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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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Canary Wharf: Emilia’s Crafted Pasta prepares to open flagship at Wood Wharf

The restaurant and bar is set for the ground floor at 12 George Street and features table bocce

Emilia's Crafted Pasta founder Andrew Macleod
Emilia’s Crafted Pasta founder Andrew Macleod – image Matt Grayson

Five years ago, Andrew Macleod opened the first branch of Emilia’s Crafted Pasta at St Katherine Docks in east London. Following its success he opened a second, larger establishment in Aldgate in 2019.

Born of a passion for good pasta and a desire to bring it to Londoners freshly made, served with a punchy array of sauces and at a reasonable price, the brand continue to grow.

Now Andrew and his team are preparing to launch Emilia’s flagship restaurant at Wood Wharf, with the doors expected to open in November.

That will place his dishes within easy walking distance of the whole Canary Wharf estate, not to mention much of the Isle Of Dogs, for the first time.

“Wood Wharf is an evolved concept,” said Andrew. “Part of what we do at Emilia’s is to keep everything simple and fresh. That’s what we stand by in terms of our food, our business and how we run stuff.

“Whenever we go into an area, we want to be part of it, not impostors. So, what we’ve done with Wood Wharf is to have half the restaurant as more of an all-day bar – for example, there will be a tabletop version of bocce, an Italian game similar to French boules.

“Wood Wharf is going to be a neighbourhood where people come to work, live and enjoy themselves, so what we wanted was the space to be tailored to that.

“For me, that means I want people to walk in, play a bit of bocce, have a drink, a coffee and a catch up, or for them to be hanging out, sitting on a beautiful terrace overlooking the water and the park, eating pasta and drinking cocktails.

“The idea is that you’re coming into a bustling trattoria in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy – a place the whole concept pays homage to, both its food and the techniques used to make it.

“For me, the vision is that we want to bring 100% natural, affordable, fresh pasta to as many people as possible, in a way that respects those traditions, and feels very casual and Italian

“The more we can spread that, the happier I’ll be. We’re not in a rush, we’re not here just to open other branches – we just want to make this one right.”

The Wood Wharf restaurant will feature table bocce
The Wood Wharf restaurant will feature table bocce

The new restaurant will be located on the ground floor at 12 George Street, overlooking Harbour Quay Gardens and the boardwalk along West India South Dock. Inside visitors can expect rustic wooden furniture, plenty of marble and hand-painted tiles.

New dishes are promised, alongside Emilia’s core menu, which offers bowls of pasta costing between £8 and £14 – the Canary Wharf bar is also expected to offer a range of cocktails based on locally sourced fruits and Italian spirits. 

At full capacity, the restaurant will be able to accommodate 100 diners with 70 inside and 30 outdoors.

Andrew said: “For me, launching a pasta restaurant never had anything to do with trends. When I was at university, I loved pasta, but I was really disappointed, because I’d moved out of home and was trying to find good places that did it and the only ones  were big chains.

“About 10 years ago most of it was just frozen and horrible and places were charging £15 a bowl. You could pay £20 and get something a bit more high-end but I felt that didn’t really represent pasta in the way it was traditionally consumed in Italy, informally.

“I thought if Emilia’s could make pasta that was significantly better than what people were having at home in the UK, then we would be in with a shot as a brand.

“At the heart of Emilia’s, from day one, has always been that all our food is 100% natural.

“We make it on-site, start to finish, and anything we source, comes from people who are suppliers of food that I would eat every day at home myself and be proud to do so.

“That’s how we’ve built it, and we’ve never stepped away from that. We started in St Katharine Docks in November 2016. We had some nights in the early days without a single customer, but slowly people discovered us and we built up a following.

A bowl of pasta at Emilia's
A bowl of pasta at Emilia’s – image Matt Grayson

“Then we got so busy we decided to expand. Aldgate came in 2019 and now we have this fabulous opportunity to open in Wood Wharf.

“We want to be at the forefront of showcasing that, as a young brand, without much funding, you can, with tight cost control, a good team and a good culture, build something very meaningful, and we’ve grown organically from day one. Each of our restaurants comes off the back of our previous operation.

“For us, the key thing is that, if you do something sustainably, it should be able to continue for a very long time without damaging the world or the people who are with you.

“Most of our managers have been with us for more than three years. When Covid hit, we didn’t sack anyone, we paid furlough and topped up people’s wages because that’s who we are.

“Emilia’s is like a family, it lives on. It’s got to be that people are coming to work happy, doing their shift and going home happy. That’s our company culture.

“It’s about being able to see that you’re leaving the world a better place for all the people who have been part of the journey – that’s what sustainability is all about.

“When a business is built, you create jobs, livelihoods. You develop people, help them grow and, hopefully, the soil somewhere is better because it gets properly kept as farmers are following sustainable agriculture and processes to make it better. That’s what it’s about, and that’s what we strive towards.

“I’m very excited to be opening this restaurant and that we’re continuing our mission in one of London’s most exciting developments in a beautiful setting surrounded by green spaces and water.”

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Canary Wharf: How Urban Greens salads are all about depth, flavour and taste

Recently opened in the West Wintergarden, the brand believes it’s found a gap in the market

Urban Greens co-founder Houman Ashrafzadeh
Urban Greens co-founder Houman Ashrafzadeh – image Matt Grayson

While alone in offering frisbees, Kaleido isn’t the only new salad game in town. It’s also not the only company to bill itself as delivering something fresh.

Following the success of its first branch in St James’ Park, Urban Greens has opened a second in Canary Wharf, filling space opposite Obica in the West Wintergarden with leafy plants and plenty of pickled and blanched ingredients.  

The brand is the brainchild of co-founders Houman Ashrafzadeh, Rushil Ramjee and Ioannis Divas. The three met while studying and remained friends as their separate careers flourished. 

