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Canary Wharf: Marugame Udon brings a wealth of fresh noodles to Cabot Place

Brand’s European CEO Keith Bird on rolling out the Japanese super brand’s ‘amazing’ value and quality

A chef nets freshly cooked udon noodles in the open kitchen
A chef nets freshly cooked udon noodles in the open kitchen – image Matt Grayson

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Marugame Udon is the latest restaurant to open its doors among a clutch of new arrivals around the rotunda at the top of Cabot Place’s escalators.

It’s located opposite Gallio, German Doner Kebab and what’s soon to be Neat Burger – so there’s certainly plenty of choice in the area Canary Wharf Group has decided to dub Atrium Kitchen.

But a few things make the massively successful Japanese brand stand out.

It’s not the smiling welcome (somehow communicated despite the face mask), it’s not the fancy strip lights hung to look like drying strands of noodles, it’s the sheer attention to detail being paid second-by-second, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour by those running the place and producing the food. 

Embarking on its 22nd year, the business has grown from one restaurant to around 800 in its native Japan with 1,250 now trading worldwide.

Canary Wharf is its third branch in the UK – following launches at Liverpool Street and The O2 – with St Christopher’s Place already in the pipeline and many more to follow.

Marugame Udon European CEO Keith Bird
Marugame Udon European CEO Keith Bird – image Matt Grayson

Away from the inevitable talk of roll-outs and bottom lines, however, the key ingredient for the brand’s European CEO, Keith Bird, is fun.

“You could stand and watch this kitchen all day – I feel like I’m Willy Wonka in the udon factory,” he said.

“I love hospitality, it’s in my blood. When I was doing an MBA, a guy called Tony Hughes came in and did a talk about retail, restaurants and leisure.

“I’d spent my time in telecoms and banking and from what he said, hospitality sounded like the area I wanted to work in.

“The principle he was talking about was very simple – that if you look after your team, they are going to look after the guests.

“If the guests are happy, they’ll come back more frequently, and then the business flourishes, it grows, and you keep investing in that virtuous circle.

“Sometimes businesses that struggle lose sight of that.

“You need to make sure that your team live the values, understand the business, really want to be here, so recruit them well, train them well and treat them well.

“Even with our delivery drivers we make sure we have a place they can fill up their bottles because they’re carrying our precious cargo.

“In the restaurant it adds up to a special element you can’t really codify. It’s something about the energy – if people are happy in a great environment, guests want to be a part of that.

“So when customers go down our line with a tray it’s show time – you get the theatre of seeing everything being made and served in front of you.

“We want people to have lots of fun – that’s why you’ll hear the shouts as ingredients are prepared, but it’s something that can’t be forced, the staff have to want to do it and that’s what great hospitality is all about.

“That’s fundamental for Marugame – we want to serve delicious food, but also want to lift people’s lives a bit.”

Noodle-like lights at the Canary Wharf venue
Noodle-like lights at the Canary Wharf venue – image Matt Grayson

With calls of “Fresh Udon” peppering the air in the kitchen, the theatre of cracking sous vide poached eggs into bowls and pints of Asahi beer that miraculously fill from beneath via a Bottoms Up machine, there are plenty of acts to observe.

But that’s not to say things aren’t taken seriously.

“We’ve got our Udon master, who has come over on a one-way ticket from Japan – he’s here for at least five years and probably longer,” said Keith, who has worked with brands including Wasabi, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Flight Club.

“The point is to make sure that the udon is absolutely perfect. We take it to the point of obsession that the ratio of flour, salt and water is correct.

“We go through a real process of making sure it matures, so you get the full flavour.

“Even the hardness of the water is measured on the Clark Scale. We have a really sophisticated water quality system to make sure every portion of noodles is absolutely perfect.”

An egg delicately cooked in its shell
An egg delicately cooked in its shell – image Matt Grayson

That level obsession has resulted in a special vacuum machine that sucks a very specific amount of moisture off the noodles after cooking – aimed at helping them to pick up the flavour of the broth or sauces they’re put with.

“You can have the noodles in their purest form – Kamaage, which are served straight from the pot with either a sweet smoky dashi dipping sauce or a vegan version for £3.45,” said Keith.

“Or you can have them in a light fish or vegan broth for £4.45.

