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Canary Wharf: Why Canary Wharf Group is launching Wharf Connect

Network is aimed at bringing young professionals together for a vibrant programme of events

Wharf Connect is aimed at professionals in the first 10 years of their careers

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“The role of the landlord is evolving all the time – is it enough to simply let a building? Probably not,” said Jane Hollinshead, chief people officer at Canary Wharf Group.

Things have changed in the world of work in the wake of the pandemic and the company that runs the estate is firmly in listening mode – especially when it comes to young people.  

That’s the thinking behind the creation of Wharf Connect – a free membership community aimed at professionals in the first stages of their careers with a packed programmed of events and opportunities planned.

“We’re hearing a lot more from companies about what their employees want,” said Jane.

“Our customers are saying: ‘Bring people back to the office, listen to what the next generation want, which is something more experiential’.

“It’s made us think about what we’ve got at Canary Wharf and how, as a landlord, we’re in a position to curate experiences because we’ve got so many different amenities.

“We also picked up another dynamic through running our own intern programme last year.

“Often, when you’ve got new employees coming in from outside London, moving to a huge metropolis can be quite overwhelming.

“For them, it’s about how quickly they can immerse themselves in a business and the geography around them, as well as feeling like they’ve got a network of friends and colleagues.

“So Wharf Connect is about how we work with our customers.

“The genesis of it is in the idea that people are the greatest asset companies have. 

“They are the fundamental part of what makes a business succeed, so what would something look like that was created to bring young professionals together?”

Wharf Connect’s stated aim is to convene a network in a way that enhances people’s engagement with the office environment, fosters employee retention and plugs workers into the wider world of Canary Wharf.

“What’s interesting from a post-pandemic perspective is that, 10 years ago – if we were talking to different tenants about their graduates or apprentices – firms probably weren’t so open to their people mixing with peers at other organisations,” said Jane.

“It was very much about investment in their own people. 

“But now, a lot of big corporates  are thinking about how to listen to what the next generation wants – whether that’s learning, wellbeing sessions or networking and bringing people together.

“Either organised internally or with other bodies, the idea is that those participating in these networks really benefit. 

“The social aspect of this is also very big.

“We feel, at Canary Wharf Group, that we have a responsibility to do this and it’s very much a reflection of what we’re trying to do in creating a customer-centric approach to how we interact with everyone around the estate.  

“We’re in this incredibly privileged position to be able to do that because of the amenities we have and the scale of this place.”

Wharf Connect’s programme is aimed at bringing people together on the estate

Wharf Connect is open to anyone working on the Canary Wharf estate who has spent 10 years or less in their current sector.

Members will have access to talks from leading experts, networking events and workshops on leadership.

There will also be events held in partnership with local retailers and hospitality businesses, as well as health and wellbeing organisations. 

Members of the community will be made aware of local volunteering opportunities, as well as exclusive offers via the Canary Wharf App.

“One of the big events we’re going to have is with entrepreneur Steven Bartlett on February 8, 2024, following on from his appearance in our Wharf Talks series last year.

“Broadly, Wharf Connect’s events, initiatives and offers will focus on personal development. Some people will be wondering where their career will take them.

“Many events will be held in collaboration with businesses on the Wharf – events at Dishoom or Electric Shuffle, for example. 

“We think exploring what’s on offer on the estate is better in a group.

“As a member, you’ll be getting carefully thought through, curated experiences – we’ll be bringing people into new spaces so they can experience them and benefit from that.” 

Wharf Connect is free to join, with workers on the estate able to apply for membership via the Canary Wharf App. 

At sign-up, users must select “I work here” and fill out their details, including selecting the company they are employed by from the list, or choosing “Company Not Listed” for organisations not mentioned. 

Prospective members should sign up using their work email address so Canary Wharf Group can verify they are based on the estate.

“The relationship between landlords and tenants is becoming a partnership,” said Jane. 

“Not only do you have to create a sustainable collaboration space, you need to be curating an experience.

“It will be really interesting to see how Wharf Connect develops – how many people get involved. 

“Personally, I like the idea that there’s give and take in it – what are people offering to this community? 

“If it results in more people volunteering who wouldn’t otherwise do so, then that’s great. 

