The Gun is a pub that has long been about bringing people together.
That might be the illicit meetings of Lord Horatio Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton (whose trysts remain immortalised with their names on the toilet doors), rugby fans indulging in pints while watching the game or locals catching up around the fire or out on the terrace in the warmer months.
Recently it’s been experimenting with wine tastings – refining and ageing its formula ahead of the launch of a regular series on the last Friday of the month, set to kick off in earnest on March 31, 2023.
Having recently attended one of the warm-up events, I’m happy to confirm that The Grape Escape features no uncomfortable tunnelling beneath the Thames or Steve McQueen impressions.
Rather, it was a snug evening in the company of fellow wine enthusiasts, heated by an open fire and set to the gravelly tones of deputy manager Fabio Scarpa, whose rich drawl proved as deep and rewarding as the notes in a well-aged Cabernet Sauvignon.
We tasted seven wines, nibbled on cheese and took turns to tour the pub from top to bottom – enjoying its views, nooks and cellar to get an appreciation of the place’s history and continuing appeal.
Perhaps the most striking thing about the evening, however, was its role as a catalyst for interaction – bringing long standing local residents together with east London newbies, to much merriment.
Lubricated by three reds, three whites and a fizz, the atmosphere was open and welcoming as a diverse group of attendees talked about the wines, themselves and a certain amount of nonsense (me) in good cheer.
Having come through two years where talking freely to strangers was pretty much an impossibility, it was refreshing to see how easily and enjoyably the world has returned to normal.
Looking around at smiling faces, with fast friendships formed, it was also a moment to reflect that people have been enjoying such pleasant evenings at the venue since the 1700s.
With a lazy fire smouldering in the grate and the scent of wood smoke in the nostrils, perhaps some things don’t change so very much.
The final format (and price) of the forthcoming tastings is still in production but will be announced on the venue’s website and social media channels in due course.
WHARF LIFE’S PICK OF THE WINES
Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot, £65
Stellenbosch, South Africa
This wonderful, rich companion should be drunk in leather armchairs by an open fire in fine company.
Eins Zwei Dry (Best Buy)
Crisp and refreshing with a pun in the name, this was the wine of the night as well as being the most modestly priced
Bubbly Brut, £50
West Sussex, England
This fizz is a true delight on the tongue and a wonderful way to start an evening. Refreshing and approachable
“This area is lively – a part of the regeneration of London – it’s fun and it’s got far more going on than other parts of the capital so I’m really glad we came here,” said Lucie Pollard, director of the University Of The West Of Scotland’s London Campus.
UWS’s southern base arrived at Republic in Blackwall just as the pandemic was beginning and is finally getting a chance to settle into its new home, following the various lockdowns.
“Where we were before, near London Bridge, students said that they didn’t like being in an office block,” said Lucie.
“But the buildings here don’t feel like that at all and having the other universities here with us makes it a really exciting place – almost a multi-versity.”
UWS’s roots date back more than 100 years to its foundation in Paisley and the university is well-known in Scotland, recently being named Higher Education Institution Of The Year for 2022 at The Herald Higher Education Awards.
“That’s the Oscars of Scottish higher education, so it’s very important for us institutionally,” said Lucie.
“We’re a really innovative organisation, which goes back to our roots in terms of supporting the local community and businesses – creating degrees that allow students to take up employment easily and also welcoming more mature students than any other university.
“Creating a London campus in 2015 was all about bringing that space we occupy in Scotland to the capital, growing our international reputation and providing a place for students from overseas who want to study here.
“We have people from around 60 different countries studying at this campus and they have so much to offer. It’s our aim to be more community-facing, to work with local authorities and businesses based here.
“I believe that will be of great benefit, because our students have so much knowledge, so many skills and languages and an understanding of cultural nuances from their varied backgrounds.
“That means they can be a real asset to the local community, whether that’s working with businesses or doing voluntary work here.
“I’m really keen for them to have work experience in different firms and we’d love to talk to organisations locally to create micro-placements.
“That could be two weeks or six weeks – it really depends on the project.
“We’re especially interested in talking to small and medium-size businesses who may want help with projects – it means our students will gain far more in terms of understanding the strategic work that companies do, than they will from a placement at a much larger firm.”
UWS’s London campus offers a range of courses including undergraduate degrees in business and health studies, an extensive selection of business, education and administration-focused masters qualifications and, from April next year, PhD programmes.
“We also offer courses with Continuing Professional Development (CDP) accreditation, especially in AI and data analytics because those are areas where people need to upskill,” said Lucie, who spent nearly two decades working in various roles at the University Of Greenwich, before making the move to UWS in 2017.
“There are a lot of people in business who have risen over the years and suddenly realise there’s a whole load of tech that they have limited understanding of and need to find out about fast.
“They can do that very quickly by plugging into CPD. We’ve also identified the areas of sustainability, equality and diversity, where there’s a similar need.
“Those courses could be delivered digitally, in person or a mixture of the two.
“Our university strategy up to 2025 was launched in January 2020, just before the pandemic, and it was all about hybrid teaching.
