at the Univeristy Of The Arts London since 2006.

“My work will be a series of experiments working with liquid vortices and I’m making the scientific equipment myself.

Nicola will be creating liquid vorticies as part of her collaborative experiment

“I’ll be working with quinine and coconut oil in the water to create different densities.

“There will also be magnifying glasses and different equipment on tripods and there will probably be a performative element as well.

“At the heart of it, we’re trying to communicate a fascination with phenomena and the scientific process – something that’s so often seen in labs but less so outside them.”

Aside from the seven collaborative experiments, there’s another strand to Space Lab. 

As part of the process of putting the exhibition together, the curators have been working with Tech Yard creative technologist Jazmin Morris to create a series of workshops for young people.

Titled Space Labs: Stars In Your Eyes, these have seen astrophysicists going into Lewisham schools to explore the themes of the exhibition and have a go at creating their own pieces. 

“The big surprise for us was how enthusiastic the children were, particularly when talking about science questions, and there’d be a big sea of hands going up, asking really good questions,” said Nicola.

“We thought there might be a lack of interest, but not at all.

“We will be featuring some of the students’ work on screen at the exhibition and we’ll be inviting their families and friends to see that on the last weekend of the show.

“I hope anyone who comes down to see Space Lab feels really intrigued and excited.

“Astrophysics is seen as quite elitist but this is all about reaching out to people who might feel they could go into this field.

“With new telescopes generating a huge amount of data, this is really an expanding area.

“It’s not just about the children, but also changing the minds of parents.

“This is something that’s come up in research again and again – kids listen to their parents and it’s really sad that children who are good at maths are told they shouldn’t go into these areas.

“When you go into these astrophysics departments, you see how varied an environment it is – people from different countries around the world – and that’s very exciting to see. 

“Although we’re artists and creative technologists, one of the lovely things that comes up in the feedback we’ve had is how many of the children participating in the workshops are now considering science as a career.”

Space Lab is set to go on show from February 16 to March 5 at APT Gallery in Creekside.

Entry is free.

Read more: How Atis aims to nourish and satisfy Wharfers

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Limehouse: How Holy Cow is is bringing Indian fine dining to east London

Holy Cow Group chairman Kul Acharya talks washing dishes, cooking and expanding his restaurant chain

Holy Cow Group chairman Kul Acharya

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

“We hold the food to our lips for two minutes to see how much our mouths water,” said Kul Acharya.

“That’s how we find out how tasty the dishes are.

“We cook everything fresh – meat, vegetables every day – and you have to taste it to know whether you’ve made something delicious.”

Kul should know. Born and raised in the small village of Dhairing in Nepal, he worked first as a primary school teacher before travelling to the UK on a tourist visa. 

“I wanted to be a chef,” he said. “I came as a visitor and then started to work washing dishes at the Bombay Bicycle Club.

“Then I started cooking, learnt very quickly and eventually became head chef helping with the opening of new branches.”

Lauded by Fay Maschler in the Evening Standard, he decided to set up his own business in 2005, launching his first takeaway in Battersea.

“I wanted it to be something different, something new – I wanted it to have a good name,” said Kul.

“I was at a party and I told a friend I wanted to open a restaurant and that I was looking for a name and they said: ‘Holy Cow’.

“So we opened and I worked for a year to establish the company without a single day off. 

Murg Masala at Holy Cow

“I’d be in the kitchen cooking and customers would come in and say they had never had this kind of food and that made me really proud.”

Holy Cow has now grown to nine locations, opening its first dine-in restaurant in Putney in December 2019.

It recently opened its second, taking over a corner space at Narrow Street’s Mosaic development in Limehouse – less than 15 minutes’ walk from the Canary Wharf estate.

Here he hopes to tap into both the east London dining and takeaway markets as the business grows.

“I have been engaged in different things in recent years,” said Kul, who is the current president of the Non-Resident Nepali Association for the UK.

“But my focus is now on the business. I would like to have 20 locations in the Greater London area by 2025.

“We opened one in Portugal last year but had to close due to the pandemic, so I would also like to grow elsewhere in Europe.”

The restaurant opened to the public in January

For now though, it’s the food in London that’s very much on Kul’s mind.