“Members may also spread the word of what Canary Wharf really is and that’s positive too. 

“A lot of the benefits are nuanced and intangible – they exist above the hard line data – and you’ll see those trickling through.

Wharf Connect will create allies and advocates for the Wharf and I think that will become exponential in terms of its effects. 

“The question for us is always: ‘What we can do to make our customers’ experience more immersive and accessible?’.”

Wharf Connect is accepting applications for membership now via the Canary Wharf App, which can be downloaded for both Android and iOS devices.

Read more: How the SS Robin has returned home to begin a new life

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: Is this the best food to eat at restaurants in Canary Wharf?

Marking Canary Wharf Group’s Season Of Culinary Discovery, Wharf Life has tried dishes from Asia and America, all available on the east London estate

Tomahawk steak at Roka in Canada Square’s Park Pavilion

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Canary Wharf’s food scene is unquestionably the best it’s ever been.

Gone are the days of underwhelming Pizza Express lunches.

The estate in 2023 is host to myriad dining options spanning cuisines from across the globe.

In celebration, Canary Wharf Group (CWG) has unveiled its Season Of Culinary Discovery campaign, aimed at shining a spotlight on venues all over the estate at a time of year when – more than any other – people want to get together, break bread and celebrate.

It’s an open invitation to explore, taste, experiment and discover new flavours and venues – something Wharf Life is proud to get involved with.

“The reason we’re doing this is to reflect the diversity of the restaurants and cuisines we have on the estate,” said Claire Slater, retail marketing manager at CWG. 

“ We wanted to show how people can sample flavours from across the world without ever having to leave the Wharf.

“I don’t think anyone would expect the sheer number of phenomenal restaurants that we have here.

“Until you come and you visit, you won’t be aware of the depth – I think people really are spoilt for choice.

“Also, because it’s a holiday season we wanted to remind people that there’s something for everyone.

“Whether you’re celebrating with a significant other, your family, your work colleagues or a group of friends, there’s somewhere that caters for every taste and every kind of occasion.”

To that end, CWG is showcasing restaurants on the estate in four categories – When East Meets East, North, South Or Central, Frosty Days And Sizzling Dishes and From Farm To Fork.

In support we’ve selected dishes from restaurants featured in the above categories to help spark your dining ideas.

Find our more about the Season Of Culinary Discovery here

FROSTY DAYS AND SIZZLING DISHES

The first strand of the campaign celebrates European restaurants with a healthy focus on Italian cuisine…

Roast Fillet Of Sea Trout, £28

Boisdale

Cabot Place

boisdale.co.uk

Served up with sage and pumpkin seed pesto, butternut squash, chard and cold pressed olive oil, this handsome piece of fish is a fitting crown for one of Boisdale’s oxblood red-bordered plates. The Scottish restaurant, jazz venue, whisky Mecca, cigar library and oyster bar has more than a few strings to its bow – so many, in fact, that it’s easy to overlook the food. This is a place of rich, bold flavours. The fish is often smoked, the haggis soused in liquor and the menu shot through with whisky matches to help ease the dining. This brightly coloured dish is just one of the options on a Christmas set menu that offers three courses for £59.50 and features silky Jerusalem artichoke soup alongside the inevitable festive classics. Just don’t forget a noggin or two as a chaser…

White Chocolate Cheesecake, £6.50

Blacklock

Frobisher Passage (under the DLR)

theblacklock.com

There’s something of the speakeasy about Blacklock, with its dark wood furniture, leather banquettes and screened windows. While chops and plentiful portions are what this place is known for, don’t visit without trying its classic white chocolate cheesecake, doled out table side in astonishing quantities…

Baked Halloumi Fondue, £11.90

The Lebanese Table

MMy Wood Wharf, Wood Wharf

mercatometropolitano.com

All of the traders at MMy Wood Wharf must adhere to strict sustainability guidelines that conform to Mercato Metropolitano’s vision for good food that doesn’t harm the planet. This melange of cheeses with flat bread is a great example of how doing the right thing needn’t be a compromise on taste and texture

Christmas Feast, from £45

Pedler

One Canada Square

pedlercanarywharf.com

Pedler has come up with some of our favourite things for its seasonal offering this year. Its menus start at £45 for two courses, £55 for three with bubbles, coffee and mince pies or £65 to add 1/2 a bottle of wine per guest. Tipsy or not, there are some serious flavours at play here to enjoy. Our picks are St Ives Smoked Salmon to start with sourdough and capers, followed by a zingy Beetroot Tarte tatin for mains with feta, rocket and tomato salsa. Then to finish, it has to be the Bailey’s And Vanilla Creme Brulee, topped off with icing sugar-dusted raspberries. Expect a warm welcome throughout the colder months..