“Covid became a real catalyst for us – we’re making the best use of technology.
“We’ve invested in new digital platforms for the students and we’ve got a huge digital transformation project that’s ongoing.
“We find students are very discerning about what they want on campus.
“We don’t want everything to be online because we’re not the Open University.
“Our students want some things online so they can access them wherever they are, but they also want things on campus that are really authentic and immersive.
“After all, you don’t want to spend money coming in and then just listen to someone reading out a Powerpoint slide. It’s also vital to build a network of contacts who will be with you for a very long time.
“On an operations level, moving to an institution where the other campuses are 400 miles away was an interesting challenge.
“I’m not sure why we didn’t use Teams before Covid, but having that now has been really refreshing – it’s so easy to jump on a call and be in a virtual meeting.
“The pandemic has made tech more responsive.”
Responding to people’s needs is very much the guiding principle at UWS, as its staff work to provide the best experience possible for those taking its courses.
“When I was at Greenwich, I’d been an academic and I’d worked in the more professional service areas,” said Lucie.
“I do finance, I do HR and I understand students’ needs.
“So to work at UWS where students always come first is really rewarding. We really do feel passionately that we are here for those who are taking our courses.
“My daughter watches Gordon Ramsay – although I don’t know why – and he always makes it clear that the most important person is the customer. We have the same philosophy here.
“That makes a real difference to your mindset – you spend your time thinking that the student is more important than the vice-chancellor – and it really does work.
“Communication is really important too, so we make sure that we’re really clear to students that we know what it means for them to come here – the challenges involved in relocating to a different country – and making sure it’s a welcoming space.
“We recently held our graduation ceremony and that’s always great because you get to see the end result – the students come up and tell you about the great experiences they’ve had.
“UWS is somewhere they get to meet people from lots of different backgrounds, where they get supported by the staff in London, but can also tap into the research that’s happening in Scotland.
“It’s a journey – they’ve typically come over from another country and that can be daunting. Then they find support among new friends and almost become part of a new family.
“We hope during their time with us that they get the knowledge, skills and expertise they need to go out and make a huge impact in the societies they want to work in.
“I’m old and spent years in one institution before moving to another.
“Now people move jobs every year or every three years, and they need to be world-ready to work in this country, the US, Australia or their countries of origin.
“Having those skills is really important.”
With lockdowns and Covid restrictions in the past, UWS is bedding into life at Republic and seeking to forge new links with local businesses.
“One of the ways we can do that is though our CPD programme,” said Sadiq Islam, business manager for the university’s London Campus.
“We’re keen for our name to be known as widely as possible and, by building relationships through our CPD courses, we’re able to create partnerships for student placements by engaging with those companies.”
He said UWS was currently offering a subsidised Help To Grow Management Course – a 12-week programme aimed at senior leaders in small and medium-sized businesses to help their organisations thrive and grow.
The Government covers 90% of the cost of the course which involves 50 hours of training and one-to-one mentoring, delivered on a flexible basis, both online and face-to-face.
Firms, which must have been operating for more than a year and have five or more employees, then pay a fee of £750.
This might be the perfect time to be writing about Gelato A Casa.
As the UK endures another heatwave – an increasingly common occurrence – what better establishment to showcase than an independent business that predominantly trades in edible products served below freezing.
Gelato A Casa opened a year ago at the Republic campus in Blackwall and is the brainchild of directors Theo Alatas and Elvira Govosti.
Having met in Athens, the couple decided to relocate to London, moving to the Isle Of Dogs six years ago.
“We met nine years ago and very quickly became a couple – we had similar outlooks on life,” said Elvira.
“We both wanted to pursue something more than what we had in Greece.
“We came to the UK to see what we could do with our skills in advertising, sales, construction, organisation and project management.
“Covid was one of the things that sparked the creation of our own business – we thought we wanted to do something with our lives that we were passionate about.”
The couple decided to combine a love of food with connections to a gelato business in Greece, by opening a hospitality business primarily focused on sweet, frozen refreshments.
“This comes from our culture, the way we grew up – you can go to a restaurant at midnight for a steak or whatever in Athens,” said Theo.
“Hence the concept of the dessert restaurant. We’re open all the time – from 8.30am until 9pm every day.
“We were looking for somewhere with a nice exterior so people could sit down and enjoy our food.
“Republic is a lovely development that’s full of small gems that people need to find. Even though we lived in Crossharbour for five years we never knew about it.
“The biggest challenge for us at the moment is to say to the people that this is who we are, this is what we do and that they can have a lovely experience.
“We serve eastern Mediterranean flavours and we have a wide variety of options.
“Back in the day our grandparents would take us to pastry shops with desserts rich in syrups and spices – this is how we grew up – and now we’re serving those same flavours here.
“The idea is to serve those desserts, but to also bring the tastes into the gelato we sell as well.
“We want people to come and try as many different flavours as they like, for free.
“There are two categories – customers who are already aware, because they come from these cultures and others who are new to them.