“We weren’t business partners to begin with,” said Houman. “But we’d always explore food places together – we’ve always had a big interest in it.

“I grew up in Sweden, Rushil in South Africa, although he’d also lived in London for a long time, and Ioannis in Greece. We would travel to South Africa and other places together and spot these amazing places for food.

“We always had the entrepreneurial spirit in us and, although we had successful careers in the corporate world, we knew that we wanted to do something of our own. A couple of years ago, one thing that came to our minds – London has always been, for us, an amazing place with the best restaurants that you can find on the planet.

“But when it came to the healthy fast food side of things, we always thought it was lagging behind. 

“We discovered that in Scandinavia and the US a lot of food brands were doing things that we couldn’t even find here. 

“So we started looking into different brands to get some inspiration and we spotted that, when it came to salads, there was a huge gap – no-one was doing them properly.

“You could find salads that had been around a long time, but these were plain ingredients in a bowl with a bit of dressing chucked in.

“They were nothing special, just very traditional, boring salads, which didn’t excite us. People would have them because they were considered healthy, but there was something missing.”

Serving up salad at Urban Greens
Serving up salad at Urban Greens – image Matt Grayson

It took the trio about two years to formulate their business plan, working between Athens, London and Stockholm, slowly creating the concept, discussing the menu and eventually negotiating with a landlord to open their first site in 2019.

Rushil and Houman left their jobs to concentrate on running Urban Greens in the UK with Ioannis taking a more passive role.

“It felt scary at first, because we were leaving very steady jobs – very predictable and comfortable lifestyles – doing something that was in a new industry for us,” said Houman.

“Our approach was that, we may not have experience, but we know what good food is, what good service is – we know what we like when we go to a good place. We wanted to try to implement those things in our own business.

“We launched in July 2019 and it started picking up really quickly. People would come in and try it and be very pleasantly surprised from a taste point of view, but also by the whole concept.”

That reaction may very well be down to Urban Greens’ tireless approach to creating a core menu of balanced salads that all offer something out of the ordinary.

“Our salads are not side salads – our portions are quite big,” said Houman. “It’s also impossible to replicate our salads at home because every flavour is elevated – we don’t have any plain ingredients.

“Each salad has a few elements in common – they all have a base such as cabbage marinated in olive oil and salt. 

“They all come with one form of protein. That could be quinoa or red rice, for example. 

“Then you have something pickled but not just a plain pickle – we add flavours to it. Our carrots are pickled with ginger so that enters the salad.

“Not everything can be pickled, as that would be overpowering, so we add other ingredients but again, we don’t just put cauliflower or broccoli in a bowl – we blanch them to take away that harshness. 

“They still add crunch – we don’t boil them – it’s the elevation of taste and flavour that comes with it. There are always vegetarian and vegan options.”

Urban Greens' Canary Wharf branch
Urban Greens’ Canary Wharf branch – image Matt Grayson

Core dishes include the Jakarta with tempeh, seasame marinated glass noodles, pickled carrots, edamame, bean sprouts, coriander, toasted peanuts and seasame seeds and the Beef Saigon with Irish pulled brisket, glass noodles, blanched broccoli, pickled cabbage, edamame, bean sprouts, fresh mint and toasted peanuts.

“The funny thing is I never get tired of the Beef Saigon or the Seoul Chicken because they both come with a really nice spicy dressing,” said Houman. 

“But we always try to encourage our customers to get out of their comfort zones and to try something new.

“The prices vary – the vegan ones start from £7.85, the ones in the middle are £8.85, and the premium ones are £9.95.

“When you visit Urban Greens, everything you see is the result of decisions we have been taking consciously – we are in control of it, involved in every little part of the business.

“After we opened our first store we were approached by quite a few landlords and Canary Wharf approached us.

“We took a look into it and, although neither of us had worked in Canary Wharf – we had worked in the City – we definitely thought that it was one place we wanted to move to as an expansion, but it came much sooner than we had anticipated when we were starting up in the beginning.”

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Canary Wharf: Why Kaleido is putting all kinds of salads in rice paper rolls

Co-founder Laura Mimoun explains how she and husband Denis Dahan came up with the brand

Kaleido co-founder Laura Mimoun
Kaleido co-founder Laura Mimoun – image by Matt Grayson

Kaleido sets itself a little bit apart. First of all, its Canary Wharf branch – the latest location to open and the third in a growing chain – is tucked away off the main stretch of mall that joins Canada Place to Cabot Place, round the corner and into the lower floor of One Canada Square. 

When Crossrail opens (although we’ve given up betting on when that will be), the shop will be on one of the main routes into the estate proper. But those days are in the future and Kaleido is slowly building by word of mouth and tempting visitors to nearby Santander.

It’s also an outlier in terms of design – arranged into an angular unit that used to house ATM machines, it doesn’t so much invite passers-by in as push out into the space in front of it with its wares proudly displayed on a bright island unit. 

Bright circular murals depicting some of the ingredients used in its products adorn the walls – bright, playful colours and graphics are the thing here. And that’s a choice too because it communicates something about the brand – that it’s approach to salad stands out from the crowd.

Salad rolls by Kaleido
Salad rolls by Kaleido – image by Matt Grayson

Kaleido was created by wife and husband team Laura Mimoun and Denis Dahan.

“I wasn’t working in hospitality at all,” said Laura. “I was working in marketing for chocolate brand Green & Black’s. One night, with my husband, we were making Vietnamese rice paper salad rolls – some people know then as summer rolls.

“We’re both French and these rolls are very well known in France. We don’t like to waste food and we had some rice paper.

“We just started putting other ingredients in the rolls and found that it worked very well as a salad sandwich.

“That was how we got the idea for Kaleido. We thought that this is something you can eat with your hands, much like you’d eat a burrito. You can dip it in sauces and have all sorts of different flavours inside. It’s mix and match and this is something we really like.”