“Then we’ve got loads of exciting dishes including a Chicken Katsu Curry Udon for £6.95 and a Chicken Paitan also for £6.95, which is sliced pieces of chicken thigh in a rich chicken soup with a poached egg that’s cooked sous vide in its shell and cracked into the bowl.

“Then we have a big Beef Nikutama with caramelisd onions in a sweet smoky broth and an egg for £8.45.

“That’s probably my favourite – it’s really satisfying and the ingredients balance really well with the udon.Seeing the shell crack open and a cooked egg drop out is sensational.

“Then there’s our range of tempura – deep fried in front of the customers.

“We offer loads of different pieces including prawn and chicken and it’s great for people on a vegetarian or vegan diet because we have sweet potato, pumpkin, red pepper, asparagus and courgette.”

Tempura ready for diners to serve themselves with
Tempura ready for diners to serve themselves with – image Matt Grayson

Tempura dishes range from 85p-£2.25, with customers able to serve themselves as they make their way to the till.

Keith said: “I’ve helped loads of amazing businesses in my career but the difference with this one is you have an offer that is for everyone.

“Udon is for the rich, the poor, the young and old – it’s healthy, amazing value, and we have a team here that want to make your experience with us the very best it can be.

“This is one of Japan’s super brands for a reason and to make it accessible to people here is really exciting.

“There was a survey in the country ranking all the top brands and Marugame came in at number 14 – one above the iPhone. 

“We chose to open in Canary Wharf for our third restaurant because it’s a place where people work, but also where they live – and that’s important for us. 

“There’s a solid population and a good Asian community as well and many know the brand already.

“Like any restaurant serving food from a particular country, you know it’s going to be good if there are people of that nationality there.

“That makes a good foundation for us, but it’s also about the people who will discover Marugame – Europeans who haven’t been to Japan.

“The Wharf is fantastic, it’s growing and ever-changing with housing going up on the estate and around it.

“We did this deal during the darkest times of Covid, but we believed that if you go to a great place that has always done well, with a great reputation and great shopping it will work.

“Workers are important, of course, but it’s the resident population that’s the key.”

Chicken Katsu Curry Udon, served in a reusable bowl
Chicken Katsu Curry Udon, served in a reusable bowl – image Matt Grayson

Visitors to Marugame can also rest assured the brand is doing its bit for the environment.

“In addition to beer filled from the bottom – which is great theatre, we have wine in cans which is better for the environment,” said Keith. 

“We’ve got good green credentials. One of our key values is doing the right thing.

“All our packaging for takeaway and delivery is recyclable, so there’s no plastic in there, and we’re trying to minimise everything we possibly can.

“We practise the fundamentals of reduce, re-use, recycle – a simple but very effective message.

“You come in and there’s a bowl that gets used and then re-washed, and will be used hundreds and hundreds of times, and that helps as well.

“It’s important for our team as well, because they want to work for a place they believe in – the faith we put in them and they put in us, to do the right thing, keeps this journey going.

“We want to make Canary Wharf proud of us. We want to do something really special here and we think the brand can go in many other locations in the UK.

“It’s on the money and we’re delivering for customers.”

Read more: Shutters opens its doors in Canary Wharf

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Canary Wharf: Why Bullards wants people to come and try gin at its Cabot Place shop

Founder Russell Evans talks brand history, putting a twist on recipes and the importance of tasting

Bullards' Canary Wharf gin shop and tasting room in Cabot Place
Bullards’ Canary Wharf gin shop and tasting room in Cabot Place

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Bullards offers something that no other shop in Canary Wharf does – a space dedicated to sampling and selling spirits from a single brand.

The company’s recently opened gin shop and tasting room on the lowest level of Cabot Place offers anyone who pops through its doors the opportunity to taste the products and a multitude of ways to take them home, should imbibing prove agreeable.

With successful branches already operating in Covent Garden, Norwich and Westfield White City it’s a model that’s already gaining traction on the estate. 

reaching out

“We’re bringing the brand to people,” said founder Russell Evans, having encouraged me to sample pretty much its whole range.

“We’d been selling gin locally to people in Norwich, online and through other people’s shops. 

“But our thought process was that while it was in those outlets and people loved it and bought it, there were others who would look at it on the shelf and worry they might be disappointed when they got it home because they’d never tried it.