“It’s very interesting describing the flavours and telling the stories of how they came to be developed.
“For us, growing up and eating these desserts was another level of happiness.
“The ultimate goal of this shop is to be exactly the same as those our grandfathers and grandmothers took us to when we were children.
“That way, people can bring their families here and have those hand-made desserts that they will remember in 30 or 50 years.”
The couple had no experience in the hospitality industry when they decided to set the business up, but see this as an asset.
“We are both passionate about food, good quality and finding the best ingredients,” said Elvira.
“The desserts we make are something you would serve your friends at home, not just something to sell and earn money.
“We like to feel proud about what we serve to our customers.
“When our amazing friends created their gelato laboratory in Greece we were among the first people to experience it.
“There’s nothing like it in the UK, so we thought we should find a way to work with them and to share it with the world.
“The response was: ‘Wow’. If you do things honestly and are hospitable when people come through the door you can really stand behind what you’re doing.
“We have approached the business as though we were inviting people into our home – we want to make it as safe and as comfortable as possible for families and everybody else to enjoy.”
Gelato A Casa offers an extensive array of flavours including kadaif, bitter chocolate and sour cherry, banofi and even bubblegum.
“Pastries include baklava, ravani and terkenlis brioche chocolate alongside savouries such as Feta pie and the sesame-coated koulouri.
“We serve food that we miss from our country and that’s what people appreciate the most,” said Theo.
“We get people who are trying these things for the very first time and have no idea what they’re all about and others who say that we have done the impossible by putting these flavours into gelato.
“It’s also lovely that we’re here because the walls surrounding Republic were originally to protect the East India Company’s docks to stop thieves stealing from the sugar and spice warehouses.
“We want people to come through the walls for a taste.”
Located just across the bridge from East India DLR, Gelato A Casa also sells coffee including another Greek favourite.
“Coffee freddo is not a thing in the UK,” said Elvira.
“People usually have it warm and if you want an iced coffee then you’re pretty much out of options unless you have a latte from a chain which is usually really acidic and milk-heavy.
“We serve it because it’s complementary to the other flavours we have here.
“What we’ve discovered is that not everyone is very adventurous with what they want to try, but here people can sample as many flavours as they want.
“Then they get that confidence and when they discover something, that becomes their favourite.”
Theo added: “It’s important to realise the difference between ice cream and gelato. Ice cream is what you buy from the supermarkets, with an expiry date of two, maybe three years, and it’s as solid as a brick.
“Gelato is made from milk – we have our own machinery to pasteurise it ourselves – and then we buy the fruits from producers, and it needs to be eaten within a few days.
“Some of our flavours are seasonal because the variety of ingredients we’re able to source changes.
“We think we have a great product and we’d love people to come and try it.”
The latter, which describes itself as “a purpose-led enterprise dedicated to making business a positive force in society”, operates the facility, providing workspace for early-stage entrepreneurs and startups.
The Greenhouse aims to support local residents, Republic tenants, graduates of UWS and businesses seeking to have a beneficial impact on the world around them.
“Our main mission is to provide the workspaces as well as access to our network,” said Ahmet Emin Hondor, partnerships manager at The Trampery, who looks after the facility.
“We really value that connection because it creates a big synergy between different communities.
“Quite often we have very like-minded people, who care about the environment and social issues.
“They have purposes in their businesses and these have a social impact.
“The more we have this, the more businesses like this come to us. That’s really valuable because people collaborate with each other.
“For example, if I have a charity in need of a creative service, we open that network to them and help them collaborate.
“We also run programmes throughout the year to give the organisations based here what they need, and to introduce them to professionals who can support them.
“We have quite a range based here now – we have a lot of early stage entrepreneurs, but the industries are quite different.
“We have charities, a mental health app, a couple of marketing agencies, an organisation that’s aiming to save our soil, a couple of cosmetic brands who decided to create their own products because they couldn’t find what they were looking for in the market and a South African street food company.”
Originally from Istanbul, Ahmet himself arrived at The Trampery via a career that’s seen him work in fashion, marketing, communications, consultancy and events.
“I decided I wanted to do something that would bring all those things together and that’s why I’m here,” he said.
“The Trampery is a very diverse organisation and it ticked a lot of boxes for me – I wanted to be a part of it.
“Since I’ve joined I’m even happier, because it’s an organisation that really cares about people and giving back – that’s one of its priorities at all times.”
Those interested in taking up space at The Greenhouse fill out an enquiry form with The Trampery, which also runs workspaces at multiple locations including Old Street, Poplar and Hackney Wick.
“We then follow up with applicants and find out all about their needs because they may be more relevant to a specific operation,” said Ahmet.
“If The Greenhouse is the right place for them, for example, then we invite them over here to give them a tour so they can grasp what we’re doing and understand the campus – we offer a lot of things here, it’s not just about the space itself.
“That also gives us an opportunity to have a chat with them and, quite often, after that, they become members.
“There are several different ways to join, of course, and we sometimes have people relocate from different sites.
“We also run incubator projects with UWS for students who are building their own businesses.