From that initial spark of an idea sprung Kaleido, a shop that offers a range of 10 different salads wrapped in transparent rice paper.

Customers can order between one and 10 ranging in price from £2.75 to £19.95 respectively. The cost is the same regardless of the salads chosen The selection currently includes Falafel And Hummus, Tuna And Cucumber, Sweet Potato And Tahini and Chicken Caesar.

“The first part of starting the business was a lot of thinking – evaluating the risk and the opportunities, looking at market trends, and then making the jump,” said Laura. “We wanted to create a fun, healthy brand, so this is why you have the name Kaleido, from kaleidoscope, and it looks a bit different because it’s fun.

“We began by making the recipes at home, and created five flavours that we were happy with and liked cooking. The great thing about rice paper is it’s only 30 calories and what you see through it is what you get. First we did food markets and grew from there. 

“In 2018 we did what was supposed to be a pop-up at Selfridge’s but has since become permanent. Then we opened up in Kingly Street  and now Canary Wharf. 

“More and more people are eating our rolls at our existing units so we are growing, which is great because it’s been a tough year. 

“We were originally due to open in Canary Wharf in 2020, but then the pandemic hit – it may not have been the best idea to put ‘coming soon’ on the hoarding. But we launched on Freedom Day in July and we’re very happy with business growing week-on-week.”

Kaleido's Canary Wharf branch
Kaleido’s Canary Wharf branch – image by Matt Grayson

Part of that growth could well be down to the sheer numerical variety Kaleido’s model offers. Eating two rolls a day, it would take a working week to try everything available at lunchtime. The combinations multiply further when you factor in the optional dipping sauces available.

“When people come here they will find 10 flavours each day – some changing, some staying the same and all prepared at our Rainbow Kitchen in Bermondsey,” said Laura.

“The product is innovative in the way we execute the salads – we are the only people doing these rolls here and the idea is to reinvent the way people eat healthy food so it’s also convenient and fun. 

“The mix and match is very much about my personality – I’m a Libra and all my life I have wanted this and then that, so here you can have different flavours and sauces.

“My husband and I both come from corporate backgrounds – we’ve worked long hours at desks so we value the benefit of variety, of rotating flavours.

“No-one wants to eat the same sandwich everyday – if they do, then bring them to me and I’ll have a chat with them.”

In addition to the extra attractions of Little Moons Mochi ice cream for dessert, a range of drinks and pre-packed boxes of rice paper rolls – for those who just don’t have time to choose their lunch – Kaleido is responsible for another first.

As far as we know, the shop is the first in Canary Wharf to lend out frisbees to its customers, with six displayed on a wall below an invitation to borrow.

“So far, one person has played with a frisbee,” said Laura. “This idea comes from the fact that we want people to eat healthy and live healthy – coming here and having a few throws with your colleagues outside is what we want to promote – embracing health.

“Our Kaleido rolls are not a diet food product and we would never position ourselves like that. But we believe they are healthy – they’re made only with ingredients you would find in a normal kitchen.

“They’re fresh, they’re simple and this is our vision of healthy food – the frisbee is a bit of fun to go alongside that. The rolls are also very filling – when you see the box, you don’t realise.

“People often don’t know how packed they are with the salad, so we’re going to do more imagery of what is inside in the future.”

Laura, who is originally from Paris said she and her husband wanted to grow the brand in London and then continue to expand.

“First we want to have more of our cabinets so that people can experience this iconic Kaleido way of serving food,” she said.

“Then we would like to branch out to other cities in the UK and across Europe. I’d love to, one day, open a shop in Paris.” 

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Canary Wharf: Yole opens Canada Place branch as two friends grow their business

Brand developed in Spain sells ice cream and frozen yoghurt with no added sugar as a healthier dessert

Image shows Milad Nawaz and Salman Qureshi of Yole - image by Matt Grayson
Milad Nawaz and Salman Qureshi of Yole – image by Matt Grayson

Milad Nawaz and Salman Qureshi have been friends for about 20 years. Friends at university, the pair sold sunglasses together at Harvey Nichols before both embarking on careers in banking.

“I was probably the better salesman,” said Milad, who subsequently became a consultant. “We used to try to take each other’s customers.”

“We’ve actually had arguments over this,” said Salman, who left banking after a couple of years to go into retail, partially at least because he didn’t like wearing a suit every day.

The warmth between the two men – born 20 days apart – is palpable. As we chat they earnestly praise each other’s skillsets, the foundation of a business partnership born in 2014 as they began to discuss working together.

The pair’s first experience of franchising came in 2016 when they opened a branch of Subway in Leyton. They grew that business to 11 outlets before selling two and maintaining a portfolio of nine.

In 2019 they became the master franchisors for Wok & Go – a food store where customers see their noodles cooked fresh in front of them – in a deal that gave them the rights to the whole of greater London.

It’s a business they’re keen to grow with an east London branch expected to open in Canning Town in the coming months.

But right now the focus is on something sweeter, albeit without the usual sugar rush – ice cream and frozen yoghurt brand Yole, which opened in Canary Wharf on August 14.

“We actually debated for a while because we were looking for another venture and it was Milad’s idea to get a dessert, but something healthy,” said Salman.

“We spent a lot of time doing research – about a year searching for a brand – and we found Yole and it ticked the boxes.”

A serving of ice cream from Yole - image by Matt Grayson
A serving of ice cream from Yole – image by Matt Grayson

Milad added: “We’d been looking at bubble tea, which is a big trend, but that’s full of sugar – for me, I want to enjoy dessert and not worry about the calories.

“A medium cup of Yole is equivalent to a mango, a small cup works out at about a banana.

“Our servings start at 55 calories and then you add the fruit so you have something that has protein and fibre in it and it’s gluten free.

