The Silverton

Canary Wharf: How Roe restaurant aims to build on Fallow success

We chat to James Robson of Roe about food, drink and serving up to 2,000 customers a day

Image shows the exterior of Roe restaurant at the base of the One Park Drive tower in Wood Wharf. It has a large terrace and overlooks the waters of nearby South Dock
Roe is located at the base of One Park Drive in Canary Wharf’s Wood Wharf

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“It’s pretty simple,” said James Robson, in answer to why the trio behind runaway central London success, Fallow, have opened Roe in Canary Wharf.

“The view and the terrace at One Park Drive are stunning.    

“You don’t get many terraces like this, with the sun catching it, from about 11am until late evening.

“We wanted to put a world class restaurant in a world class building.”

James is one third of a partnership that has seen much success in recent years.

Together with chefs Will Murray and Jack Croft, he opened nose-to-tail restaurant Fallow in St James, just down from Piccadilly Circus in 2021 to much acclaim and popularity.

Building on that success, they opened Fowl, a beak-to-feet chicken shop with a similar sustainable ethos, nearby.

But Roe is a very different animal, albeit also named for a species of deer.

First of all, it’s big – about double Fallow’s size and in east London rather than the city centre.

It’s tucked back off Water Street and opens out above Harbour Quay Gardens’ Boardwalk.

There’s an open kitchen, much marble, fixtures made of rebar, golden metalwork and a 3D printed plant-based sculpture, intended to recall the structure of a coral.  

Image shows James Robson of Roe restaurant, a bearded man with blue eyes wearing a light green hoodie in front of a black and white marble background
James Robson, one of the trio behind Roe restaurant in Canary Wharf

Building big at Roe

“It’s huge, it’s a beast – it’s one of the largest independent restaurants I’m aware of,” said James, himself no stranger to east London, having been born in Bow.

“We don’t know where the journey will go yet.

“It will be a fantastic place to come.

“We’ve got about 100 team members and I expect to end up with between 200 and 300 eventually. 

“We’re aiming to cater for 400-600 customers a day, and that could end up being 1,000 to 2,000 a day.

“We’re very organic in our approach to things like that.”

Capable of anything from 250 diners to 500 depending on configuration, Roe is the result of extensive thought and planning.

“Opening Fallow was wonderful, but it was intense – it was during lockdown and it was a rush,” said James.

“We had to get it open and everyone came together to make it happen.

“With this one, we’ve had time on our hands to get even more of the details right, so I feel pretty proud sitting here right now.”

An image of the interior of Roe restaurant in Canary Wharf featuring a large sculpture that looks like a coral in white and red hues
Roe’s interior features a large 3D printed, plant-based sculpture intended to recall the structure of a coral

Interior features

The team have transformed a spare concrete box, working with 30 contractors to deliver a finished restaurant.

The installation includes around 16 metres of aeroponic and hydroponic vertical farm that is already being used to grow ingredients for dishes and cocktails.

“The way I put it is that we’ll have about 300 plants growing at any one time, and we’ll be producing about £1,000 to £1,500 worth of produce a month – although this wouldn’t last more than a week with us,” said James. 

“What it does do is engage the team, some of whom will never have grown a vegetable in their lives.

“They come to work with us and this way, they get to understand those ingredients, they see things grow, they taste them straight from the vine and that does wonders for the team.

“That comes across in the business and hopefully this comes across to the customer. For me it’s about the team engaging with nature – the customers love it too. 

“We’re currently growing padron peppers, lemon verbena, thyme, basil and strawberries.”

An image of maitake Cornish pasty with walnut ketchup, costing £9 at Roe
Maitake Cornish pasty with walnut ketchup, £9 at Roe

What’s on the menu at Roe?

Vital, of course, to Roe’s reception will be its food, which comes with a focus on sharing dishes served with a side of sustainability.

Snacks include breaded mushooms, charcuterie and oysters, while small plates feature sea bream tartare, cuttlefish fried toast and lamb ribs. These range from £4-£21 and £9-£16 respectively. 

Skewers of white cabbage, venison, octopus and rare breed pork are available with prices ranging from £9-£13. Flatbreads come with either scallops, snail vindaloo or pumpkin and cost £10-£16.

Large plates include a venison and dairy cow burger, flamed siracha mussels and a baked potato, with prices from £14-£16 and there are also steaks from £26-£36 or at £11 per 100g. 

Feasting options for two or more include seafood, a mixed grill or Jacob’s ladder ribs for £75, £52 or £42 respectively.

It’s fair to say that taking the guidance of the waiting staff on what and how much to order is advised.