“We have a few at The Greenhouse who are about to finish their studies and who are already starting on their business ideas.
“It’s very important to us that we can help these people connect to other businesses in our network who can help them thrive – lots of entrepreneurs will encounter the same problems and they can get help from each other in how to overcome them.
“People can share their experiences, their networks and their supply chains and benefit from each other’s deals where individuals might be lacking know-how.
“The differentiating factor at The Greenhouse compared to our other sites is the partnership with UWS and Trilogy, which brings with it a bigger network.
“When people join, however, they get access to our network and events across all of our sites including our second location at Republic.”
The Greenhouse is especially keen to hear from locally based businesses and entrepreneurs in Blackwall, Poplar and the surrounding areas.
Suitable for businesses in the creative, retail, marketing, fashion, finance and social impact sectors, facilities include high speed internet, a members lounge, break-out areas, a library and a quiet space as well as complimentary bike hire, showers, changing facilities and unlimited tea and coffee.
Prices start at £110+VAT for Monday and Friday access. Fixed desks are £250+VAT.
CASE STUDY: CHAIR DISCO COLLECTIVE
“On Fridays we host an over-50s chair rave at a beautiful church in Hackney Wick with lots of people in wheelchairs and the Outward Housing Hub Club which bring neuro-diverse people who may be on the autism spectrum,” said Chair Disco Collective founder Anne-Marie Payne.
“Right now we’re opening with a Lizzo medley including her latest track About Damn Time.”
The Poplar resident created her exercise class concept back in 2017 and has since moved to running the operation as a collective with an emphasis on social engagement and community building.
“Having won a competition, the organisation is now based 15 minutes from her home at The Greenhouse as it continues to develop its chair-based exercise activities.
“I realised what was needed was new music,” said Anne-Marie. “So I put it to the test and that’s how we built this new way of exercising with a new spirit.
“We put in bids for funding so we’re able to offer sessions free to inactive members of the community.
“I was looking for a workspace because, after the pandemic, my main hustle shut down its office.
“As a single mum, working from home in a tower block with no garden and not enough bedrooms, was hell on Earth.
“I was lucky enough to win a competition for space here and I love the vibe. I think of it as working-near-home because it’s close enough to pop back in an emergency.
“Right now we’re figuring out what our ambition is for the collective and whether we can run it as a social enterprise so paid-for sessions pay for free classes for those who need it.
“You’d be absolutely amazed how much people can benefit.
“You can pretty much move all your joints from a chair and, when you’re really raving you can really boost your heart rate.“
“We’d always had the talent of the future at the forefront of our minds while the whole complex was being designed,” said Laurence Jones. “To see that finally coming to fruition is hugely gratifying.”
The head of asset management at Trilogy Real Estate is in a buoyant but humble mood as we chat about the present and the future.
His employer, in partnership with LaSalle Investment Management, is at the helm of Republic London, a project to regenerate four unloved and unlovely buildings around Clove Crescent near East India DLR, after acquiring them in 2015.
The project is entering its sixth year and appears in rude health with 2021 seeing 120,000sq ft let to organisations – around 30% of the Docklands market over the last 12 months.
While Trilogy’s strategy has been to deliberately target a diverse range of tenants, an emerging trend as a place ideal for education has emerged.
York St John University is also relocating to Republic in a move to expand and consolidate its existing courses and apprenticeships while allowing it to launch seven new postgrad programmes and professional education courses at a 25,000sq ft facility.
“We’ve seen the emergence of higher education as a key sector and that really underpins the ethos of what we want to be – an innovation hub,” said Laurence.
“We want universities sat next to business, sat next to real, meaningful community engagement.
“When you have all those elements collaborating with each other, benefiting from that proximity, you get an environment that’s greater than the sum of its parts and huge opportunities.
“In terms of winning these expansions and clients, it’s been very helpful to work alongside the organisations already based here.
“People kick around this idea of landlords and tenants being partners but at Republic we really do mean that.
“We’re here from first viewings to agreeing terms and ensuring fit-outs are undertaken effectively because we want to work with operators and make sure they have the maximum chance of success.
“We’ve created a fantastic environment here but, crucially for the educators, it offers something more. You have business – the City and Canary Wharf – close by.
“The endgame for most of the graduates and postgraduates here is employment, so to be in a place that lends itself to getting direct work experience for their CVs is incredibly powerful.”
Republic isn’t simply about providing big buildings for large organisations, however. Laurence and his team are determined to accommodate businesses ranging in size from a single entrepreneur to thousands.
He said: “In partnership with UWS and The Trampery we’ve created The Greenhouse which essentially provides incubator space.
“It has a real focus on offering a support network and a space for local businesses to make that leap from an idea at home to making it a reality.
“Equally, it gives a platform for some of the university students here to start trying out their entrepreneurial ideas.
“Once someone has a credible business with a track record, they’re going to want staff and their own front door.
“So, just before Christmas, we created five micro studios. They’re a very simple prospect – 500-to-1,000sq ft – an all inclusive rent for SMEs and startups to come and occupy space on a relatively flexible basis.