“We wondered how to overcome that barrier and decided to open a pop-up shop in a shopping centre in Norwich and see how it worked.

“It was phenomenal. People came in, tried the gin and 50% of people who did walked out with a bottle.

“We thought we were on to something and so launched in a department store in Norwich just to check it worked in a different environment albeit locally.

“In August we opened at Westfield  and it was the same there. It was tough, there weren’t a lot of people shopping at that time, but we were still selling to half the people who came through the door.

“We have a store in Covent Garden where it’s 75% conversion because there are lots of tourists there who want something to experience as well as souvenirs.

“Here in Canary Wharf it’s starting to build momentum – you have people living locally as well as working here. People are trying it, liking it and bringing their friends back.”

Bullards Spirits founder Russell Evans
Bullards Spirits founder Russell Evans

a bit of history

Russell, who splits his time between London and the brand’s home in Norfolk, released his first gin in 2015.

He’s been joined in the business by his son, Joe, and both clearly delight in telling its story and visiting stores to talk to customers. 

“Bullards is a brand that’s been around since 1837,” said Russell. “It originally brewed beer. In the 1980s, I went to work for Grand Metropolitan, which is now Diageo, who sent me to Norwich Brewery and one of the brands they gave me to play around with was Bullards.

“I worked on it for a year or so, went off and did other things, worked in brand management for Budweiser, Fosters and other brands.

“Then I ran my own advertising agency, sold it, found out what happened to Bullards, did a bit of research and found out it was owned by Heineken but that they’d forgotten to re-register all the trademarks.

“So I registered them, approached Heineken and – long story short – acquired the brand in 2015.

“I began by making beer, which was good but the gin boom was starting and so we thought we’d try and make some of that.

“We discovered Bullards had actually made gin back in the 1920s as well, so there was some history there.

“We started distilling at the back of an old pub. Then, the London Dry that we produced with a tonka bean twist won World’s Best London Dry Gin in 2017, which catapulted us up a level.”

Botanicals on display at the Cabot Place shop
Botanicals on display at the Cabot Place shop

next level

“Having set that high bar it was a difficult shout to expand the range. We thought we’d do something really different,” said Russell.

“Having done a classic London Dry, we thought we’d go for a flavoured gin because that’s where the market was going.

“People suggested raspberry or rhubarb – but that’s what everybody else was doing and when we do something we like to put a twist on it.

“We decided to do strawberry and black pepper, influenced by eating those ingredients, possibly with balsamic vinegar, as a pudding.

“We launched it and it became our most popular product.”

Russell's son Joe also works for the brand
Russell’s son Joe also works for the brand

sweet stuff

“There was much debate about what to do next and there weren’t many Old Tom-style gins on the market,” said Russell.

“The thing with it is that not many people know what it is – it’s a sweet gin. Before we opened our shops it was our slowest seller but, now people can try it in-store, it’s our best seller.

“Most people wouldn’t think to buy a gin like that off the shelf but we’re educating people as to what it is.

“It’s sweet, but our twist was to make it with mango and honey rather than just dumping a load of sugar in it.

“It’s a drink you can have with tonic or in cocktails, but it’s also a lovely sipping spirit you can have with ice.

Bullards' branding honours the original firm's tipsy anchor
Bullards’ branding honours the original firm’s tipsy anchor

home county

“Then we had a good long think about what we were all about,” said Russell. “We had the London Dry, but it was made with tonka beans from South America. 

“We had the flavoured gin made with strawberries from Norfolk, but the pepper was from overseas and we had the Old Tom, which had honey from our home county in it, but we wanted a product that encapsulated us and our Norfolkness.

“So if you had one gin you could take to a desert island that would sum up what Bullards is all about, it would be the Coastal.

“The reason is because all the botanicals apart from the juniper have been foraged from the Norfolk coast.”

Bold statement: Bullards wants Wharfers to try its gins

a bottle for life

Bullards’ gins cost £40 in the brand’s coloured glass bottles, but are also available in refill pouches for £5 less.

These can be recycled in-store, with postal subscriptions also available via Royal Mail, cutting down on delivery emissions. 