Helmed by head chef Jon Bowring – who, like founders Will and Jack, used to work at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – the kitchen is a hive of activity at Roe.

An image of a nail vindaloo flatbread with mint yoghurt and coriander, costing £11 at the restaurant
A snail vindaloo flatbread with mint yoghurt and coriander, £11 at Roe

Full flavour

“Flavour is a massive thing for us,” said James.

“We’re not your average restaurant – it’s very intense, quality products served by a team that is relaxed, casual and happy – not pretentious in any way.

“People can expect great food. I’d really recommend people come and try us – our menu is so diverse. 

“It might be vindaloo flatbread with snails, our amazing breaded mushrooms, a fantastic Sunday lunch or our take on Fruits de Mer, which is nothing like the traditional version.

“What you will not get here is the mundane, a light salad, just chicken or just beef – you will get flavour.

“Personally I like to order a snack, a flatbread, some skewers and our banana dessert, which is one of the best I’ve ever tried.

“For a cocktail, my favourite is the Carrot Gimlet with No. 3 Gin – which divides people. We use sand carrots for the cordial that give it a lovely flavour.”

An image of breaded mushrooms with kombu and garlic mayonnaise costing £7 at the restaurant
Breaded mushrooms with kombu and garlic mayonnaise, £7 at Roe

Drinks, design and energy

Many of the drinks at the bar feature ingredients from Roe’s vertical farm.

Its signature drinks are all priced at £12 and include a Lemon Verbena Swizzle with vodka and lime and an Apple Sour with butterfuly sorrel, Buffalo Trace, green apple and egg white.

While food, drink and interior design all contribute to success in the restaurant industry, James said the sum of those parts was the important equation to consider. 

“A world-class restaurant is a combination of things,” he said.

“If we can be so bold – and we’re not there yet – it’s design and it’s people.

“There’s the team and the customers. It’s food and drink too. All those things together lead to energy, positivity and happiness.

“I’ve seen places that just have amazing service or just have amazing food or just have amazing design fail – but I’ve never seen a restaurant with that good energy go bust.

An image of cuttlefish fried toast with pork skin, sesame and chilli jam at Roe, costing £11
Cuttlefish fried toast with pork skin, sesame and chilli jam, £11 at Roe

“We’re here to give people a great experience and we’ll do all we can to do this in a timely manner.

“If you want to get in and out really quickly, we may not be the one for you.

“We work on atmosphere, on focus and on flavour.

“A lot of business is done at restaurants nowadays, so I would say we’re the place for a long lunch.”

Raring to go

“We’ve engaged with the neighbours a lot, which has been nice and they’ve been supportive and come back,” said James

“It feels like the start of the journey now.

“I don’t call this Canary Wharf, I call it Wood Wharf, east London.

“There’s a certain demographic that only know the estate for its tall financial towers, but the way it is now is that there are more £1,000 trainers and £200 T-shirts here than there are suits.

An image of the vertical farm at Roe in Canary Wharf with plants growing up a lit wall surrounded by rebar
Roe features a vertical farm, allowing staff to grow produce in the restaurant

“It’s a wonderful environment – it’s digital lifestylers and Instagrammers – there’s a really good energy to it.

“I think that message is lost when you just say ‘Canary Wharf’.

“It’s about getting across that there are thousands of residents here – not just people working in financial services.

“I would say the demographic we’re after is about 80% non-financial.

“Our main business is our neighbours, followed by destinational foodies, which is why the Elizabeth Line and Jubilee line are fantastic for us.

“We’re not the norm for this area. We bring another level of energy, and hopefully a level of flavour and excitement here.”

An image of a large dining table at the restaurant in Canary Wharf with place settings. Large golden light fittings hang above
Roe boast many dining areas including this long, semi-private table

key details

Roe is located on the ground floor of One Park Drive at Wood Wharf.

It is currently open Monday-Saturday from noon-11pm and from 11.30am-11pm on Sundays.

The restaurant operates a £50 per head cancellation policy if a booking is cancelled within 48 hours of the reservation.

Roe is located a short walk from the eastern exit of Canary Wharf’s Jubilee line and Elizabeth Line stations.

Find out more about Roe restaurant in Canary Wharf here

Read more: How YY London is office space fit for 2024 in Canary Wharf

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Isle Of Dogs: How Leslie Nkansah is set to take over food at The Space Bar

The arts centre, restaurant and bar on Westferry Road is getting a new head chef, formerly of Fat Boy’s Diner

The Space Bar’s new head chef, Leslie Nkansah

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Tere’s something brewing at The Space, steeping, infusing, intensifying.

Ingredients are coming together and there’s change in the air.