“It’s a short-form lease that a business can sign there and then on the day. One is already let to Your Parking Space and, as its business grows, we can accommodate the firm’s expansion.
“We see that journey for businesses as being absolutely crucial to our campus – that there’s an entry point for everyone.”
Trilogy is also sharply focused on opening its campus up to the local community and visitors from further afield, with a range of places to eat, drink, exercise and even shop, framing its Wi-fi enabled water gardens.
“The local community is, for us, very important,” said Laurence. “We’ve always strived to ensure Republic isn’t just perceived as a business park.
“We created the public areas here because we want people to come and use them, to understand what’s here and I think our big objective for 2022 is to make certain there continues to be a huge amount of community engagement to de-mystify things.
“The early indications are the next 12 months will hopefully deliver some degree of normality and we’re super excited about people coming back.
“There will be experimentation for many organisations who will be asking what their working practices will look like and what their use of space will be.
“But the early indications are good and that’s fantastic news for the food and beverage businesses and the fitness companies we have here. There’s a lot of excitement.
“We’re 94% let in the Import Building and 55% let in Export and we want to keep the leasing momentum going and finish the job that we started.”
Looking further forward, a planning application for the second phase of the project is currently under consideration.
Trilogy and LaSalle hope to build homes for rent, student accommodation, more office space and a data centre on-site.
“That will help us in our ambition to crack the night time economy here,” said Laurence.
“Part of that will come from having beds on campus for students and other residents, but equally by making sure there are more people coming here from the local area.
“We always knew we needed provision here outside traditional working hours because otherwise it could just be a 9am-5pm destination.
“We see this is as the next logical step, especially given the universities we have based here now.
“The student body at Republic is incredibly diverse – many are mature students and there are those from overseas.
“We are a centre of gravity for them and we want to be somewhere that they can call home.”
At Black Rock there’s whisky in the cupboards, in the bottles, in postable pouches and even buried in a special glass channel in the enormous oaken table that dominates a raised portion of this recently opened bar.
If there were jars in the place, they too would doubtless be filled with the stuff.
Long in the arriving, thanks to the pandemic, Black Rock has finally opened the doors to a significant chunk of space at Republic in Blackwall as the regeneration of the business estate gathers pace.
Visitors can expect red white and black murals recalling both shogunate Japan and some of the brands of spirit on sale, spare bamboo panels and that blockbuster table, fashioned from the trunk of a tree that was probably 250 years old.
Significantly more expansive than Black Rock’s first site in Christopher Street, it showcases the tipples it sells without deifying them and that’s key for co-founder Thomas Aske.
“When we designed the blueprint for Black Rock, we knew interest in whisky was on the up and up, but we recognised there are a lot of barriers to trying the drink – it can be considered quite elitist and quite exclusive,” he said.
“We wanted to create something that would simplify the category for people and become the gateway to the spirit.
“It’s no longer this male-dominated drink consumed in a gentleman’s club environment with someone sitting in front of a log fire sipping a single malt from a cut crystal glass and smoking a cigar.
“That’s part of the history of it, of course, and the way it’s often been marketed and presented. But we look at whisky in terms of its flavour and its accessibility.
“We recognise there are lots and lots of people out there who want to taste these drinks – but it can be an intimidating category, so where do you start?
“People will say they want to try whisky but if they don’t find one they enjoy that doesn’t mean much.
“What my business partner Tristan Stephenson and I decided to do was flip it on its head and ask what the barriers were to understanding whisky – one is flavour, another is price and the third is presentation.
“First and foremost we want people to come into the bar and have a good time.
“The biggest part of that is the ambience – the lighting, the music and the atmosphere.
“We want to change the way whisky has been viewed for a hundred years. Our design is very minimalist with an almost Japanese feel to it.
“We play hip-hop because that’s what people want to listen to.
“That’s not something that’s been explored previously so it can catch people off guard but you can sit there listening to Jay-Z while sipping on a 20-year-old single malt.
“Secondly we present all of our whiskies batched into six different flavour categories – balance, fragrance, sweet, fruit, spice and smoke.
“When we talk to guests, we ask them what type of food they enjoy – if someone may says they like smoked meats, salamis and smoked cheeses, we’ll guide them to the whiskies in the smoke section, where they’ll find maybe a dozen whiskies in the cabinet featuring that flavour.
“We also ask people if they’ve tried something they like before and we can introduce them to similar whiskies that they might also enjoy.
“I think people genuinely like to discover things rather than be told what to have.
“If you’ve chosen a whisky and you really enjoy it, you become almost an ambassador for that liquid – you’ll recommend it to others.
“It’s also an experience that sticks in the memory – it’s more emotive if it’s something you’ve picked out.
“Thirdly we have price – whiskies come in four categories indicated by beads glued to the neck of each bottle.
“If there’s one, it’s £7 for a 35ml dram, two then it’s £9 and three then it’s £11. If there’s a golden bead the drams start at £12 and the price will be on the bottom of the bottle.