The brand produces cocktail recipes with ingredient hampers available for mixed drink enthusiasts as well as miniatures, scented candles inspired by the four core flavours and a range of other merchandise.

Russell said: “We want to spread the word and we get a great reaction. People like that the owners are in the shops talking to people about what they like.

“It’s the ultimate market research to find out what our customers think.

“So if anyone on the Wharf wants to come and try our gins, there’s always someone here who will be happy to talk them through the range and give them a free taste.

“Personally, my favourite is the Old Tom, but people should make their own minds up.”

Read More: Why Greenwich Gin is a journey around the world

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Canary Wharf: Gallio to offer Mediterranean pizzas and salads at Cabot Place restaurant

Managing director James Porter outlines what the new brand will bring to the fast, casual dining scene

Gallio managing director James Porter
Gallio managing director James Porter – image Matt Grayson

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James Porter is smiling. Canary Wharf’s Cabot Place is about to become home to the first branch of a new restaurant chain and its managing director can’t wait for the doors to open on December 6.

“We’re very excited to bring our new concept here,” said James. “Gallio is where casual dining meets the modern world.

“Guests can order at the till or at their table digitally, which has become much more common now.

“The concept was thought out before Covid, but the pandemic has helped the world’s IT accelerate as it has become a necessity and that’s great for us because it helps our staff focus more on the hospitality side of things.

“Gallio is an independent brand, but we’re part of a wider group of luxury restaurants.

“When guests walk through the door, they should feel that connection to quality, that we’re slightly different from other casual fast dining establishments.

“Hopefully their first perception of the business will be: ‘Wow. I can’t believe I’m getting this product in this place at this price.

“People should feel they’re getting as much value from the restaurant environment as from the food itself – we don’t want anyone to feel they’re less comfortable because we’re serving food to them quickly or that they have to leave immediately.”

Gallio offers salads and pizzas with flavours drawn from all around the Med
Gallio offers salads and pizzas with flavours drawn from all around the Med

Having started working in a restaurant to pay the bills while studying business and marketing at university, James stayed in the industry after graduation.

Having spent most of his career in management for high street casual dining chains, Gallio represents an opportunity to start at the beginning.

“I’ve been in charge of a brand before but in slightly different circumstances,” he said. “That was to do with the acquisition of a brand and maintaining and sustaining it in a different way.

“I’ve brought a lot of that experience here as well as those with the bigger brands I’ve worked for over 14 years including one company that went from a handful of sites to more than 50.

“For me this is going back to the future – back to the process in a different role and taking all that learning with me.”

Gallio has been three years in development and promises to bring something new to the Canary Wharf table.

“It’s a Mediterranean restaurant and that’s a broad term,” said James. “When people think of the Mediterranean, they tend to think of Spain, Italy and Greece, but there are 21 countries which border that sea and our menu represents all of them.

“Pizzas are at the heart of our concept, but even those are different because we bring in influences from other countries, such as Greece, Turkey and Lebanon as well as North Africa.

“Obviously, when you have to have a Margherita, but the other pizzas will have toppings like spiced lamb, grilled aubergine and various other middle eastern ingredients, which you wouldn’t find in an Italian restaurant.

“We’re trying to bring those diverse flavours into our pizzas. Our bases aren’t traditional either.

“We’ve come up with our own unique recipe using grains – it’s more nutritious and high in fibre and protein – so customers can feel a little less guilty when ordering.”

The restaurant will feature a bronze pizza oven
The restaurant will feature a bronze pizza oven

With a tagline of “pizzas and salads” the latter is another major component of Gallio’s menu.

“Like a lot of restaurants, there needs to be something that hauls people in,” said James.

“The majority of people like pizza, they know what it is, and we’ve got a bronze oven, which is a real show-stopper. We’ll also be baking our middle eastern flatbreads in there.

“The other part of our concept is salads, made fresh everyday, and built as you’re ordering, so, whether you’re Vegan, vegetarian or a carnivore, you can select how you want the dish to arrive.

“They’re all made in front of our guests too, so people can see the actual product instead of it coming from a kitchen in the back.

“That means they’ll see how good the salad is, how fresh ingredients are and they can have it their own way.

“Our menu is seasonal so when developing the concept it’s all been about playing with different ingredients and supplies – working out what ingredients we can get and when.