That’s because The Space Bar – the arts centre’s food, drink and occasional event venue – is all set to welcome a new head chef.

Leslie Nkansah became a cook “by mistake”. Unsure of what to do after leaving school in Shepherd’s Bush at 16, a careers advisor mentioned the idea of an apprenticeship.

“They said I’d get paid while I worked and a qualification as well, so I went along,” said Les.

“That was at Mezzo in Wardour Street, which was owned by Conran.

“It was one of the biggest restaurants in Europe at the time and I spent four years there under head chef John Torode.”

Suffice to say, the Masterchef presenter isn’t the only big name influence on Leslie’s CV.

From Mezzo, he went on to work with Henry Harris of Hush and Racine fame, spent a year in Switzerland and came back to the UK to work with Gordon Ramsay, opening the York And Albany near Regent’s Park – now closed and recently occupied by squatters.

“I fell into doing a few events after that like Royal Ascot and then went back to work for John Torode at Smith’s Of Smithfield, where I was head chef in 2011,” said Leslie.

“I was then asked by them if I’d like to go back to Switzerland as they were opening a restaurant and I spent three years working there mainly in the ski season. 

“That’s when I heard about the super yachts – people would head down from the mountains to Nice and Antibes, so I jumped on that.

“I worked on some amazing vessels – the amount of money and produce just blew me away. You can’t experience how those people live until you’re in that environment. 

“I stayed out there until 2017, when I decided to come back to England – I had some savings and decided to start Black Star Kitchen.

“I got the name from the Ghanaian flag – my dad’s from Ghana and my mum’s half Scottish.” 

Having returned to the UK, Leslie set about cooking anything and everything – including creating pop-up Ten Radius, a fine dining residency in Brighton where 80% of the ingredients were sourced from within 10 miles of the venue.

“Then Covid hit and put a spanner in the works for a lot of things,” he said. “After the pandemic, I found Fat Boy’s Diner at Trinity Buoy Wharf.

“I took that on for just over a year but unfortunately the footfall and the cost of living crisis meant my pockets weren’t deep enough to keep it going. 

“That was a shame because it’s a beautiful establishment and I had a lot of ideas and plans for it.”

Bar board chair at The Space, Andrew Finnegan

a move to the Island

It was also there that Leslie met Andrew Finnegan, bar board chair at The Space, whose interest was piqued by a serving of deep-fried olives.

Discussions that started around Leslie doing a pop-up took a different turn when a vacancy for head chef at the venue came up.

Now he’s set to take over the kitchen full-time from mid May, 2024.

“We relaunched the kitchen approximately 18 months ago and we always knew that food was one of the levers we could pull to increase trade at the venue to support the work The Space does,” said Andrew.

“We’d launched brunch in October and the idea was to have pop-ups and guest chefs.

“Pre-Covid it was a lively spot and now we have a full-time chef again, we want to get back to that. 

“Menu-wise it’s about getting re-established, attracting that footfall and then we can experiment.” 

fresh direction

Leslie added: “I got really excited when I saw the building and the outside space – there’s so much potential.

“I want to create a community hub where people can come to meet up, grab a good snack and mingle. 

“Everyone needs a place where they can come, no matter what their background, have good food and good drinks and enjoy the vibes – that’s my intention.

“Food-wise I’m looking at doing the same sort of thing I was doing at Fat Boy’s.

“There will be burgers and snacks, but I also want to play around with traditional English dishes like scotch eggs.

“I have a vegetarian one with beetroot and another where I use duck to coat the eggs.

“The layout at The Space is quite informal, so it will be grab-and-go – accessible dishes.”

supporting The Space

The plan is very much to make use of Leslie’s talents to build up the venue, with dishes that fit alongside the multitude of shows and events it hosts.

Andrew said: “It will be really nice when we get this going.

“Our brunches have been successful and their growth has been organic – people try it once and then come back.

“The more people who come here for the food and drink means the more money The Space has and the more shows it can put on its stage.”

While the bar has naturally been a stop-off for those coming to the Island for performances, it’s long played a dual role as a meeting point and welcoming haven for local residents.

Initially Leslie’s menus will aim to serve both communities with dishes appealing to wide audiences. 

However, further down the line there will hopefully be scope to experiment – an obvious step with such serious talent in the kitchen.

“I really do like to cook everything,” said Leslie.

“I love good ingredients, I love playing with food and putting ingredients in which wouldn’t normally go together and seeing if they work.

“At the moment, I’m really getting into fermenting things.

“Of course I like cooking traditional dishes – I’ve learnt from every kitchen I’ve been in – and I think my Sunday roast is among the best in the country – although that’s yet to be proven.