“Every new product that the owners are developing is also sugar-free.

“For example we’ll have a bubble waffle coming out later this year and that’s the first sugar-free one in the world. Yole started off in Singapore – the founders began by franchising for another ice cream brand but they decided they wanted to change it up and spent two years making a sugar-free version. 

“The whole concept is healthy desserts – something you don’t have to feel guilty about. That’s how we fell in love with it”

Salman said: “The products are developed in Spain and the owners are Spanish. They have massive plans to open worldwide.

“We’re looking to expand in the UK and we have master franchisor rights for that.”

Canary Wharf is the pair’s second opening in the UK, having already launched an outlet at Lakeside shopping centre. Plans are in the pipeline for further branches at Canary Wharf, Covent Garden, Shaftesbury Avenue and Westfield White City, with further hope for one at Westfield Stratford City.

“Our plan is to open five stores initially – the first thing you want to do is to make sure the customers love it and that it works in this country,” said Milad. “Then we want to roll it out across the rest of the UK.”

Yole offers its core products in a variety of different ways – in small, medium and large cups with a selection of toppings including fresh fruit, sauces and – for those who need a bit of sugar, marshmallows and M&Ms.

“The customers who have tried it at Lakeside have loved the taste,” said Salman. “We also have something unique – the cone, which we make in front of them once they’ve ordered. I haven’t come across anyone making them fresh and warm and also, the size of it is a lot larger than you’ll find in many other places, making it really good value.”

The Canary Wharf branch of Yole - image by Matt Grayson
The Canary Wharf branch of Yole – image by Matt Grayson

Cones cost around £3.95 at Yole, while other options such as having bubble tea pearls included with your ice cream or a serving of pre-flavoured Twist cost £4.95 and £4.45 respectively.

“The Twist has been very well received – people sometimes think it’s like a McFlurry but it’s covered with fruit and it’s sugar-free,” said Salman.

Milad added: “The Boba is following the trend of bubble tea, so you’ll have the tapioca balls with mango or strawberry and you have it with the ice cream instead of with the tea. Our products are great for children because they don’t get that sugar rush and they’re also suitable for diabetics. There’s something for everyone.”

Salman said: “I have a four-year-old and this is the first time I’ve let him go crazy on ice cream.

“We really believe in the ethics of the brands we’re working with now. We’re very conscious about promoting things that are healthy. I want my son to be eating healthy food and I want to sell things I’d give to my kids.

“We’re also very conscious of being environmentally friendly – everything that can be is recyclable or breaks down.

“We’ve all seen the weather recently and we can all do our bit by educating the people around us and raising awareness about climate change. We all need to work together and brands need to get behind that. Yole is certainly doing its bit.”

Canary Wharf was selected as a place to open partly due to Milad’s knowledge of the area.

“Because Milad has worked in Canary Wharf for years he had a particular vision,” said Salman. “For example, he just knew this site would work for Yole.”

Milad said: “Everyone here works really hard and they are concerned about what they eat. 

“You can see Farmer J is doing really well because it’s all freshly made in the morning.

“People don’t mind paying a little bit more for something healthy. Investment bankers work 12 hours a day, the least they can do is eat healthily. For us, it’s about getting the message out there that Yole is healthy.”

While the pair are currently working hard on their various franchise options, they said they were very happy to talk with anyone else who was considering leaving the corporate world to start their own business.

Milad said: “If there’s anyone who wants to talk about doing it, we’re very open. We’ll always try and help because we had mentors when we were younger and they guided us. I would say for those considering starting their own thing that you should stay working in your job at the start.

“There is a lot of risk involved and you should work to get it to a point where the business is stable first.”

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Isle Of Dogs: University Of Sunderland In London expands beyond Marsh Wall

Lynsey Bendon talks space at Harbour Exchange as growth follows increased student demand

Image shows the University Of Sunderland In London's Lynsey Bendon
The University Of Sunderland In London’s Lynsey Bendon

“We were shown a lot of different places, but this is where we want to be – it’s perfect – it works for us and it works for our students,” said Lynsey Bendon.

There’s excitement in the voice of the assistant director of operations and student experience at the University Of Sunderland In London as she talks about its expansion at Harbour Exchange on the Isle Of Dogs – a move that will allow it to keep up with demand for places while retaining the links it’s built in the area since its creation in 2012.

“It’s on the opposite side of the DLR tracks to our Marsh Wall site, so it’s very close by,” said Lynsey. “We’ve been able to start with a blank canvas to design what we need as a teaching space.

“It has flexible rooms and it’s a lovely environment in terms of group and study areas. We’ve listened to what our students need and want – everything down to having a kitchen that’s really accessible where they can make their own food but also meet with staff. We’re thrilled.

“It’s also really nice to be able to grow from where we are because the students love our location next to Canary Wharf and our connections to local businesses but also the food, culture and shopping.”

The expansion of the campus, which will see the university taking a whole floor at Harbour Exchange, has been driven by significant demand. 

More than 4,400 students attended courses at its Marsh Wall base over the past year, with 2,794 joining across four intakes since March 2020.

While about 10% are international – reflecting perhaps the university’s outward-looking stance, having opened a Hong Kong campus in 2017 – about 50% are drawn from nearby London boroughs.

“Our students are what we call in the industry ‘non-traditional’,” said Lynsey. ”The average age is 36 and we have 60-40 female to male split. 

“Our motto is that we’re a life-changing university and we like to think that our people don’t necessarily come to us straight from school, but with a measured decision that they want their lives to change, which we hope to facilitate.

“We quickly realised there was a demand here in London and we tailor our courses to our students – we don’t expect them to be 18, straight out of school.

“We expect them to have experience that they can talk about and build on. When we started, some of the courses were targeted that way, but we’ve rewritten them and developed them through talking to our students to meet their needs.