“Then it’s practise and repeat, asking whether we can make the pizzas healthier and more nutritious and work with the vegetables we’re getting.

“As the pandemic approached we were getting ready to launch the brand and open our first restaurant, but we ended up temporarily operating out of central London units and delivering food to people.

“We were refining our menu in the public domain, taking feedback and understanding what guests wanted as well as what they expect in terms of delivery and how our products stood up to travel.

“Most brands wouldn’t have had that amount of time to trial what they want to do but we’ve used this time to really get to know how best to make the products we’re selling.

“Now that we’re going into our first bricks and mortar site, we’ve been able to take that feedback and add to it, expanding what we were doing by offering more dishes than we were selling during the trial period.”

Following the unexpected period of extra development,  there’s a certain amount of pent up excitement to finally be opening in east London.

James said: “Canary Wharf will be a flagship venue for us – to be able to say that we’re here is fantastic.

“It’s a place that everyone knows so it’s an important area for us as a business to have a footprint in, and it’s always been the area that the economy revolves around so opening up here will be good.

“We plan on growing, certainly throughout London and the UK and we also have plans to develop internationally. 

“But the first thing to do is to ensure Canary Wharf is a success and that’s not just from a business point of view.

“If our guests don’t like it then in the end we won’t go anywhere so our focus is that everybody here enjoys themselves. We want any feedback about the brand so we can take it on board and that will show us where we want to go in future.”

Hungry Wharfers (let’s face it, that’s basically all of us at some point) should get their diaries out now and ensure they don’t miss out. Gallio is set to officially open at 11am on December 6.

Customers can expect 100 free pizzas given out via the brand’s social media feeds from 11am on December 8 and 9. Find out more on Facebook and Instagram. 

In the New Year, there will also be a Hot Dinner Offer, with 50% off pizzas for diners visiting the restaurant from January 10-16.

Opening hours from launch until January 3 will initially be 11am-10.30pm.

Personally, I can’t wait to immerse myself in the flavours of Moroccan-spiced chicken, lamb kofte and rose harissa.

Read more: Black Rock reinvents the whisky bar at Republic

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Canary Wharf: How Rockar’s showroom plays its part in helping people buy cars

Company melds online and physical store with no sales people and no haggling to ensure fairness

Rockar's Oliver Walters at the wheel of a Range Rover Evoque
Rockar’s Oliver Walters at the wheel of a Range Rover Evoque – image Matt Grayson

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While recent arrival in Canary Wharf Rockar has a showroom full of gleaming Jaguars and Land Rovers and a full fleet of test drive models tucked away on the third level of Canada Square car park, it’s not like other dealerships.   

“Rockar offers a new way to buy a car,” said Oliver Walters, head of business at the brand.

“It was founded in 2014 by Simon Dixon, who had been very successful in the motor industry for 20 years before deciding to sell the businesses he owned in 2004.

“Over the intervening 10 years he’d become increasingly frustrated as a customer, seeing that the process for purchasing a car hadn’t changed – all the sales tactics were still in play that you’d get in a traditional dealership.

“So he decided to create something different and come back into the industry. That’s why he founded Rockar.

“He wanted to digitise car buying, so he knew he needed a digital platform, but he also wanted to create an environment for people to experience the vehicles and that’s why we have a physical store.

“Rockar’s aim is to offer a way for customers to fully enjoy the buying experience – they’re empowered to do it online or to come to the store and configure their vehicle there, then have it delivered free of charge.”

Anyone can pop into the Cabot Place store and sit in a car – image Matt Grayson

Having started the brand successfully selling Hyundai, before the marque bought out its business, Rockar currently works exclusively with Jaguar Land Rover, rising rapidly to become the top seller of Land Rover products in the UK. 

“When Simon set up the company, he didn’t want to employ people from a traditional selling background in the industry,” said Oliver, who began his career with sports retailer Decathlon.

“When I went for my interview with them, they didn’t tell me it was for a store selling cars. What we want to do is help people purchase a vehicle, whether that’s online or in person.

“When we’re recruiting, it’s about finding people with great personalities who can talk to customers and make then feel at ease when buying.

“Jaguar Land Rover do a lot of training with our team so customers can be confident in our knowledge.