A dish of Murg Masala arrives along with some spinach and rice during our interview and he’s much more concerned that I eat it while it’s hot rather than faff with photography.

It’s a measure of the warmth diners can expect at the new venue.

“What we serve is a fusion of Nepali, Indian and European food,” said Kul.

“The first question I always ask myself is: ‘Am I comfortable eating what I cook?’. If the answer is yes, then we can sell it. If not, then we don’t sell it.

“I’m always checking to see if there’s the right amount of chilli or salt in our dishes. The way our food looks is also very important.

“We work with a lot of vegetables and they have to be appetising and fresh.

“It’s very important to understand our customers when deciding which dishes to serve.

“Nepali food is generally less heavy – our tomato sauces, for example are lighter, not oily at all and the dahl we serve is more delicate.

“People like what we do – it’s great to get so many good reviews. Hopefully we can continue that success in Canary Wharf. 

“For me, coming to this country was a golden opportunity.

“My ambition was to be a chef but before I came here I wasn’t even thinking about the possibility of having even one restaurant.

“Really I just wanted to be head chef. I certainly never thought that one day I would have more than 200 people working for me.”

Holy Cow is open daily from noon for dining and takeaway orders.

Holy Cow is now open in Narrow Street

Read more: How Atis aims to nourish and satisfy Wharfers

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Canary Wharf: How those hitting the gym can achieve their goals with balance

Third Space mind and body master trainer Clare Walters on the physical and mental benefits of exercise

Third Space mind and body master trainer Clare Walters

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

Will 2023 be the year it happens?

That the resolution takes and the good intentions are converted into consistent, positive action? 

January and February are traditionally the months of busy gyms as, for whatever reason, people decide to get fit, lose weight, gain muscle, improve their endurance or boost flexibility. 

But, how to achieve those goals and develop a habit that will stick beyond the arrival of spring?

That’s where Third Space mind and body master trainer Clare Walters can help.

Along with her colleagues, her role is to help the health club’s members take the steps they need to get where they want to go.

“Our message for 2023 is all about training for life,” said Clare. “It’s the idea that everything you do in the gym supports what you do outside it.

“At Third Space we provide facilities where you can train every part of your body.

“But it’s not just the physical, it’s also about training the mind and about the restorative side of things.”

Billed as the largest luxury health club in Europe and spread over three floors of the building that houses Waitrose in Canada Square, Third Space Canary Wharf isn’t short on space or amenities.

There are free weights, a swimming pool, a climbing wall, saunas, steam rooms, ranks of cardio machines, a combat zone, weights machines and a vast Crossfit-inspired training area called The Yard. 

Third Space Canary Wharf is currently undergoing a major update

That’s before you even get to the hundreds of classes every week – all included in the monthly membership. So how best to navigate such a wealth of options?

“The best thing you can do if you’re coming into training or returning to the gym, is to get as much guidance as possible,” said Clare, who trained as a dancer before embarking on a career in the fitness industry.

“You’ll see people on social media promoting crazy workouts and doing 30-day challenges. They can be great as a gateway into fitness but they are only ever the start. 

“You want to be training to make your life easier, whether that’s with the aim of climbing a mountain or just running after your kids in the playground.

“In my classes I use the example of my mum. She’s retired and she loves hiking.

“She was struggling on the hikes to get over stiles, so I’ve given her barre exercises and Pilates for strength, flexibility and stability.

“It’s about working out why you want to train – whether your goals are aesthetic or fitness related. I think having longer term goals really helps.

“They make you realise you don’t need to go hell for leather – you don’t want to start with a marathon if you’ve not been running before. 

 “It’s the same with any type of training – pace yourself, get expert guidance and speak to the instructors for advice.

“They will be able to suggest classes that will help.

“For example, a high intensity class will be very fast-paced with larger movements designed to switch on the bigger muscles.

“Adding in something like a Pilates class can help by focusing on the lesser muscles in the body that help with posture and general alignment.

“It’s more of a holistic approach to help maintain a balanced body and avoid injury.”

Then there are the mental health benefits, derived from both intense exercise and slower disciplines.