Steaks, from £62 (part of set menu)

Hawksmoor

Water Street

thehawksmoor.com

A festive experience at Hawksmoor is really all about the beef and the company. The Water Street restaurant boasts a private dining room where revellers can indulge in sirloin, rump, prime rib, T-bone, porterhouse and chateaubriand across a selection of two or three-course set menus ranging from £62 to £98. The floating venue (complete with The Lowback bar beneath) may feature an opulent art deco interior, but at heart is about the simplicity of presenting high quality meat to the very best effect. Oh, and don’t forget to round things off with the sticky toffee pudding and clotted cream, it’s ace. 

Goose And Turkey Shepherd’s Pie, £55 (part of set menu)

The Ivy In The Park

Canada Square

ivycollection.com

Part of The Ivy In The Park’s seasonal set menu, this dish suggests the shepherd may have decided to branch out from their traditional diet in favour of more extravagant produce to celebrate Christmas. Eschewing lamb in favour of confit goose and turkey as a filling, the mash-topped pie comes served in a high-sided dish complete with pigs in blankets. Suffice to say, the swineherd and poulterers may well be livid. Fortunately, The Ivy has plenty of foliage behind which to hide and remains one of the most beautifully kitted out interiors on the Wharf. Not a bad place to lie low at all.

Cornish Monkfish, £29 

Fish Game

Water Street

fishgamerestaurant.co.uk

Right on the cutting edge of Canary Wharf’s food scene, Matt Colk’s seafood and game-dominated menu presents fiery cooking and vibrant combinations of British ingredients. The cooking is precise and skilled, typified by this simple dish that marries meaty, succulent fish with rosemary, lemon and smoked Maldon sea salt. It even comes with a big knife to slice up the surprisingly delicate fillet. This is a venue that’s not afraid to try new things and comes complete with a chilli tasting menu and an agave bar packed with South American spirits. Go for the £16, two-course lunch menu, just to start the addiction off gently…

Street Food, £48 (plus £35pp for the matching wines)

Six By Nico

Chancellor Passage

sixbynico.co.uk

Trying to feature a specific dish at Six By Nico is almost impossible as its menu of six courses changes every six weeks. Currently, the Canary Wharf branch is serving Street Food, a selection of dishes “meticulously crafted to pay homage to a diverse array of global flavours and iconic culinary staples that have originated from local street food vendors”. Diners can expect Gochujang Pork Steamed Bun, Samosa, Kebab, Taco, Satay and Coffee to arrive when visiting before December 17. There’s also the option to go for some snacks (croquettes) and a cocktail aperitif if you wish to go all-in.   

FROM FARM TO FORK

The second strand of the campaign celebrates sustainability and British produce, home grown and delivered on the plate

Arroz Negro, £19

Iberica

North Colonnade

ibericarestaurants.com

Always a leader, Iberica’s innovative Spanish cooking under chef director Nacho Manzano is a treat. For the festive period, the restaurant is serving up a sharing dish of black ink rice, complete with fresh squid and prawns. Diners can expect a touch of garlic aioli to top off this tapas, served in a paella pan. 

Burnt Aubergine Borek, £19

Mallow

Water Street

mallowlondon.com

Plant-based powerhouse Mallow consistently serves up some of the most beautiful, complex food on the Wharf and this tight coil of filo pastry is no exception. It comes on a bed of bulgur wheat, muhammara, dates and spices plus green tabbouleh, baba ganoush cream, sour cherry molasses and ezme…

Feasting Menu, £55

Caravan

Reuters Plaza

caravanandco.com

Caravan is packed with festive cheer this year with a feasting menu filled with luxurious dishes with a European flavour. It’s a fair bet that there will be some competition round the table when the confit duck leg with braised cavolo nero, white beans and salsa verde makes an appearance. Knives and forks at the ready.