“We don’t have any sales people in the store, we don’t have targets and we have a no haggling policy.

“People can be sure whether they come in the morning or the afternoon they’ll get the same price, as when they buy online.

“We update the website with any campaigns the manufacturer is running – any finance contributions, for example, or any additional support – that goes straight online so every customer can benefit.

“It’s about being fair and completely transparent. For us it’s all about customer service. We help people buy cars but our main driver is that experience, so we monitor it every day and use our findings with our team to improve.”

Having had a busy first few weeks, with plenty of footfall in store and customers coming to see and try vehicles, Oliver said the decision to move to the estate had been a good one.

“The location is great for us – it’s the right demographic,” he said. “We’re super excited to be here. We’ve had lots of test drives and orders going through the store which is great – we’re really enjoying ourselves so far.

“The new Range Rover, which has just launched, is getting a lot of attention and the all electric Jaguar I-Pace is great for people looking at it on business contract hire because it only has 1% benefit in kind. That’s been really popular, as has the Defender. 

“We currently have one of the stunt cars from the latest James Bond film, No Time To Die, in store at the moment.

“It’s slightly adjusted with the bucket seats and the roll cage and there’s quite a bit of mud on it. 

“For me, Jaguar Land Rover is one of the most desirable brands globally and having cars like that in our showroom makes it a joy for us to come to work.

“It’s great to see customers coming in with a smile on their face, taking photos and videos with the vehicle.

“The store is just somewhere people can pop in, whether that’s to have a chat, find out more about the cars or about Rockar and our online operation, or book test drives.

Rockar has every Jaguar Land Rover model available for test drive
Rockar offers every Jaguar Land Rover model for test drive – image Matt Grayson

“Out test drives are usually unaccompanied unless the customer wants a member of staff to go with them.

“We believe the people can experience the car best on their own or with a friend or family member to get a real feel for it. They get up to an hour to drive wherever they like. We can help people with some route options if necessary or they can choose their own.

“Obviously there are some insurance requirements but we call it: ‘You Drive’, because we let the customer take control. 

“We have a demonstrator for every single model in the range. Test drives are generally by appointment, but we will always do our best to accommodate walk-ins.

“Customers can complete a purchase in store or, if someone has opened an account, they can then go home, see the car they’ve configured and then decide to proceed in their own time.

“They can also edit the finance options and then, when they’re ready, check out. Of course, customers can always pop back in store, take another test drive and make the decision in their own time.”

When vehicles are ready, Rockar offers the option of home delivery with a full handover and the new vehicle arriving on a covered trailer.

Rockar's collection bay, complete with Range Rover
Rockar’s collection bay, complete with Range Rover – image Matt Grayson

Customers can also collect their car from Canary Wharf, complete with a special bay equipped to reveal their vehicle. All cars come fully fuelled and charged. 

“Just as we’ve done with buying a car, we’re trying to make servicing your vehicle really convenient as well,” said Oliver.

“Our service centre in Bromley-By-Bow is staffed by fully trained technicians and is located close to public transport.

“Whether they’ve bought it from Rockar or somewhere else, owners can drop off their Jaguars or Land Rovers there or bring them to Canary Wharf and we’ll take them there for you.

“That’s also great for people who don’t normally drive to work but are struggling to find time to drop it in for servicing.

“They can leave it with us and collect it at the end of the day. It really is a convenient option.

“We also do collections from customers’ homes, courtesy cars if you need one and while-you-wait services too.”

Customers visiting the Canary Wharf store can explore every Jaguar Land Rover product, including the Special Vehicle Range, which Oliver said offered an “extra level of personalisation and luxury”.

He also said Rockar would continue to evolve as the brand electrifies its vehicles.

“Jaguar already has the I-Pace and by 2025 will have a fully electric range,” said Oliver. 

“Land Rover offers a plug-in hybrid and mild hybrids across the range and the first all-electric Land Rovers are set to go on sale in 2024.”

With a bright, shiny showroom filled with vehicles to investigate, sit-in and explore, Canary Wharf now has somewhere to find out all about these developments.