“People who train regularly can expect to feel like they have more energy,” said Clare, who practises circus skills including the trapeze, outside work.

“The endorphins it creates give you a natural mood boost and help minimise pain.

“Training makes you feel better about your life, yourself, better in your body on a mechanical level, a bit brighter, stronger and fitter.

“Walking up the escalator on the Tube won’t leave you puffing at the top.

“There’s something about lifting a weight that’s heavier than the one a week before, when you feel connected to your breath doing Yoga or when you go swimming and you can do more lengths than the time before. 

“We lead such busy lives, especially in London – having the space to concentrate on one thing is really important.

Clare enjoys Yin Yoga as a break from busy London life

“My favourite Yoga practice is actually Yin – it focuses on the softer, slower aspects of the discipline, with long held postures that are quite meditative.

“It’s good if you just need that little bit of space in your day – you can come into our studio, it’s warm, we dim the lights, we have calm music, and we’re creating that relaxing atmosphere.

“It’s like a haven – a third space away from work and home life where you can come in and only focus on yourself.

“Of course, one of the other great things about Third Space is the community.

“Members meet other members and become friends, whether that’s through attending classes or just chatting in the sauna.

“One of the things we’ve learnt during the pandemic is that people need other people  – isolation isn’t good for humans at all.

“It might simply be that you’re in a class, finding it tough, look to your left and right and feel that sense of connection – something that spurs you on.

“As a teacher, it’s really beautiful when I see this happening, or when people come to a class and then end up chatting a bit more and hanging out afterwards.

“We’ve also launched Hyrox classes that are aimed at equipping members with the skills to compete in those competitive events.

“Members can do those individually, just like the event, or they can team up with a partner and the classes are the perfect place to find someone to do that with.” 

In other news, the Canary Wharf club is undergoing an extensive refurbishment programme with many machines already replaced and interiors updated.

Membership for Third Space Canary Wharf costs £210 per month with group-wide access £20 more.

There is currently no joining fee.

Read more: How Dishoom Canary Wharf is all about a story

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Royal Docks: How Breadmeister grinds hard to produce its selection of baked goods

Based at The Factory, the firm makes sourdough loaves and sweet pastries beside Tate & Lyle

Jon Wong, owner and baker at Breadmeister – image Matt Grayson

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

BY LAURA ENFIELD

Near the end of our interview, Jon Wong throws me a curveball.

I’ve been enjoying the wholesome tale of how he rose to become Royal Dock’s premier bread maker.

A former fine-dining chef, he turned to sourdough during lockdown, making it from his microbakery using bags of pesticide-free flour, a heap of culinary talent and a pinch of his Chinese heritage.

He sells his bread in person from The Factory – a scheme by Projekt to regenerate a disused Tate & Lyle warehouse in Royal Docks.

It all sounds very hearty. But then I ask why he named the business Breadmeister?

“It came from American Pie’s Stifmeister,” said Jon. “He’s sort of awful, but I wanted something playful, and it kind of matches me because I like to try new things and push the envelope.”

Jon is referring to the fact that alongside traditional loaves he also sells a range of sourdough croissants, pastries and Hong Kong buns inspired by his childhood. 

Unlike the business’ brash and flippant namesake, everything Jon does is the result of hours of care and hard graft.

“If there’s one word to describe what I do it’s ‘different’ because it’s all from scratch,” he said.

“Making stuff good enough to sell takes a lot of time and effort. 

“You can push the starter all the way to be really tangy and sour or hold back for a more delicate flavour.

“Everything comes with fine tuning – you won’t find this on the supermarket shelf.”

All this takes an exorbitant amount of energy, with Jon up at dawn, baking until 10am and then starting the next day’s batch.

“The dough has to be done a day before, sometimes even more, and it is quite intense,” he said.

“If I just made bread it might be easier, but as good as your loaves might be, you can only sell them for maybe £5 each. 

“So for the business to work I have to have the pastries as well and they do take a lot of extra time and care.

“Now in the new premises, I have started doing simple lunches like toasties. It all adds up.”

Jon now offers simple lunches – image Matt Grayson

He moved the business from The Silver Building to The Factory Project last year and his bakery is open Friday 8am to 5pm and Saturday 7.30am to noon with customers able to pre-order items for collection. 