“We do hold a small selection of higher priced whiskies but we want people to know exactly what things cost so they know what they are buying is in the budget they want to spend.
“The idea is you’ll know what the whisky you’re buying roughly tastes like and what you’ll be paying for it.
“We want people to walk away going: ‘Hey, I found that whisky, it was perfect for what I wanted to pay and I’ve had a great time doing it’.”
Thomas and Tristan know what they’re doing.
Both have more than two decades working in the drinks industry, co-creating consultancy business Fluid Movement that ran bars such as Purl and the Whistling Shop and offering advice and services to the hospitality sector.
“Having spent nearly 10 years developing concepts, both for ourselves and for other people, we felt we wanted to focus on one thing in terms of bars and Black Rock was the one that worked best,” said Thomas.
“Our site at Moorgate worked on all fronts – financially, commercially and reputation-wise. We won top awards for it four years running and we really believe it has legs.
“We opened one in Bristol in June 2019 and we had about six months trading before the pandemic hit, which wasn’t the best for us from a cashflow perspective.
“We’d put everything into this so it meant we were in the hands of our landlords and sadly we’ve had to close Bristol.
“But we’ve had incredible support from our landlords at Republic and in Moorgate and we’ve just signed a five-site licence in China for Black Rock, with the first due to open in Shanghai in about six weeks.
“The key to business is persistence – seeing it through whatever happens. We’re incredibly excited to get Republic open. It’s been two years in the making and a lot has changed in the area since we first took the lease on.
“For us that feels quite fortunate – the occupancy of the buildings is a lot higher, which means you’ll get a snowball effect for the businesses trading here as the estate becomes busier and busier.
“You also have an ever-increasing number of residential properties in and around this area and the people living in them want a variety of places to go and enjoy themselves rather than having to travel all the way into central London.
“This whole area, with Canary Wharf as well, is evolving and will become an even greater hive of activity.”
Thomas and his business partner will be busy themselves, having recently won investment for one of their other businesses from three investors on BBC show Dragon’s Den – a tasting subscription service called Whisky Me.
The club sends out monthly dram pouches of spirit to its members packaged to fit through letterboxes.
The idea is subscribers get a regular flow of new drinks to try while the brands get to grace the mouths of a group of engaged consumers who will, presumably, purchase bottles should they enjoy the contents of the recyclable, postable containers.
As for the newly opened bar, it’s not just about whisky. Black Rock also offers wine and beers on tap for those who prefer to sip something different with their hip-hop.
Then there’s the cocktail in the table, dispensed from a little brass tap hidden under its LED-lit lip and currently featuring Johnnie Walker Black.
Food is also in the pipeline – customers can expect slow-roasted pork with an Americana flavour to sit alongside the drinks.
Like the whisky, this is a place to try on for size, then investigate further if the fit is right.
There’s an energy about Tim Kayode, a determination to progress. Perhaps that’s not surprising given his background. Born and raised in Hackney, he began playing football as a kid, winning a place at West Ham’s Academy.
“I thought that was all I was going to do,” he said. “I played professionally, travelled abroad and played in Germany, Japan and Australia.”
But at 22, disaster. A dislocated kneecap, two years in rehab and then, a crushing blow.
“The doctor was very honest with me – I was going to struggle to play into my 30s,” said Tim. “So, I had to decide – feel sorry for myself, or figure out what I’m passionate about and just do it.
“I had good support around me, a family who encouraged me, including my sister who gave me a good kick up the backside – I was broken, but she asked why if I’d been successful in one field, I couldn’t be successful in another?”
While still playing, he began studying sports and performance therapy straight away – a natural move given his extensive experience of professional sport. After qualification he closed the door on football and launched a freelance practice.
“I found myself very fortunate, because I built a big, strong client base in a short period of time,” said Tim. “I started working with elite athletes straight away, and my first big client was the WBA super-flyweight boxing champion, Kal Yafai who had also won silver for Great Britain at the 2008 Olympics as a flyweight.”
A slew of high profile clients followed, but the need to travel with them, often for months, meant, as a freelancer, Tim was finding it increasingly difficult to find time to treat those left back home.
“My normal clients were getting frustrated with me because they needed to be looked after too,” said Tim. “That was when I realised that I needed to expand, find a team of like-minded people I could trust who would work with me.
“The day the first lockdown started, was the start of this process. I had to pursue my goals and dreams. I had to go for it.”
Tim, along with co-founder Qasim Shah and five other staff members, has created a one-stop-shop dedicated to helping people do the things they want to do, moving without pain or encumbrance.
“The sports and performance therapy industry is quite outdated in terms of the ethos, the methods and techniques that are used,” said Tim. “I feel that, with Myoset, we’re going to shake things up, to push the envelope, change things and give it an update.
“Ultimately it’s all about making people feel better. That’s what we want – people to be healthier, and to do what they like doing pain-free while moving better – that’s the aim.
“What we wanted to do was to create a space where people could come in and benefit from an overall wellness service.