“I also love smoking meat, brisket or even cauliflower. I like sweet flavours with spice – lots of chillies but with maple syrup.

“My signature dish was wood pigeon with trompet mushroom puree, caramelised shallot and tapenade.

“If all this works out, I definitely want to discuss the idea of a supper club here.”

We can’t wait… 

key details

The Space is located in Westferry Road on the Isle Of Dogs and is easily reached in less than 10 minutes from Canary Wharf via the D7, 277 or 135 direct buses.

Current opening hours for The Space Bar are noon-11pm Mon-Thurs, noon-midnight on Fridays, 10am-midnight on Saturdays and 10am-10.30pm on Sundays.

Find out more about The Space Bar here

Read more: How YY London is office space fit for 2024 in Canary Wharf

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

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

Canary Wharf: 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?

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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 Karapincha is bringing Sri Lankan flavours back to the Wharf

Twin sisters Vasanthini and Dharshini Perumal are set to open a grab and go branch in the Tube station

Karapincha’s freshly made Kothu Roti with lamb

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There’s spice, fire, zest and vigour in the eyes of Karapincha founders Vasanthini and Dharshini Perumal and that’s before we’ve even mentioned the food.

The twin sisters are a force to be reckoned with, boasting CVs that name-check JP Morgan, EY, Nomura, RBS, KPMG, Six Degrees Group and many more.

Accountancy, project management, finance, entrepreneurial verve – it’s all there. So why give up flourishing careers in finance to launch a hospitality business?

 “Ever since we came to the UK from Sri Lanka in 2011, we knew we wanted to create a business,” said Vasanthini.

“Some people think that with Indian or Sri Lankan food that you have to sit down and have a meal, but that’s not necessarily the case – you can convert these cuisines to grab-and-go. 

“We’d been thinking about the idea and had done some test marketing at an evening market in Shoreditch – we cooked up some food with our family and it was really nicely taken up.

“We were able to sell more than 100 portions – people really liked it. 

“Then our mum and dad got sick and we couldn’t concentrate on starting something immediately.

“In the meantime Hoppers, a restaurant in Soho, started up and I thought: ‘Bugger – they’ve got my concept’.”

Undeterred, however, and with a faith that their time was yet to come, the duo bided their time before an introduction in Canary Wharf led them in a fresh direction.

“A colleague at JP Morgan introduced me to The Limehouse – a bar and restaurant run by Fuller’s on Fisherman’s Walk,” said Dharshini.

“They loved the food, but weren’t sure whether to go ahead until suddenly everything became OK and we went to sign the contract. 

“It only gave us three weeks to get going – we didn’t have a name, any staff, crockery a menu or anything in the kitchen. Luckily we work well under pressure.”

Karapincha co-founder Dharshini Perumal

Their determination won through with the twins pulling everything together to open in 2018, bringing their version of Sri Lankan cuisine to Wharfers in a 180-cover restaurant.

“Fuller’s was a really good partner for us – there was so much learning to do,” said Vasanthini.

“We had a really good partnership, learning the hygiene systems and how to organise our operation.

“They rebranded the place to match our colours – they really supported us and helped us to start up.”

The Limehouse, along with its neighbour, The Merchant, didn’t reopen following the pandemic, however, with Fuller’s deciding to leave the Canary Wharf estate.

However, Karapincha survives – running in sites at Mercato Metropolitano in Elephant And Castle and Old Spitalfields Market – and Vasanthini and Dharshini are set to bring the brand back to Canary Wharf – albeit in a different form in the Jubilee line station.

Karapincha is expecting to start trading in mid-July. 

“We’re going to be the first hospitality business to open in a Tube station where the kitchen will actually be cooking food,” said Vasanthini.

“Being in the station, we’re going to take the full opportunity to trade from morning until evening, breakfast, lunch and dinner – it’s a grab-and-go concept.

“We’ll be doing some things that are different here to our other sites because of all the offices nearby so that people will be able to come into work and eat our food.”

What won’t change, however, is the twins’ approach to the core flavours Karapincha champions.

“If you ask me where I would like to dine in London, the answer would be our place, because it’s nice comfort food,” said Dharshini.

“It reminds us of home-cooked food, just like our mother made – that’s what we always wanted.

“We didn’t want complicated, fancy stuff.

“We use a central kitchen to supply our sites, but everything is home-cooked style. We make everything we serve from scratch including the mayonnaise and the ketchup.

Karapincha co-founder Vasanthini Perumal

“It’s about conscientiously, carefully making food that is good for your health – exactly as you would if you had people coming to your house for lunch.