He also has a stall at the street food market near the Good Hotel in Royal Victoria Docks every Saturday and has recently launched on Deliveroo on Saturdays from 7.30am to 11.30am.

He turned his oven off over Christmas but not to rest. Instead, he took a part-time job stacking shelves to support his income and is considering outside help to keep things going.

“I have invested all my savings and sacrificed my small salary for the last 18 months to bring Breadmeister to life,” he said.

“Hopefully I will be able to gain some support via crowdfunding to help the business move to the next level.”

So why choose sourdough if it is such a slog? It sort of happened by accident.

Growing up in Hong Kong, Jon loved cooking but became an English teacher.

When he got fed up with that, he moved to the UK in his 20s to make a change.

“When I came over it felt like I didn’t have the same burden,” said the 35-year-old. “You can be anyone here and no-one is going to say: ‘Jon you are not allowed’. 

“No-one is will judge you, so you can decide who the person you want to be is and what you want to look like.

“Everything is open, which is quite different from where I grew up.

“There you had to do things in certain ways because of the Asian expectation thing. People prioritise white-collar jobs.”

He was free to fully embrace his love of cooking, landing a job in French fine dining restaurant Les 110 de Taillevent in Cavendish Square, learning top techniques and having his first taste of sourdough.

“I remember the holes,” he said. “Supermarket bread is always uniform, but sourdough is like a weird sponge.

“When you bite into it, it has more of a chew and is somehow more flavourful. I felt it was almost otherworldly.”

Ready for the oven at The Factory Project – image Matt Grayson

He started baking bread to save money – with an eye on making it for his own restaurant someday. 

But when lockdown hit, along with many others in the hospitality industry, he found himself suddenly unemployed and looking to earn a living from home.

“I started selling bread out of a bit of desperation and boredom,” said the Canning Town resident.

“I had tried to start a food business, but it didn’t go very far because I realised I couldn’t afford to get a pitch, which was a bit depressing. I felt a bit helpless.

“I noticed other people starting to sell food from home and knew I could do that. 

“I put some ideas online but it was only when I put some bread on that I got loads of responses.

“I realised it was something people actually needed and there wasn’t anything similar nearby.”

Sales went quickly beyond his expectations and he was working six days a week, which gave him a massive lift. 

But working from his shared flat was a problem and made it difficult to get a food hygiene rating and insurance.

Then he found The Silver Building – Projekt’s first foray into Royal Docks. Opened in 2017, it saw the former Carlsberg Tetley HQ temporarily reimagined as a series of creative workspaces and now houses the likes of fashion designer Craig Green, photography studio Silverspace and tailor Jake’s Of London.

Jon has added sweet pastries to his menu – image Matt Grayson

“The director was really interested in my idea, so I brought him some samples and he offered me a little shared kitchen space,” said Jon.

“I happily took it on and it took off from there.

“At first I was still delivering, but I soon realised my time could be better used to make more products and attract people in because that area has a lot of apartments.

“In a way, that beginning was the easy part because it was spontaneous and there wasn’t any pressure to make my living out of it.

“I made bread because it just tasted nice and felt good. Then it progressed naturally.

“That’s the whole sourdough thing – you let things grow naturally and then see how they go.”

A year later Projekt offered him a more permanent space at The Factory’s reception area next to the bar and cafe.

“That was amazing for me and for them because they have funding from the GLA, so need to have community value to what they do,” said Jon.

Since then he has hired an apprentice who works for him six hours a day, but it is still a hard slog with Jon working from 5am to 7pm.

He said: “It still feels tight with the things that need to be done, but that’s part of the game I guess.”

He sells his sourdough loaves for £5, croissants for £2.50 plain or £3.50 filled and other items such as Nutella pastries, rosemary twists and tomato and olive focaccia.

His real speciality is Hong Kong buns costing £1.70-£2.30, which he describes as “soft, fluffy and a little bit sweet with a sugar cookie crust.”

In order to make them, he has had to contend with the rising cost of electricity and ingredients, with the butter he uses almost doubling in price during the autumn.