Pork Belly + Sprouts, £13

Humble Grape

Mackenzie Walk

humblegrape.co.uk

Sprouts are proudly star ingredients at Humble Grape with this dish only available at its Canary Wharf restaurant. In addition to the main veg, there’s cranberry sauce and bacon to further lift things. Also on offer during the festive season is a small plate for £8 that brings whipped goats cheese together with crispy sprouts, pickled cranberries and candied chestnuts for a blend of sweet and sour on the tongue.

Black Truffle Pizza, £35

Cafe Brera

Cabot Square

cafebrera.com

Christmas can be a time of indulgence and having a whole pizza generously coated in fior di latte, mozzarella, truffle paste and shavings of black truffle definitely qualifies. It’s worth noting, though, that Cafe Brera hasn’t become one of the most enduringly successful brands on the Wharf by stinting on ingredients. It also offers a Parma pizza for £15.90 that comes heavily topped with parma ham, san marzano tomato sauce, fior di latte mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, rocket leaves and shards of parmesan. Expect to walk away filled with rich flavours and already planning a return visit. 

Panettone + Rum And Raisin Gelato, £7.50

Emilia’s Crafted Pasta

George Street

emiliaspasta.com

Available throughout December, this rich, sweet dessert features panettone soaked in custard, toasted in butter and served with silky smooth gelato. Finished with spiced sugar, it’s a blend of hot and cold, crisp and fluffy from this popular Italian restaurant that demands a glass of sweet Moscato on the side. The Wood Wharf venue has proved popular since opening its doors, drawing workers and local residents alike with its uncomplicated offering of eight pasta dishes in an unfussy, cosy environment. Diners can expect to pay less than £17 for a bowl, with pasta made fresh on-site each day. There’s also a bar menu to explore.

Christmas Menu, £25.95

Zizzi

Cabot Place (Atrium Kitchen)

zizzi.co.uk

Customers visiting Zizzi restaurants, including the Canary Wharf branch, can indulge in three courses for under £26 with options including the Festive Formaggio And Prosciutto Pizza, pictured below. Expect meatballs, shiitake mushrooms and free range eggs to arrive on a truffle-infused white base. 

Nduja Mediterranean Pizza, £17.50

Gallio

Cabot Place (Atrium Kitchen)

gallio.uk

There’s something tempting about the copper and turquoise hues of this Med-focused restaurant. Its pizzas eschew the neapolitan sourdough crusts that have become ubiquitous in recent years in favour of a denser base, here topped with honey and soft charcuterie.

Pappardelle Con Ragu D’Agnello, £20

Obica

West Wintergarden

obica.com

Obica’s festive specials are all about fusion and this dish is no exception, mixing the classic pairing of lamb and mint with thick ribbons of egg pasta. If you fancy an even bigger twist, there’s rolled turkey with prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, sage stuffing, trimmings and gravy. A singular festive creation.  

WHEN EAST MEETS WEST

The third strand of the campaign is focused on Asian restaurants, so dig into noodles or a curry and prepare for some serious spice

Tomahawk Steak, £130

Roka

Park Pavilion, Canada Square

rokarestaurant.com

Like this enormous, 1kg cut of flame-grilled steak, there’s no part of Roka that isn’t exceedingly well done. The Japanese sushi and robata restaurant is exquisite, right down to the perfectly irregular ceramics it serves its exacting dishes on. This dish might seem expensive but it will easily do for three or four people prepared to tuck into pink, supple meat and unctuous, partially rendered fat. For extraordinary value, try it as part of Roka’s bottomless brunch for £51.50 per person plus a £33 supplement and indulge its outrageously good, free-flowing sushi before tucking into the beef.

Karol Bagh Butter Chicken, £14.50

Chai Ki

Crossrail Place

chai-ki.com

The rich colour of this dish is a clue to how this blend of tandoor-smoked chicken thigh in a spiced tomato, fenugreek and butter sauce is going to taste. Since the day it opened in Canary Wharf, Chai Ki has stood out from the crowd with its vibrant, flavourful and beautifully presented Indian cooking. Put simply, it’s unafraid to be different and all the better for it. Try this dish with a simple tandoori naan (£2.90).