“Ultimately we want them to progress, we want them to do the best they can for themselves and to fulfil their potential.

“You can’t just teach something – you have to build it around them. Our students are very vocal, which is extremely helpful when you work in the role I do, because you need ongoing conversations. We want to be there, supporting them, to help them succeed.”

Lynsey, who joined the University Of Sunderland In London in January 2020, is well placed to have those conversations, having left school after her A-Levels.

She said: “I was then unemployed for a short time before going into the workforce. I worked in banking in London in the 1990s, which was a very interesting time. When I came to have my children, I realised that it wasn’t a career I could stay in, so I left the workforce for a bit.

“Then I went back as a part-time member of staff on the help desk at the University Of East London. After a few years I specialised as an international student adviser before joining London Metropolitan University as compliance and immigration manager in 2014.

“That was challenging and taught me a lot – but I realised that I wasn’t going to progress further in my career without higher qualifications and at that point I was very lucky to be able to participate in a postgraduate certificate through my employer at that time, with the University Of Nottingham.

“So I was there, at 39, looking at a blank sheet of paper, never having done a first degree, absolutely out of my depth, and I can completely relate to our students, when they get to that point.

“But it gave me so much, some fantastic experiences and it taught me so much academically – both how to write reports and also all those things you don’t necessarily associate with academic learning. It also gave me so much confidence that I could do these things.

“I always say the tears were worth it, but I had such a good time, it outweighed any difficulties and it enabled me to go into management.

“So, after becoming the international immigration manager at London Met, I became head of student services and, in January, came here. Then lockdown happened in March, so it’s been quite a year. I had to learn quickly because I’m also the Covid lead for the London campus.

“Fortunately, it’s a really vibrant place, and a really great community, so people were very forgiving when I asked the same question for the sixth or seventh time, because I didn’t quite understand what went where.

“Our student growth over the years has been pretty consistent so I don’t think our current figures are down to people looking for a new direction just as a result of Covid.

“In our admissions process, we speak to each student individually and help them to make sure they are taking the right decision for them.

“The pandemic has shown us aspects of strength in our teaching and other areas where we’ve been forced to introduce things that we’re going to keep. We’re lucky that we get lots of people coming to us through word-of-mouth – Mr X may come to sign up with us in September and then Mrs X will follow in April – and you only really get that if you’re giving people what they want and the best tools for success.”

The University Of Sunderland in London offers courses across four main areas – business and finance; tourism, hospitality and events; nursing and health and engineering at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. The campus also offers Master Of Business Administration degrees – MBAs.

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Property: Why Alex Neil believes estate agency must be international and local

Matteo Congedo, regional manager for Canary Wharf and Docklands, talks service, sales and lets

Alex Neil regional manager Matteo Congedo
Alex Neil regional manager Matteo Congedo – image Matt Grayson

First established in 1984, when much of Docklands was still a derelict industrial wasteland, estate agency Alex Neil has stood the test of time, embracing the challenges of regeneration while growing and nimbly evolving to serve its ever-changing market.

Walk through the doors of its Canary Wharf and Docklands branch on Westferry Road and beneath the grey and copper of its branding you’ll find a business marketing properties in 65 different countries via 94 online portals – the kind of reach that would have been impossible 37 years ago.

“When we represent a vendor or a landlord, we do the very best we can to make sure they get maximum visibility in terms of marketing,” said regional manager Matteo Congedo.

“Because of Brexit and the fluctuations in the value of the pound, people overseas have seen that as an opportunity to invest in London and Canary Wharf is seen as one of the best places to be, so we’ve invested heavily in marketing all the properties we have internationally. That’s not something many agents can offer in London.

“But we also like to have a local presence – for example, we send out 300,000 printed supplements in the areas we cover as well and that reaches a different audience.

“We’re a modern agency, but that means using a range of different methods to make sure we cover as wide a demographic as possible. 

“One of the mistakes agencies make in terms of marketing is that they think one thing is going to work and they invest all their time and effort in that – social media, for instance. But what about people who don’t look at those platforms?

“What we’ve seen with video tours of properties during the pandemic, for example, is that because people are potentially committing themselves to a home for 30 years, they’re not going to do that if they only see it on a screen.

“It’s not like buying something on Amazon where if you don’t like it you can send it back. So during the pandemic we made sure we could continue physical viewings, equipping our staff with PPE, minimising time wasted.”

Operating from three locations in addition to Canary Wharf – Chiselhurst And Bromley, Bow And Bethnal Green and Rotherhithe And Bermondsey – the company covers Docklands, Kent, Essex and east and south-east London, marketing properties both to buy and rent.

Matteo said: “The sales market is very interesting at the moment because the only two things people were thinking about a couple of months ago were buying a place and working from home.

“At that time, because of the restrictions, buyers didn’t really have much opportunity to do anything else. With the easing, we’ve seen a bit of a drop in terms of viewings but a rise in terms of the quality of applicants – more serious buyers.

“Before we had people who were just looking around because there wasn’t much else to do.

“Now, as society opens up to other things – you can see family or friends you haven’t seen in a long time – those people who weren’t seriously committed to buying are doing those activities instead, rather than  searching for a property.

“That’s good for owners, because the time between putting a property on the market and getting an offer has fallen as a result.

“The way I see it, the average age of Canary Wharf residents is likely to drop. 

“Over the past year, families have started to be more open to other areas.  This area is great to live in but potentially doesn’t offer as much in terms of schools as some others. That’s what’s driven a lot of families to move to the outskirts of London.

“But, if you want to live in a cool place, walking distance to the office and the amenities of Canary Wharf and you want to be able to do lots of activities then it’s the place to be.

“I’m a true believer that Canary Wharf won’t struggle. Yes, over the past 15 months we’ve been through a lot and we’ll need a bit of time to adjust, but what Docklands offers is unparalleled compared to any other place in London. 