He has also switched to a more expensive brand of flour to try and preserve the unique flavour of his bread.

Jon bakes his bread and pastries in Royal Docks – image Matt Grayson

Jon now buys from Wildfarmed – a network of farmers who produce flour while trying to protect the planet.

“I used to order organic flour from a major brand, but the flavour seemed to have become blander,” said Jon.

“What’s special about Wildfarmed is it has a regenerative ethos about how they work the land with minimal disturbance and no artificial fertiliser or pesticides.

“It costs more but, if you are making sourdough, it is worth it because it really affects the quality of the end product.”

He has fired up his oven again for the start of 2023 and is hoping after a difficult few months Breadmeister will continue to grow and prove to be the right choice.

“As a chef, I would work set hours for a set amount and then go to sleep and forget about it,” he said.

“But then you don’t get to question why you are doing this and that – even if you think you can do things better.

“With this, the money might not be as predictable and you might not have the choice of only working six hours a day – but with this risk I’ve taken, the satisfying thing is when people come to get your stuff instead of going somewhere more convenient.

“It makes me feel it’s worth it.”

Read more: Discover Bread And Macaroon at Wapping Docklands Market

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

- Laura Enfield is a regular contributor to Wharf Life, writing about a wide range of subjects across Docklands and east London 
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Elizabeth Line: How Shiro delivers more than just pretty Crystal Sushi

Head chef Ken Miyake talks inspiration and learning to cook as we sample some of the venue’s delights

Shiro is located in Broadgate Circle

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

This article is part of Wharf Life’s new regular series on the benefits of Crossrail for those living or working in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London

TASTE TEST

While Canary Wharf is replete with lunchtime dining options, the Elizabeth Line provides the ideal escape route for those keen to put some distance between themselves and the office.

Among fresh, far-flung temptations is recent opening Shiro at Broadgate Circle.

It’s a short walk from Liverpool Street station, itself just seven minutes from the Wharf’s Crossrail stop, making it more than feasible as a dining option in the middle of the day. 

It’s Aqua Restaurant Group’s fifth establishment in the capital and boasts more than 20 siblings worldwide in the likes of New York, Miami, Beijing, Dubai and Hong Kong. 

Overseen by head chef Ken Miyake – a man of Japanese heritage who grew up in Spain – it offers diners a modern twist on sushi alongside a contemporary take on the classic bento box.

This is welcome news for a hungry Wharfer and I resolve to try one of the Lunch Sets, which all come with pickles and Okazu of the day as well as rice and Miso if you’re eschewing the ramen.

Shiro’s Pork Belly Ginger Teriyaki

Sampling starters first, Shiro quickly reveals itself as a place of homely comforts with Rock Shrimp Tempura (£13) a carefully balanced triumph.

The much vaunted Crystal Sushi – a dish invented in Hong Kong, where flavoured gelatine coatings are used to enhance the rice and fish pieces – turns out to be much more than just an Instagram gimmick, with the glossy coatings adding a real depth of flavour to the morsels on offer.

But somehow the distilled warmth of the Set eclipses the prettiness of the showstoppers. Ken’s Pork Belly Ginger Teriyaki, when served with its unfussy accompaniment of rice, marinated chicken, miso and a little pickle is a pretty decent deal for £19.

There’s the rich umami of the liquor the meat sits in and plenty of flavour in the sides to make it easily enough for a light lunch on its own and one well worth the short trip on Crossrail.   

Shiro head chef Ken Miyake

HEAD CHEF SAYS – Ken Miyake

  • With nearly a decade under his belt working for Aqua and almost two in the UK, Ken is a softly spoken man who, despite the obvious complexity of some of his food, has a passion for simple carbs, family and the firey bite of ginger.   

He said: “The idea of the Lunch Sets is that they are what your parents would have given you – some rice, soup, your protein and a pickle, which is good for your digestion.

“Then there’s something called an Okazu, which is a little nibble of something else. I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this but it’s like a tapa in Spain.

“My mother’s a chef. She used to cook for a family of 13 and then had a restaurant in Spain. 

“We moved there in 1989 and in 1992 she opened up a restaurant in Marbella – one of the few places serving Japanese food there.