Turkey Raan Bun, £13.90

Dishoom

Water Street, Wood Wharf

dishoom.com

How do you find Dishoom? Follow the queue. Those people are waiting outside to get a table for a reason. At this time of year, this dish could well be it. A whole turkey leg is marinated overnight before being prepared in the traditional Indian raan style – cooked slowly over a day until it basically melts. The meat is then gently pulled off the bone and piled into a warm brioche bun. Cranberry mayo, spinach, red onions, crispy onions and a slice of brie are added to finish things off. Best enjoyed with slaw, salli crisp-chips and deep-fried green chillies. Order it with the house black dal for something truly indulgent to dip into…

Kimchi Noodle Mac And Cheese, £4.95

Seoul Bird

Jubilee Place

seoul-bird.co.uk

Seoul Bird founder Judy Joo says: “Kimchi and cheese is a combination that is winning fans all around the world – at first bite you’ll surely swoon and taste why. The tangy and spicy notes of kimchi complement and cut through the creamy richness of the cheese, transforming a traditional combination into a fully balanced, deeply satisfying sensation.” But don’t just take her word for it. Grab a fork and dig in yourselves. It’s £9.50 for a large….

Spicy King Prawn Curry, £13.95

Pho

Jubilee Place

phocafe.co.uk

Slick and efficient, is the best way to describe a meal at Pho. The chain promises fresh and healthy Vietnamese food and delivers filling, but surprisingly light dishes to order at rapid speed. This punchy curry came served with a ridge of peanuts and a side of “broken rice” that all came together in a beautiful mess of flavours and textures in the mouth. Top tip, add some pickled chillies and garlic.

Spicy Veggie Ramen, £15

Ippudo

Crossrail Walk

ippudo.co.uk

Wowzer, this is one hot bowl, as sizzling as the late 20th century soundtrack that plays over this evergreen Japanese ramen specialist. Think Footloose, It Wasn’t Me and Under Pressure for the ear worms and thin, glorious noodles soaked in Kakara miso paste, dashi broth and garlic oil on the tongue. There’s serious depth here with plenty of bean sprouts, kikurage mushrooms and fried tofu to top what lies beneath… 

Kake, £4.95

Marugame Udon

Atrium Kitchen, Cabot Place

marugame.co.uk

Is this umami-packed little bowl of fish dashi and noodles the best value dish in Canary Wharf? At 243 calories (for the small bowl), it’s a warming, simple snack. But in a complicated world there’s a lot to be said for purity, clarity and excellence. This is traditional Japanese comfort food at its best and you’ll still get change from a fiver (at least you would if anyone actually paid in cash any more).

NORTH, SOUTH OR CENTRAL

The fourth strand is North, South Or Central – a grouping that could be subtitled This Is Americas (in homage to Childish Gambino).

Whether it’s the full-on, bombastic cuisine of the USA with burgers and BBQ, the refined cuts of Argentina or the spice of central and South America, there’s plenty to try and experience. Here are a few places to start…

Rebel Without A Claus, £12.95

Patty & Bun

Park Drive, Wood Wharf

pattyandbun.co.uk

The British burger brand has long looked to the States for its inspiration with offerings named Ari Gold and Smokey Robinson. Little surprise then that this year’s festive burger channels James Dean. It’s a burger built aroung Ogleshield cheese, billed as “the West Country’s answer to Raclette” and promises a pungent, melting partner to the dry-aged beef patty. Italian pancetta and red currant jam are also within to add something of a pigs-in-blankets vibe with just a little sweetness on the side. Eat at a festive celebration with the team or simply on your own with rebellion in your heart.

Bar.B.Q Taste-O-Rama, £10 (inc drink)

Big Easy

Crossrail Place

bigeasy.co.uk

There’s something about the smell of smoke as you walk into Big Easy that, when combined with the strains of raunchy blues guitar, makes you wish you were wearin’ cowboy boots, a plaid shirt and sportin’ a stetson. The food it serves is perfect for those whose heels have bin’ hittin’ the boards, with plentiful portions of home-smoked meats. Go for the venue’s express menu, which includes a beverage such as a half pint of lager, a glass of Prosecco or a soft drink for £10. The Taste-O-Rama is top of the list and acts as a culinary tour of the food on offer. Expect a dish groaning with pulled pork, chicken, Texas hot links, pork rib, Bar.B.Q beans and house slaw with a sweet little cornbread cake at its heart. Rapidly served it’s a good ol’ lunchtime treat.