“People don’t want a long commute, especially if they’re working in financial services or for a big company where they’re doing very long hours in the office.

“The last thing you want to do after that is to go on a depressing journey on the Tube. It’s dark and dingy, especially in winter – an increasing number of people want to live close to work. 

“Also, what the buildings here offer in terms of facilities is very attractive – you have cinema rooms, swimming pools, concierge services and business hubs. The lifestyle here is completely different to how it was 20 years ago. 

“In terms of what’s popular, the older developments are really holding their ground because they offer a very large floorplan and that’s what people want. Then there are a lot of youngsters attracted by the new developments.”

Matteo says the rental market will book in September – image Matt Grayson

Matteo said the rental market locally had been through a rollercoaster of a year with the pandemic initially seeing tenants leaving the area but predicted a recovery would follow widespread return to offices.

He said: “We’ve seen Canary Wharf Group move into the build-to-rent market – a prime example being the Newfoundland building, which is just across the road from our office – that’s evidence of the demand for package deals where those renting pay a fixed price with bills included.

“We’re dealing with the Circus Apartments at Canary Riverside, which is another build-to-rent scheme  of 46 apartments, all offering luxury living because that fits with the calibre of people the area is attracing at the moment. 

“When people were not allowed in the offices, we did see a migration away but things are picking up and I think we’re going to have a boom around September when a large proportion of Canary Wharf workers are expected back in the office.

“That’s what we’re preparing our team for. It’s reassuring because there’s a huge buy-to-let market locally with many investors putting money in from abroad.”

Matteo was also keen to stress that, while Alex Neil is very much a company that looks outward, its heart is firmly in the communities it operates in, donating a percentage of its fees to a chosen charity each year and welcoming collaboration with local organisations.

He said: “Estate agency is a people business. The agent should be someone embedded in the community – it’s very important that every viewing we do, every person we speak to, we give the best possible level of customer service because you never know who you’re dealing with.

“The tenant of today could be the buyer or the landlord of tomorrow. Because we’ve been here such a long time, we have people who perhaps began renting through us but are now looking to buy and are looking only through us because they have an expectation – they know we’re going to do the best we can.

“In the industry, you see a lot of pop-up shops, businesses that start up and then close down after a couple of years because they don’t really offer a service. We’ve been established since 1984 and that says a lot.

“This year both me and the firm’s director David Hatch will be running the London Marathon to raise money for Guy’s And St Thomas’ Kidney Patients Association. We’d love to raise as much money as possible. As a company we try to do as much for charity as we can.

“An estate agency should be part of its community –  a point of contact if you need anything. 

“For example, we just bought a greenhouse for a girls school in Chiselhurst so they can grow plants. It’s about giving something back to people locally.”

Call 020 7537 9859 or go to alexneil.com for more information about properties in the area or to pledge your support for Matteo and David’s efforts in the forthcoming London Marathon

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Canary Wharf: The Greenhouse Theatre brings zero-waste venue to Jubilee Park

Company set to perform three free shows in the round on rotation from July 23-August 15

Artistic director of The Greenhouse Theatre, Oli Savage – image Matt Grayson

As Oli Savage lies on a stack of timber in Canary Wharf’s Jubilee Park, the trees all around and the sky above are reflected in his glasses. His attitude isn’t one of repose but of mirthful collaboration, creating the illusion of a wooden wall where one is yet to be built.

This is because The Greenhouse Theatre, of which Oli is co-founder and artistic director, is only just starting construction ahead of its run on the estate from July 23 to August 15. The venue will host three plays in rotation during this period and tickets are free, although going fast online so eager attendees will need to move quickly. After picking himself up off the planks, Oli sat down to tell us more…

tell us what The Greenhouse Theatre actually is…

It’s the UK’s first zero-waste performance space. That extends to everything we do from the construction, which uses found or recycled materials, to our shows and our marketing.

What that means to us is that everything we use had a life before it came to us, and it will go on to have a life after, if we don’t continue to use it – that’s it in a nutshell.

how did it begin?

I’ve been involved in theatre since my mother took me to Stagecoach at the age of five. At university I picked up some directing credits and eventually went one step further down that path to become an artistic director. The only way to get even more ownership was to create my own venue.

A few years ago I was touring a piece of queer theatre with a very good friend, playwright and close collaborator of mine, Henry Roberts. One night, we’d had too many drinks and he pitched me the idea for a show, which went on to become Swallows – one of the pieces for when the venue first opened.

It was about intimacy and aggression and the damage that we do to each other and to the environment, and how we view violence towards other people and to the natural world as different, when really they’re kind of the same thing.

My mind immediately started whirring, and I said: ‘If we’re going to do this, then we’ve got to do it properly in a sustainable way that’s eco-friendly’.

The only way to really know if the venue fits in with that is to build it yourself and so that’s what we did – our first outing was at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019. 

When you start running a zero-waste venue, the antidote to inaction is knowledge. We’ve had to learn so much about sustainability as the project has developed.

Image of Oli Savage on a step ladder
Oli and the team are building the venue in Jubilee Park – image Matt Grayson

what will Wharfers be able to see once the venue’s finished?

We have a really fun selection – The Greenhouse Theatre offers a number of different things – the shows, which are designed to inspire, and a programme of workshops and events to help people convert that inspiration into action.

We’ll also have family events such as storytelling and scavenger hunts.

We’ll have three shows in rotation – I’m directing As You Like It, an all-singing, all-dancing musical production of one of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies. It’s about getting out after months of lockdown, having fun and having a laugh.

Henry Roberts is working on 12, which is a much more intimate piece, an exploration of how language and relationships shape our interaction with the climate and the natural world. It’s a bit more intense, a bit more hard-hitting, but very uplifting – a very beautiful piece of theatre 

The other piece is called Hjem, and is about a young girl whose grandmother has dementia.