Crystal Sushi at Shiro

“I had to learn how to cook when I was living by myself – I went to university and I was cooking all the stuff I really liked at home. 

“While I was there I ended up working in all these European restaurants and that set me on the path to becoming a chef.

“At Shiro we’re doing something different, modern. The ramen is good – it comes from a chef’s family recipe where the broth takes 48 hours.

“Personally, I would order the Pork Belly Ginger Teriyaki because ginger is good for the blood and you can’t go wrong.

“Then there’s the Crystal Sushi with a gelatine coating full of flavour – it looks very pretty and it gives you that extra taste.

“It was developed in Hong Kong about five years ago and we’ve now brought it to London.”

The upstairs dining room at Shiro

Read more: How Atis aims to nourish and satisfy Wharfers

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Canary Wharf: How Atis aims to nourish and satisfy with its salad bowls

Co-founder Eleanor Warder talks inspiration and sustainability as the brand opens in Canada Place

The Nourisher salad bowl from Atis in Canary Wharf

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

Canary Wharf has, as far as I know, only one takeaway brand that draws part of its identity from ancient mythology.

Atis takes its name from the Phrygian god of vegetation – a deity whose death and resurrection echoes the plants and trees that die in winter only to rise again in spring and whose cult spread from what is now Turkey through Greece to ancient Rome.

The branch the company recently opened in Canary Wharf is its fourth location but there are two more in the pipeline.

Evidence perhaps that its founders – husband and wife team Eleanor Warder and Phil Honer – would like to see the brand spread as widely as worship of its mythic namesake did in ancient times.

That, of course, will ultimately be down to the appeal of what it sells – bowls of salad with an approach inspired by time spent overseas.

“We lived in America for a bit before we launched the business in 2019,” said Eleanor. “Phil was doing an MBA there and I joined him. 

“We’d always wanted to do something in food.

“Phil had worked in financial services in London after university and always felt there was something lacking – a place offering simple, fast, healthy, delicious food.

“They say America is always a step ahead and they have companies like Sweetgreen there which are huge – all over the west and east coasts.

“We went there and to similar places a lot when we were living in Boston – we drew inspiration from them.

“So we came back to the UK in the summer of 2018 and spent a year developing the concept.

“It was particularly difficult in the beginning – when we were unknown – and finding our first location took about a year, but we opened in Old Street in September 2019 before going on to launch sites in Belgravia and Notting Hill.

“We want to grow and expand. I’m not sure we’ll ever be the next Pret, although that would be fantastic.

“For us it’s about quality, brand and experience – so we have to keep that in mind as our company gets bigger.”

Atis is located in Canada Place’s Crossrail Walk

Atis does things a bit differently. About half of the unit it has taken in Canada Place’s Crossrail Walk – between Waitrose and the Elizabeth Line station – is filled with staff preparing and cooking the ingredients it serves.

On the other side, a production line stands ready to put together its core range of seasonal salad bowls ranging in price from £6.50-£9.60 for a regular or £7.50-£10.70 for a large.

There’s also an option for customers to build their own for £6.90 or £7.70.

Hot and cold premium ingredients are extra. The aim is to offer Wharfers filling, satisfying products that deliver on flavour – something Eleanor knows all about.

“We have worked with a really brilliant, creative chef to develop core bowls that are really interesting,” she said.

“When people walk in, they see the line is predominantly fresh produce.

“The colour is really important for us – and the taste – so people get the full experience of the food they are buying.

“We’re trying to create a balance between being innovative and giving people what they want. For example, people really love tomatoes, so we do them straight, rather than doctoring them.

“But then we have a section – our hot protein element – where we take things up another level cooking ingredients using lots of spices and marinades.

“This is our main selling point.

“You can have a bowl at Atis that is fully vegan or vegetarian

but people can also add our blackened chicken, for example. 

“We toyed with the idea of being completely plant-based, but we decided against it because our ethos is that we shouldn’t cut out food groups. 

“The idea is that people can have meat one day and choose not to on another – they have that flexibility.

“The most important thing is that whether it’s regular or large, our bowls leave people feeling satisfied and nourished.