Feast Menu, £85

Gaucho

Canary Riverside

gauchorestaurants.com

While Gaucho is unequestionably a steak specialist and there’s a fillet and a ribeye on the chain’s seasonal four-course set menu, beef is far from the only attraction. Top billing goes to an Argentinian twist on traditions with the chimichurri butter roasted turkey. There’s also a whole grilled sea bass for fish lovers and a mushroom tagliatelle with truffle oil for those who prefer to avoid meat altogether.

Steak Bowl, £9.25

Chipotle

Jubilee Place

chipotle.co.uk

This innocent-looking bowl of burrito ingredients (conceived, presumably for those who insanely prefer to eschew carbs) must not be underestimated. Mention to your server that you like it spicy and they will be more than happy to oblige, dressing the chunky cubes of beef in a sizzling hot sauce that’s enough to warm anyone on a winter’s day. But then what else would you expect from a chain named after a smoked chilli?

Ham Hock Tacos, £35 (part of set menu)

Wahaca

Park Pavilion, Canada Square

wahaca.co.uk

You’ll have to wait until November 22 for these, but just look at them… The brand’s development chef, Leo Da Cruz says: “The Christmas Ham Hock Taco is a dish I’m really excited about. We’ve combined a familiar festive ingredient, with a whole host of flavours and spices inspired by Mexico. 

“It’s topped with pink pickled onions and crispy crackling pieces. You can also dig into all these flavours and more in our sharing festive feast.” 

This Christmas menu will be available until December 24, 2023, costs £35 per person and is available for parties of six or more. Flavours include the likes of smoky Sonoran hummus, golden roast cauliflower, churros with sprinkles and, of course, ham hock served with a crispy crackling crown. 

Festive Feast Menu, £49

Feels Like June

Water Street, Wood Wharf

feelslikejune.com

Fancy a plate piled high with mashed polenta and lamb shank drizzled with a balsamic vinegar sauce? Then California-inspired restaurant Feels Like June is the place to go. Located on the ground floor of the Tribe London Canary Wharf hotel in Wood Wharf, the venue promises a sunny welcome year-round. For Christmas, it’s offering a three-course set menu available until Christmas Day, featuring the likes of beef tartare, clam chowder and mushroom and truffle arancini to start. Mains include the lamb, a duck breast fillet and a cauliflower steak. For dessert, there’s red velvet cake with hot fudge and chocolate sauce, gingerbread cheesecake with chantilly cream or a spiced chocolate mousse. Feeling festive yet?

Read more: How Level39-based WyzePay offers discounts at MMy Wood Wharf

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How Dishoom’s latest east London opening is totally narrative-led

Brand co-founder Shamil Thakrar talks financial scandals, fictional characters and 1970s Bombay

Shamil Thakrar says Dishoom’s restaurants are all about stories – image Matt Grayson

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Dishoom is different. Over the course of 18 years in journalism, I’ve asked countless people to tell me about their businesses.

Typically they communicate how they came to start their company, what it does and why.  

However, when asked to tell me about the opening of Dishoom Canary Wharf, which recently arrived at Wood Wharf, the brand’s co-founder Shamil Thakrar simply said: “It’s a story.”

A simple, but completely serious point. This is no marketing flim flam. 

Before the company opens a new restaurant, its founders sit down and develop its back story in detail – a fact that hints at why this is the brand’s first opening in London for five years. 

But why not? After all, isn’t everything, to some extent, stories?

The ones we tell ourselves to understand the things around us, the ones we tell others to explain the world to them and the ones they tell us to illuminate their own impressions.

We grow up being read and reading them and seeing and hearing them on all kinds of platforms. Now we are increasingly encouraged to create our own myths via social media. 

Dishoom’s approach, which sees each individual cafe fleshed out exactly in line with its narrative, has won the brand significant success.