“Not only will we be running massage, sports massage, manual therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic services, we will also have a recovery lounge, where we’ll be using the latest, cutting edge recovery tools and we’ll also have a nurse in, doing IV drips.
“In addition we’ll be offering classes and next year we’ll have a full body cryotherapy chamber as well.
“It’s all in one place and it allows us as practitioners to put our clients in the best possible position to succeed.”
Those are telling words, as Myoset’s ethos is very much geared towards ensuring individuals are approaching their lives and exercises in a healthy manner.
“There is never a wrong time to see a sports and performance therapist,” said Tim.
“The biggest problem that I have as a practitioner is that somebody will come to me when they’re six months into the injury.
“My question is, why do we wait until we are hurt before we decide to look after our bodies?
“This is something that we should be doing anyway – you take your car for an MOT and a service, even if it’s not damaged – we should be looking after our bodies at regular intervals in the same way so we can fine tune and future proof ourselves against getting injured. That’s what we’re trying to do here.
“Myo means muscle and that’s what we’re doing, setting and re-setting your muscles, your body, your alignment and, as a result, the way you feel.
“Everything we do is for that purpose. For example we’ll be offering Pilates because I can get you out of pain as a sports and performance therapist, but the reason you’re coming in the first place may be down to a lack of strength or that your posture needs correcting.
“The way to do that is through Pilates, which we consider to be movement therapy. We want to educate as well, and empower our clients so they feel confident enough to do stuff in their own time when they’re at home – that’s how they will sustain and maintain their bodies.”
Tim said he fell in love with Republic after one of his clients in Canary Wharf suggested he take a look at the area.
“The key thing for me over here is the community, and that’s what we’re keen on,” he said.
“I don’t want people to feel like they’re going to the dentist when they come to Myoset for treatment.
“This is somewhere clients can come in, train, get treatment, do a class, get an IV drip and recover, all in one place
“In a few years time I would like this to be the go-to practice in the country, and I would like our ethos and methods to change the industry, particularly in the UK.
“I plan to open at least two more practices around London. We have a great team here and I feel we can achieve what we want.”
First appointments start at £95 for an hour long assessment with follow-ups at £75 and £50 for an hour or half-hour respectively. Membership options covering a range of services are also available.
Rhiannon WilliamsPilates InstructorMyoset
Rhiannon Williams is well used to the principle of using exercise to help deal with pain. Having moved from North Yorkshire to London to train as a dancer, she discovered Pilates from the professional ballerinas training her.
“I actually had a lower back issue, which is how I got into Pilates myself,” she said. “I was in a lot of pain and when I was breathing, I could feel pain in my lower back. Pilates is the only thing I’ve done since then which has nullified it, so I don’t have any issues any more.
“That’s why I had it in my head that I wanted to make Pilates my speciality.
“I qualified first as a personal trainer about four years ago, but I never found my niche. Now I live and breathe Pilates.”
Rhiannon’s role at Myoset is Pilates instructor and, alongside other duties, will take charge of the group classes at the venue.
She said: “Clients can expect to come into a comfortable environment and learn why their body is doing what it’s doing.
“I think that what is key is that everybody’s body is different. Yes, you may have a similar posture, but even if you had the same posture as the person next to you, there’s something different.
“What people will learn here, for example, is why they feel tightness in their right shoulder rather than their left and what they can do when they’re not in the clinic to address it.
“I have a very analytical eye, and I analyse people from the minute they walk in, finding those little things and homing in on them.
“It’s a studio space here, with between six and eight in a class so people can get that one-to-one feeling.
“I love that because you can get up close and personal – you can really get into the nitty-gritty of what people are doing.
“I think for me, once I’ve gone through a Pilates session with someone, they’ll come out and say: ‘How I feel now compared with how I started is great’.
“No-one ever says that they feel worse – they always feel better.
“I know that it’s something that has worked for me, so I know it will work for other people too and I really think it’s something everyone should try.
“A lot of people ask me: ‘Is it like Yoga?’. I feel it’s an exercise method that’s not known about as much as it should be – what you get from it and where it came from is fascinating.
“It’s a full body workout, where you are lengthening the muscles, strengthening them and solidifying the foundations of your body.
“People can leave knowing that they’ve learnt something about themselves as well.”
Follow @rhialign on Insta for more
This article originally made reference to Tim Kayode as a physiotherapist. It has since come to our attention that Tim Kayode is not a registered Physiotherapist. Physiotherapists must be registered with the Health And Care Professions Council, which is the statutory regulator of the profession. This article was amended on October 10, 2022.
Founder Beth Cardy has opened her brand’s first bricks and mortar premises in east London
Readers in thrall to the tyranny of the sweet tooth take note, there’s a new player in town. Baker and entrepreneur Beth Cardy recently opened the doors to her first bricks and mortar premises at Republic.
Located just over the Aspen Way foorbridge from East India DLR station, Sweet Nothing Bakehouse serves up coffee from all-female Deptford-based roastery Lomond alongside an extensive array of cakes, tarts and pastries, plus milkshakes and soft-serve ice cream from Brick Lane’s own Dappa.