The Defender used in the latest James Bond film
The Land Rover Defender used in the latest James Bond film – image Matt Grayson

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Canary Wharf: German Doner Kebab opens restaurant on top floor of Cabot Place

Berlin-born fast food brand unveils its 71st branch as it promises products made with lean meats

An Original German Doner Kebab from the Canary Wharf branch
An Original German Doner Kebab from the Canary Wharf branch

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Much change is afoot at the top of Cabot Place’s mighty cylinder of escalators. Ride to the top and you’ll find hoardings abound as a fresh crop of restaurants moves in to Canary Wharf.

Lewis Hamilton’s plant-based Neat Burger is soon to arrive as is Marugame Udon, which promises to supply oodles of noodles.

Already open though is German Doner Kebab as the chain continues its roll-out across the UK. Canary Wharf is its 71st branch in this country with a further 26 in the pipeline worldwide this year.

We called up the chain’s managing director for UK and Europe, Daniel Bunce, to find out what Wharfers can expect from this emerging powerhouse of fast food.

what is GDK?

Our brand was born in Berlin in 1989 and expanded at the end of the century into the Middle East to Dubai. Then we came to the UK in 2015. We had six restaurants here at the end of 2017 and Canary Wharf is our 71st opening.

There is a fight about whether Germany or Turkey invented this kebab concept. Germany laid claim to it in 1971. What we offer is different from a  Turkish kebab.

We serve beef and chicken – you’ll notice I didn’t mention lamb. That’s where we differ. Both our beef and chicken skewers contain 93% pure lean meat with the rest seasoning and binding – that’s probably double the meat content you’d find in a standard kebab.

what should people try?

We’d always recommend you start with our Original German Doner Kebab with either meat or a mixture.

It’s such a great product – that combination of the bread, the sauces, the salad and the meat. It’s the right one to go to.

what other options are there?

We have an option called the Doner Box, which contains all the ingredients in a kebab and fries but allows you to avoid the bread – that’s great as a lunchtime snack.

We’re famous for a product we call the Boss Box, which has a rather large and grand feel. It was conceived during lockdown, originally for click and collect but it’s proven to be a huge hit with customers.

You get a choice of kebab, sauces and a choice of fries – we do different kinds such as spicy flaming fries, cheesy fries and curry fries.

We also have a home-grown product, which we invented called the Doner Spring Roll. We take our meats, add some jalapenos and a spring roll pastry, so you get a full meal in a box, with a drink, which you could eat outside, if the sun is shining, or it’s very handy to take back to your office and it’s not going to create a mess. It’s proving very popular.

MORE FOOD IN CANARY WHARF
Kaleido offers salads in rice paper roles
Yole sells sugar-free ice cream and frozen yoghurt
Urban Greens offers punchy salad bowls

what else are people ordering?

We do a selection of burgers with kebab meat in a brioche bun. We launched the Doritos Crunch Burger as a limited offer but it’s proved so popular it’s become a staple part of the menu.

Basically it’s our standard burger jazzed up using Doritos crisps and some melted cheese, which gives us another flavour.

We also have healthier options like the gym box which has up to 44g of protein and no carbs.

The Canary Wharf branch is already attracting a flow of diners
The Canary Wharf branch is already attracting a flow of diners

why Canary Wharf?

It’s a prime real estate – a really prestigious venue and the consumer here is very much our target demographic.

We’ve opened up in very nearly every major city in the UK and we know that our customers are young professionals, although our products are also eaten by families at the weekend.

what’s the restaurant like?

We don’t look like a kebab shop – we’re very bright with lots of colours and our kitchens are all behind glass.

We don’t hide anything from our guests. All the veg that we use is prepared in the morning, or during the day, depending on the levels of business.

We don’t carry any skewers of meat or any of our salad into the next day. So if you look into our kitchens last thing at night or first thing in the morning, there’s no leftover food – everything’s fresh and every single order is prepared in front of the customer. We’re very proud of that. We like to say that we serve quality food done fast.

what about sustainability?

We operate with very little waste – we use the meat from our kebabs in your spring rolls and our vegetables are prepared on a day-to-day basis and we top up later in shift if we need to.

We shave our meat very thinly so our products need to be wrapped up well to ensure everything is kept in the best possible condition, but we’ve made a conscious effort in the last couple of years to reduce the amount of plastic we use.

We want to do more and it’s definitely something we’re working on as well as with our suppliers to overcome the challenges that are presented by a business of our scale.

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