It’s known for patient lines of eager customers outside its venues and has a reputation as a generous employer that looks after its staff. 

You can visit the Canary Wharf branch without knowing any of the back story – nobody will refuse to serve you and the spiced chai will still taste great.

But, so rich is the narrative, that it permeates the whole experience, making it impossible to spend time in the restaurant without feeling its impact, even if that is subconscious.

 Every detail of the interior flows from the back story at Dishoom Canary Wharf
Every detail of the interior flows from the back story at Dishoom Canary Wharf – image Matt Grayson

“The story of the Canary Wharf cafe is a bloke – Nauzer – who has been living as a character in my head for quite a few years,” said Shamil. “Now the right place has come up for him. 

“He’s a really cool young guy, whose father owns an Irani cafe near the Bombay Stock Exchange.

“He sees some of the high rollers coming in and thinks he wants to be like them. He’s quite a canny kid, so eventually learns how to invest and does quite well for himself. 

“Then his family, friends and the local community start asking him to invest on their behalf. He does that and does really well – he makes good money for them and they’re getting wealthier, until one day, he does a bad deal and everything goes south.

“He doesn’t want to tell anyone because he’s so embarrassed and that sense of shame he has, which is an Indian thing, means he can’t face them – so he invents a Ponzi scheme where new investments are used to pay out fake returns to existing investors.

“Everything seems fine, even though it’s built on lies.

“Anyway, he makes the scheme work for a while and, with the winnings, he builds this restaurant – we imagine it’s his, hence the 1970s Bombay feel of the decor.

Dishoom Canary Wharf also sells items such as chai, condiments and cookbooks – image Matt Grayson

“He invests in art and other cool stuff, and his friends are up-and-coming stars. It’s a place for them.

“In the story we join him one day when he’s stressed out. The phone is ringing, he’s sweating and I imagine him in his room, traumatised because a journalist is on to him and that’s who’s calling – that’s where the story begins.”

Read Chapter One of Nauzer’s story here

Dishoom has now published all three instalments of the hapless investor’s tale on its website – but it’s in the restaurant where things really take shape. 

Walk in and you’re immediately hit by the scent of burning incense, the energy of a bustling bar and bright smiles all round as staff guide diners to their tables.

Everywhere there’s activity – it’s not much of a stretch to imagine this as an establishment just over the road from the busy stock exchange in Bombay. 

But there’s more. Look deeper and you’ll find house rules on the wall that outlaw Ponzi schemes, historically accurate ads in the menus, coloured porcelain in the washrooms and modernist 1970s decor.

The bar is called the Permit Room, recalling the legal hoops owners had to jump through to serve booze and there’s also a Family Room – an echo of the only spaces women were allowed to access in Irani cafes of old – complete with vintage photos of the owners’ relatives.

Everywhere there’s detail aimed at placing the visitor snugly inside the narrative. 

The bar serves a “scandalous” trio of miniature Martinis dubbed The Commander, The Lover and The Wife, inspired by a jealous Parsi naval officer who shot the man his other half was seeing illicitly before turning himself in.

There’s a glint in Shamil’s eyes as we talk – it’s just this sort of material that reflects Dishoom’s flair for the dramatic – ultimately all part of the owners’ ambition that visiting the restaurant should be a memorable experience.

“The most important thing, regardless of whether the restaurant is busy or not, is whether the guests are leaving happy and sated,” said Shamil.

“We have to create the conditions that allow diners to have an experience that’s amazing and that they are going to tell all their friends about. 

“The best way to do that is to make sure our team is happy and that’s our job.

The Permit Room bar at Dishoom Canary Wharf – image Matt Grayson

“We have really good people working for us who have an enormous amount of heart and determination in the current economic environment, so the right thing for us to do is look after them.

“Then, collectively we look after our guests and that, hopefully, keeps people coming back.

“We are conscious that sometimes we have a lot of people who stand in line for our food in queues – it’s lovely to have that although sometimes I’m embarrassed by making them wait.

“But we’re providing something people really want, and the key to that is to make sure that our food is really fantastic, our spaces are wonderful and our service is really warm – that is all down to supporting our team.