Decked out in pale pinks, subtle greens and blonde wood, pepped up with pot plants and dark metalwork it’s a light, inviting interior connected to a foliage-framed outdoor space via full-height plate glass windows. It all serves as a backdrop to the punchy aesthetic of Beth’s cakes which luxuriate under curls of buttercream icing, slices of dried fruit and the glamour of glitter-spritzed cherries.
Little surprise perhaps, that she began her career in the world of fashion before making her way into the kitchen.
“Sweet Nothing started in Hackney, in my flat with my flatmates doing bespoke cakes,” said Beth, who runs the company as managing director.
“After school I went to Sheffield Hallam University and did a fashion degree. I wanted to do design – that was my dream. I moved to London to get into the industry, and realised that it wasn’t what I wanted at all.
“At university, you’re wrapped in cotton wool, you never have the real experience, so I moved into the production side of the industry and started baking on the side.
“My mum’s actually a baker, working in the catering industry and, even when we were kids, she would just bake with us for fun.
“I found that I really enjoyed it, and I really liked cake as well, so that helped. So, I did a bit of research and enrolled on a one-day a week patisserie course.”
Beth continued working in fashion while she trained, eventually leaving the industry to join Euphorium Bakery in Islington, which enabled her to gain the experience necessary to become qualified as a baker.
She said: “That was really hard work, getting up at half-three in the morning for a 5am start. I did that for three months – you don’t see anyone, you get up in the dark and it was not very sociable.
“I couldn’t go out at the weekends or see friends but it didn’t really put me off, I just wanted to work for myself and set my own hours. So that’s when I started Sweet Nothing in 2015, baking bespoke cakes from home.”
Working other jobs while she nurtured her brand, she made the move into events, buying and kitting out a former horse-box trailer to make the business mobile in 2016, going on to serve her products at corporate gigs for the likes of Microsoft, Paco Rabanne and Warner Brothers Studios.
“In 2017 I started looking for premises, because that’s where I always knew I wanted to go,” she said. “I didn’t always want to be in this trailer working at events, I wanted a bakery.
“It’s taken three years from finding something to actually opening because you need the right location and the right branding.
“A few places fell through, and then finally we decided to come to Republic. The unit we have is close to the DLR and gets the foot traffic in and out of the development.
“We finally got it in March 2020 and opened on April 1 – that took 12 months because of the pandemic, which interrupted a lot of our plans, but we are here now and we want people to know we are open.”
Sweet Nothing is constantly evolving and, as the business establishes itself, Beth is already looking to the future, near and far.
“We are a bakery and we have a bespoke cake service, which is a big part of the company – something we’ll probably end up expanding to be our main source of income,” she said. “As a female-led business we want to promote other small firms and our ethos is very much working with independent suppliers such as Dappa and Lomond.
“We don’t use any plastic and all of our cups are biodegradable. Or cutlery is disposable or wooden.
“Any plastic we do have is made from plants, so it doesn’t take 300 years to decompose, but 30 days instead.
“That was a big thing, because opening a bakery, we might have been adding to landfill – all those cups, those lids. Even before Covid a lot of people were getting into sustainability. Think how many restaurants and cafes and take-aways there are in the world and it’s unbelievable how much rubbish they generate.
“We have a food waste bin, so anything in the kitchen which is scrap goes in the bin and is then disposed of properly.
“We’re also working with a company called Too Good To Go, which is basically an app, that offers magic bags – we fill them up with any pastries we can’t sell at the end of the day and they go out to customers. They don’t get to choose what’s in the bag, but it means we make our costs back on the pastries and we’re not generating wasted food.
“At Republic we have plans to start a brunch service, although we’re still finalising the menu.
“It’s likely to include pancakes, avocado on toast, poached eggs, waffles and the Croissant Benny, which is Eggs Benedict in a croissant.
“It will be very Australian-inspired and we’re hoping that will come together before the end of June.
“Eventually, I want to expand to other sites then maybe to start a franchise eventually, but that’s a few years away.”
For now, there are plenty of attractions for customers already in place, not least a range of newly launched loaf cakes.
“They have a filling inside, which is a bit of a surprise with lots of nice textures,” said Beth.
“Overall, Sweet Nothing is very pink, Instagrammable but still classic – over the top but not too much – our products just look mouthwatering.
“My favourite thing to do is actually the bespoke cakes, which start at £36 for a five-inch one.
“A customer will come to us and say they want pastels or stencilling and that’s the best thing, when you get to be creative and they are happy with the result.
“Running your own business is almost more stressful than working for other people, but in a good way.
“Eventually I want to step away from the everyday responsibilities of the business and start to expand it. I didn’t think I’d ever have the opportunity to have something like the bakery I’ve opened at Republic, to be honest.
“When I go home and have some time to myself, I think: ‘I did all that,’ and I’m so proud. Obviously it doesn’t happen overnight, but it is incredible.
“I maybe thought I’d have a little place in a village, so to have this as my first premises is amazing and we can’t wait for more businesses to open here, which is good for all of us.”