The girl discovers the older woman had a relationship with a Norwegian sailor and, as the play progresses, she uncovers a beautiful story formed through sea shanties about how we build connections and relationships through the natural world.

All of our shows discuss the environment and the natural world in some way, but none of them are about the climate crisis explicitly. It’s about beautiful storytelling.

WHAT'S ON AT GREENHOUSE THEATRE?

AS YOU LIKE IT
7.30pm - Fridays, Mondays
2.30pm - Sundays
Shakespeare’s classic, directed by Oli, this cross-dressing love story comes complete with an original score of indie-folk music. A chance to escape to the forest in a celebration of life and love  

12
7.30pm - Saturdays, Wednesdays
2.30pm - Fridays
Written by Henry Roberts, this play explores memory, language and intimacy as it follows a relationship struggling to survive in a world that’s falling apart. Just what is worth saving? 

HJEM
7.30pm - Thursdays, Sundays
2.30pm - Saturdays
Harry Sever’s magical modern folk story of whirlwind romance across the decades connecting Northumberland with Norway as a story is discovered and a bond is forged between two unlikely friends 

what’s the atmosphere like?

In the past, our programmes have won awards but the main thing we’re trying to create is a really open and engaged space. 

When you visit the venue, the creators, once they’ve done the show, will be milling around for a chat.

The space is in the round, so it’s all about creating a social, informal, fun atmosphere, not like you’d expect when you go to the West End. The shows will be high quality, but it’s all about having a fun time.

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Canary Wharf: MMy Wood Wharf by Mercato Metropolitano set for the estate

Image of Mercato Metropolitano founder and CED Andrea Rasca

George Street facility will house traders selling pizza, gelato, beer and wine plus a jazz club

Mercato Metropolitano founder and CED Andrea Rasca – image James Perrin

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Andrea Rasca has two gifts. Spend even a little time with the founder and self-styled chief executive dreamer of Mercato Metropolitano and it’s not long before his talent for simplicity emerges. He can take a complex area like sustainability, for example, and cut through the crap, the greenwashing and the often tepid attempts by big corporations to polish their images.  

This feeds into his second gift – vision. Andrea can see potential, conceive of successful places that don’t yet exist. So it’s easy, sat in the sunshine on the meandering wooden benches stretching down to West India South Dock, for him to conjure a future where the waterside park becomes the most attractive destination for visitors to Canary Wharf.

The exquisitely finished boardwalk and the emerging residential community at the eastern end of the estate are two of the reasons his business has taken space in George Street to create MMy Wood Wharf, set to open later this summer.

To understand the potency of this opening, it’s important to look at where it’s coming from. In 2015, Andrea set up Mercato Metropolitano on the site of a former paper mill in Elephant And Castle. Today, the 45,000sq ft facility attracts millions of visitors every year and is host to more than 40 vendors, a micro brewery, a gin distillery, a jazz club and an extensive grocery. 

But it’s also an expression of Andrea’s goals and ideals. It’s a platform for small businesses to trade, but to do so they must fit in with MM’s sustainable economic model that strives to be socially responsible and an asset to the local community it operates in.

“I want to make food become the centre of our lives,” said Andrea. “We eat three times a day. It’s our first medicine. Food connects us to environmental issues, to farmers and to our health. There’s nothing more important. For the last 70 years, food has been treated like a normal commodity The big corporations have decided to sell us food regardless of the provenance or chemical content – they just want to make more money out of it.

“Five years ago I arrived at a point where I said: ‘I think I’ve got it, it’s enough for me. Why don’t we try to go back to how things were – this should be the normal state of things. There’s no genius here.

“With this model, we created a physical platform where we could allow small entrepreneurs and producers to operate without the hassle of rent, the business rates, things like that.

“We would give everything to them and help them grow their businesses so they could concentrate on the food. That meant they had to align with our vision, our manifesto for sustainability and food as a human right, which means adequate food  – accessible nutritious and compatible with the local culture.

“We vet every single one of each business’ suppliers and they have to change if they don’t conform to our model.”

Having created a successful pilot in Milan, Andrea turned his attention to London, a city he’d been visiting since the age of 15, having struck a deal with his father that the cost of his trips to stay with a cosmopolitan family in Harrow-On-The-Hill would be covered so long as he was learning English. 

It was an arrangement that allowed him not only to indulge his passion for opera, musicals and jazz, but also to uncover the good things in the capital’s food scene at the time.

“I have always been attracted to London for the kind of soft power or energy that it has,” said Andrea. “So I decided I wanted to test my idea in one of the best markets in the world – for me, that was Borough Market.

“But on a trip to look for locations there was some misunderstanding about what I was looking for. I was being shown places where there was footfall from a marketing perspective.

“So I said I couldn’t care less – I didn’t need historical data because what I see is what is not yet there. I wanted to feel the vibe of a location for people’s needs they didn’t yet know they had.

“So when they showed me the Elephant And Castle site – an abandoned printing factory full of drug addicts – it was beautiful. I fell in love. I had a feeling, crazy, but it was there. So I told my friends I was going to do it, against all of their advice.”

Having opened in 2016 on a shoestring with Andrea and his friends doing much of the conversion work themselves, the first year saw MM rack up £9million in sales, more than doubling that in its third year with more than 4million visitors coming through the doors.

“We call it a circus now – food is very important, but it’s 50% and the other half is the atmosphere of artists, community and accessibility,” said Andrea. “We realised that somewhere like this could reach more people in a city like London.” 

MMy Wood Wharf is set to open later this year – image James Perrin

Which brings us to MMy Wood Wharf – the latest project – as Andrea expands across the capital, having already launched at a second site near Elephant and in a converted church in Mayfair. November is expected to see a 30-vendor venue open on the Redbridge Town Hall car park site in Ilford with seating for 600 people. But before that, his Canary Wharf venture will open its doors.