“That’s something we’ve been thinking about ever since we started the business. Running the company, it’s our responsibility to make sure our staff really love and enjoy the environment they’re working in.

“We like to pay well, but we also make sure we look after the other benefits – the less tangible stuff – so we do regular mental health workshops, for example.

“Then a little while ago, we had the idea for The Bombay Boot Camp where we’d take anyone who stayed with us for five years to the city and show them all the good places.

“We didn’t know whether we would ever take anyone when we started, but this year we’re taking 180 people.

“Some of the places we visit can only fit 15 or 20 people so we don’t quite know how the logistics will work yet, but it’s a trip that money can’t buy because we work really hard to visit places people would never normally go and that everyone who does feels special, welcome and rewarded for the work they do.”

Mini Martinis: The Commander, The Wife and The Lover at Dishoom

For Wharfers who can’t get over to Mumbai itself, Dishoom serves up an expansive menu of flavours to transport diners in spirit.

“We bring guests into the story and give them food and drink,” said Shamil.

“But the dishes and beverages we serve also have their own stories.

“My cousin Kavi and I now run the business and, when we were setting things up, we came across the heritage of the old Irani cafes, set up by Parsi immigrants from Iran. 

“We wanted to pay homage to them, their inclusive ethos and spirit, while at the same time riffing on the stories of Bombay.

“Take Pau Bhaji, for example. It’s mashed up vegetables with buttered Portuguese buns.

“There were colonists from Portugal in Bombay and their influence has become part of the city’s most delicious dish – all those stories are there.

“I think placing food in its cultural context is very important – you come along, eat it with the right music amid the right architecture – I want to give people a real taste of Bombay.

“We, the British, think we know India, and there are a number of cliches – Bollywood, cricket, curry houses, palaces, maharajahs, but I’m not sure that Britain really does know India.

Dishoom Canary Wharf features 1970s-style furniture – image Matt Grayson

“Do we know about the Bombay Stock Exchange, or that there was a great Art Deco movement post independence that signified liberty and modernity, to get rid of the old gothic architecture?

“On the food side, where we think of India as curry, there’s so much more. We don’t serve that much of what we would call curry today because there are so many other things to be said.

“Canary Wharf isn’t exactly a natural fit for us, but we’re excited to be here.

“The architecture in Wood Wharf, especially, is very cool, and I think we can bring a bit of fun and pizazz to this end of town.

“Then we’ve got a couple more good stories that we’re dreaming up for future openings.”

Dishoom Canary Wharf is open from 8am until at least 11pm on weekdays (midnight on Friday and Saturday and from 9am at weekends.

Dishoom co-founder Kavi Thakrar has selected his favourite dishes to order for Wharf Life readers
Dishoom co-founder Kavi Thakrar has selected his favourite dishes to order for Wharf Life readers

KAVI’S MENU PICKS

With so much on the menu, we went straight to the top and asked Dishoom co-founder Kavi Thakrar to pick out a few of his favourite dishes to help Wharfers make their own decisions:

1. First, the Malai Lobster. this is only available at Canary Wharf. It’s a great dish to share with friends as it feels celebratory, but won’t break the bank. Fresh daily from Billingsgate, it transports me to some of my favourite spots in Bombay to eat fresh seafood.

Malai Lobster – Priced by weight at £7.50 per 100g

Malai Lobster, £7.50 per 100g at Dishoom Canary Wharf
Malai Lobster, £7.50 per 100g at Dishoom Canary Wharf

2. Chilli Cheese Toast. We took this off the menu for a while but I’m so happy to see it back. It’s totally delicious with a Dishoom IPA – a sneaky snack when I’m by myself, just like sitting in an Irani Cafe at the end of a long day in south Bombay.

Chilli Cheese Toast – £5.70

Chilli Cheese Toast, £5.70 at Dishoom Canary Wharf
Chilli Cheese Toast, £5.70 at Dishoom Canary Wharf

3. And finally, I really love our Double Bacon And Egg Naan Roll. It is a great match of salty, sweet, a little heat and then the richness from the egg. I love having it with a house chai if I start my day at Dishoom

Double Bacon & Egg Naan Roll – £11.60

Read more: How Clays’ new bar has Canary Wharf in its sights

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