“There’s this old idea that salads are potentially quite grim and won’t fill you up.

“We’re trying to change that so our customers feel what they are getting is satisfying, good value for the price and high on flavour.

“My background is in the wine trade, originally in a startup importing and selling to small independent restaurants in London before I moved into hospitality and became a sommelier.

“With Atis, my focus is very much on the food we serve, developing the menu and the marketing.

Atis co-founder Eleanor Warder

“Personally, I flip between ordering the core bowls, and then building my own. 

“The latter is very popular, especially on our online platforms, which shows you that people do want control and flexibility over what they eat.”

While Atis probably has Eleanor’s joint honours degree in classics to thank for its name, its presence in Canary Wharf has more to do with Phil.

“Canary Wharf was already on our minds when we started the business,” said Eleanor. 

“Phil was very keen and had identified it as a place that would be really good, and I think he was completely right.

“He had worked here, knew that there would be a demand for us and that there were other operators doing really well on the estate.

“The real appeal for us is that our customers are a balance between commercial and residential, and the vertical density of population on the estate is really great for our business.”

In addition to nourishment, sustainability is at the core of Atis’ operation.

Eleanor said: “It’s an area that’s  increasingly important for us, as it should be, and it’s been a big learning curve – especially on the packaging front and it’s something customers expect.

“What we have found is that parts of the UK don’t necessarily have the infrastructure to be able to deal with recycling in the right way and that’s quite shocking.

“People think they’re doing good – putting their waste in the correct bin, but there’s a whole  other side to it, which makes things challenging.

“Coming into Canary Wharf – which is right at the forefront of sustainability – we’ve learnt that everyone has to really concentrate on making sure what should be happening actually is.

“Obviously there is also the food itself. We are plant-powered and that’s a huge element when we’re talking about sustainability.

“The UK is a small country and we can’t get everything we use from these shores, but we do source whatever we can locally. 

“We also have seasonal focus – changing our menu four times a year to reflect what’s available and considering carefully what we can get from the UK.

“Right from the outset we’ve also been working with different partners, one of which is Too Good To Go, which helps to pass on food that would otherwise go to waste at a reduced cost.”

Atis is open in Canada Place from 11am-9pm Mon-Thurs and 11am-3pm Fri-Sun.

The Azteca Bowl topped with blackened chicken

HOW IT TASTES

Azteca Bowl, £14.10 (£10.70 large bowl + £3.40  blackened chicken)

Large really does mean large when ordering from Atis.

The Azteca isn’t quite a bottomless bowl, but by the time I’m done munching through the (optional) blackened chicken, there’s little doubt the brand’s mission to fill me up is a success.

This is more than just unctuous slices of well-cooked protein draped over some leaves, however.

There’s real depth to the Azteca, coming as it does with black eyed beans, charred corn, baby spinach, chopped romaine lettuce, something called “sustain yo’self avo smash”, picked red onions, Feta cheese and some crumbled tortilla chips all topped off with a lime and coriander dressing.

At a chunky 965 calories without the chicken, it’s a pretty serious pot of food but there’s a freshness to it that makes good on all Atis’ fine words. 

I’ve no idea what’s in the smash, but it’s delicious and comes together perfectly in a blend that’s balanced enough to let all the big ticket flavours have their space.

If the other salads are this good, Atis will rapidly find its place in the hearts of many Wharfers.

Read more: How Bread And Macaroon serves up treats in Wapping

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Poplar: How SJ Cycles brings bike maintenance right to its customers

Stefan Johnson created a pedal-powered business to help encourage people to care for their rides

SJ Cycles founder Stefan Johnson – image Matt Grayson

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

Stefan Johnson cuts an athletic figure on his  cargo bike.

Sourced from a Danish company via the Netherlands, it has to be robust to carry the 60kg of equipment and tools he uses for business.

Raised in Mile End and Forest Gate, the east Londoner created SJ Cycles to bring bike repairs, care and servicing to clients at their convenience via the power of his legs. 

“I’m trying to encourage people to maintain their bikes more often,” he said.

“A lot of people run their bikes into the ground and then have big bills of £200 or £300 or they just buy new ones, which can also cost them a lot of money.