“I had the idea in my head that whenever we open a big one, we need to have smaller ones too to provide a bit of an alternative to the delivery system for takeaway food, which is not a model with love,” said Andrea. 

“First they sell anything, like McDonalds, and I don’t want to be in that space, secondly, they have dark kitchens and you don’t know what they’re cooking in there and, thirdly, the delivery guys are underpaid.

“In the restaurant business we control everything – the safety regulations are amazing, so my idea was to combine a smaller version of our grocery, not a big variety but everything you need, with a smaller version of Mercato and deliver in a different way to the people who live a few hundred metres from the market.

“It’s called MMy, because it’s the customer’s space, their community. Every one will be different and I want people to tell me if they like it or they want to change it.” 

So what can Wharfers expect when MMy Wood Wharf opens its doors later this year?

“First of all, good food not compromised by conglomerates, or chemicals – everything will be healthy and natural,” said Andrea.

“We’re going to have 10 small corners inside, so you will have the chance to buy your own cheese and ham, freshly baked bread and olive oil.

“You will also have the chance to eat the most amazing gelato, freshly made every morning, great meat from our butchers, oysters, fresh fish, amazing craft beer and a wonderful corner of wines.

“We’re going to have amazing pizza, which is the same as we have in the other locations, with 48-hour raised dough, Neapolitan tomatoes and Mozzarella, which you need to have for a good pizza, and pasta made freshly in front of you – there will be such a big variety.

“On the lower ground floor we’ll have an amazing jazz club with music and food and drinks – wines from all around Europe and further afield.

“The most important thing, which I really want to stress, is that food, people and environment are at the centre of everything we do, not shareholders’ revenue.

“This is vital, because the only way forward is not when you talk about sustainability, but when your business is based on it.

“Sustainability is not just showing that 1% of your business is green, but when 100% of everything you do is – maybe not perfect yet – but aiming towards that. We are plastic-free and all our staff are paid the London living wage as a minimum. It’s easy to be green and then pay nothing to your employees.

“I believe – first of all – you have to create your own community. Then we need to talk to kids about it, that’s the future. 

“Everything we do is about creating the right balance for a better city.”

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Canary Wharf: Pergola On The Wharf opens its doors at Crossrail Place Roof Garden

New venue by Incipio Group will reflect its lush surroundings with plenty of greenery all around

Incipio Group’s Rory Graham at Crossrail Place Roof Garden – image Matt Grayson

“Unfortunately it’s a building site at the moment, so we can’t go inside yet,” said Incipio Group’s head of creative development, Rory Graham. It was less than two weeks before Pergola On The Wharf opened and we’d met to chat about the venue that will see the vast unit at the eastern edge of Crossrail Place Roof Garden transformed following the demise of the company that ran Giant Robot.

Rory’s calm exterior hid what must have been a feverish level of activity in the run-up to its launch on Friday, May 28.

“The best way to describe this venue is what we leant on for its design – the roof garden it sits beside,” said Rory. “It’s an incredible pocket of calm in the middle of the metropolis that is Canary Wharf and we wanted to continue that look and feel throughout Pergola. 

“We’ve created a 12ft by 8ft flower wall planted entrance, a whole foliage ceiling and made a bar out of trees. It all plays into our airy, green, crisp style.

“The venue’s 10,000sq ft with two bars, one big open theatre kitchen and private dining space. Then we’ve got a 200-capacity wrap-around terrace looking over the Wharf – we’re incredibly lucky to get this location. In total we have capacity for 700 people.”

An artist’s impression of Pergola’s interior

Pergola started life under railway arches in Goldhawk Road, Shepherd’s Bush, gaining its name from the popularity of bookings to sit under the tiny outdoor structure its founders had built.

“We launched in White City in 2016, and on the back of that we opened Pergola Paddington and then we had Pergola On The Roof, which was the original concept – this is the fourth venue within that brand,” said Rory.

“It’s informal, good fun, accessible and there for everyone, whether a large group or a couple coming for dinner and drinks. It might be the after-work crowd, which we’re obviously keen to engage with in Canary Wharf.

Another artist’s impression of Pergola’s interior

“People can expect relaxed DJs, good music and good food. In terms of the food, our executive chef Nick Wyborn, who trained at the Langham Hotel, and recently came over from Mac And Wild, has used land, sea and earth as the narrative for the menu.

“All the dishes relate to that, as does our drinks menu, which has fresh beers, cocktails and coffees during the day and there’s a low and no alcohol section as well.

“On weekdays we’re open from noon-11pm and earlier for brunch at the weekends as well as later into the night.

“We’ll be serving everything from really good burgers to brilliant sharers, small plates and dishes that are great for quick lunches.” 

And a final artist’s impression of Pergola’s interior

Opening in Canary Wharf was an easy decision for Incipio, with a healthy local market and the prospect of Crossrail trains starting to arrive into the building in the not too distant future.

Rory said: “First and foremost, you only have to look at the other operators here to realise how serious an area this is now.

“You’ve got The Alchemist, The Ivy In The Park, an Everyman Cinema and Darwin And Wallace’s No 35 Mackenzie Walk, so it was a very attractive place to come to.

“Not only that, but it’s starting to see a lot of weekend traffic as well, which we’re keen to tap into. Alongside that, the venue and the location are incredible.

“If you marry all that up together, it really was an opportunity we couldn’t turn down. We’re very fortunate to get this unit and very excited to be here.

“As restrictions have eased, the response from the public has been incredible across the group. In our first four weeks we’ve had more than half a million bookings for the summer at our venues, which is really exciting.

“We’ve had great success in west London and we know a lot of our customers live in east London so this is us bringing one of our sites to them.”

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