“I’m trying to offer something in between – there are benefits to the customer and to the environment.

“Depending on usage, having a service every six to eight months and cleaning the bike makes a big difference. 

“It’s not just about how your bike looks. Grit and muck on the road can get into the mechanics – the chain, the braking system – and it slowly wears away the metal.

“That can cause long-term damage, which equals new parts and that means big bills.

“It’s also wasteful, so I’m trying to prevent that happening – maintaining your bike more often will save you money.”

Stefan originally wanted to be a car mechanic before turning to bikes – image Matt Grayson

Stefan began riding himself while studying car maintenance at Hackney Community College – now part of New City College. 

“I was planning on being a car mechanic, and after four years of study I went into an apprenticeship, but unfortunately I didn’t find any opportunities in that industry,” he said.

“Instead I got my first job as a sales assistant at my local bike shop – Halfords.

“There was a mechanic there who was willing to teach me after hours about working on bikes so that’s how I started.”

Stefan went on to work at a number of independent bike shops but felt he was often recruited in a bid to broaden their customer base as they attempted to attract customers from a wider range of backgrounds.

A pattern of mistreatment and broken promises left him wondering what to do.

“Being a Christian, I decided to pray about it and start again,” he said. 

“Was I going to accept this behaviour in the industry or would I set new standards? 

“I took a positive leap to be passionate about what I’m doing without sacrificing my humanity.

“My faith definitely played a big part in that. 

“I knew about 10% I could get to the point of launching SJ Cycles – making a Facebook page, announcing I was doing it.

Stefan carries all the equipment he needs with him on a custom cargo bike – image Matt Grayson

“The other 90% was faith that I could sustain it, live off it and make it a part of my life.

“Even though I had less confidence in myself and more confidence in God, I took it forward, made it happen and I’m here now.

“I’d started working as a bike courier, which was a very flexible thing to do and allowed me to make enough money to live on.

“It was very hard work but it made the money so I could buy all the tools and equipment to start the business in 2017.”

Stefan offers a general Tune-Up Service for £45, which lasts about an hour and a half and includes diagnostic checks, brakes and gears tuning, tyre maintenance and a deep clean of the frame and various systems, delivered either at a client’s home or office as convenient.

SJ Cycles also offers a Puncture Repair Service for £25, which includes a new inner tube and the option to be taught how to change one. 

While merchandise is also available online, world domination is not on the agenda.

“I’m a very simple man, so I’m not looking to be a big entrepreneur and expand with different branches and many employees around London,” said Stefan.

“This business is about encouraging people to maintain their bikes more, for me to live off it and remain in east London, take care of my wife and earn a modest living to make it sustainable. 

“If anyone needs support in maintaining their bike, I post a lot of tips on Facebook and Instagram, such as advice on security.

“That’s just to let people know that when they own a bike they’re not alone and can talk to me about it on social media.

“I would definitely encourage people to get a bike.

Stefan can service bikes at customers’ homes or offices – image Matt Grayson

“It’s very convenient – one purchase, you buy your bike and you can go wherever you want. It’s great for fitness as well.

“You can jump on a bus and pay, but for some people – when you add that up – it’s as much as a bike over one year.

“I understand why people may be hesitant, because of the infrastructure of the roads, which may not be the safest, but it’s come a long way since I started.

“Then I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my abilities, but I was very aware of my surroundings, how the traffic flows and where to position myself – my confidence grew over time – it became quite natural to me.

“I do ride for pleasure but it depends on how much I’m working – the business can be quite busy, especially in the summertime.

“After a day of working on people’s bikes I like to go skateboarding, which is my second hobby, as well as bouldering – indoor climbing.

“I’m quite a physical person, so the bikes I ride aren’t electric – that and having a strong metabolism, definitely doesn’t make the food bills easy.”

SJ Cycles’ services can be booked online via the business’ Facebook page.

You can find “the mobile bike mechanic that’s always on the move” on both Facebook and Instagram @sjcycleslondon.

He offers a range of services to help people keep their bikes in order – image Matt Grayson

Read more: How Bread And Macaroon serves up treats in Wapping

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
Subscribe To Wharf Life