“That’s how we train our staff – they’re a lovely bunch who look after each other like family and a happy kitchen means a happy customer. 

“When they buy it, people should not feel that our food is from a shop.

“We also cook in front of customers so they know they are getting something fresh. 

“For example, the boys will make the paratha in the kitchen every day and we never freeze food or bring anything from elsewhere – it’s all made by us on a daily basis.”

Having had the teaser photos on the previous pages, it’s now time to talk about the food. Karapincha is proud to serve a selection of potent Sri Lankan dishes, all with the twins’ personal twist.

Front and centre is the Kothu Roti – a stir fry made with chopped roti bread, vegetables and eggs, flavoured with Sri Lankan curries and sliced up with energy as it cooks on the griddle.

Vegan, chicken and lamb versions are all available.

Vegan curry with rice from Karapincha

Then there’s the traditional Sri Lankan lunch of rice with curry, or how about a flaky folded paratha to dip in a rich coconut-laced sauce?

Failing that, there’s always the devilled chicken and fried rice or lamb rolls to fall back on – which all pack a punch.

When the twins first opened in Elephant And Castle, they were advised to tone down the spice a bit.

Suffice to say they ignored the advice and quickly built up a line of hungry fans eager to feel their tongues fizz from the pepper.

 “The name of Karapincha comes from the curry leaf used in Sri Lankan cooking,” said Dharshini.

“It’s all about what we like to eat – what we grew up eating and the stuff our mother taught us.

“We use her recipe for curry powder, which contains 12 ingredients in specific quantities and we import them from Sri Lanka and grind it in our kitchen.

“The island is known for the best cinnamon in the world.

“But there are some twists too – if you go to that country, you won’t find our pineapple pickle served at any of the roti street food stalls.”

A fried lamb roll from Karapincha

The twins also promise twists on bacon and egg for breakfast at the Canary Wharf store alongside porridges and even a high tea box to tempt office workers looking for afternoon refreshment. 

But then, perhaps this kind of thing is to be expected from a pair of founders who, upon discovering a local mine was up for sale in Sri Lanka, bought it and turned their hand to exporting silica quartz to Japan and Korea, growing the operation to support 100 employees before selling it to mining giant Nippon seven years later.

“It’s really fulfilling to have started Karapincha,” said Vasanthini.

“We’re really happy. We wanted to do something in the UK, so we put this in motion and it’s been functioning for four years. 

“It’s a journey and now we’re looking to take it to the next level and to operate a franchise model.

“We are slowly growing and we want to get bigger – at first within London. Canary Wharf will be our flagship now that we’re catching up after Covid.

“It’s also about the team – the people who work for us are a family.

“They’re so good, really brilliant and they never give up – and they need something to grow into.”

Chicken curry with paratha from Karapincha

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Deptford: How Taca Tacos mixes flavours of Mexico and California in Deptford

Restaurant owner Thorne Addyman talks juggling looking after a newborn with opening his first site

Thorne Addyman, owner of Taca Tacos in Deptford – image Matt Grayson

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

When we chat, Thorne Addyman is rumpled, tired and a little distracted.

Pretty standard for someone who has launched their first restaurant – Taca Tacos – during an economic crisis.

But his disarray is also due to the Deptford resident recently becoming a father.

If you think it sounds bonkers to bring new life into the world at the same time as launching a Mexican restaurant, I agree.

But Thorne said opening in Deptford Market Yard a few weeks before his daughter was born felt just right.

“I’ve been interested in the arches for a while but it’s a big commitment,” said Thorne, who has spent years cooking at pop-ups and markets. 

“A year ago, I did go and view one, but didn’t feel ready.

“Then, it was still available in June, so I asked to have another look and it felt like the right decision to go for it.

“Deptford feels more alive this year and it seems like people who don’t live here are taking it more seriously and saying it is really coming up. 

“I only live four minutes away and was having a baby, so that made it all very manageable.”

Reality is hitting a bit differently now he has to get up in the night for nappy changes and feeds.

But Thorne does seem to be managing the juggle admirably, roping in family to help with babysitting while he preps ingredients.

The restaurant serves up six varieties of tacos, inspired by Thorne’s trips round the food truck scenes in California and Mexico – where he had his eyes opened to the amazing variations of the dish.

Food at Taca Tacos in Deptford Market Yard – image Matt Grayson

His menu includes the bestselling beef birria, which takes six-hours to slow-cook in a broth flavoured with four different chillies that’s then served on the side for dipping.

There is also the green chile pork served with avocado, pink onions, jalapeno salsa and coriander; the chicken pibil, baja fish, pulled ‘shrooms quesataco and a black bean taco.

“There are no rules for tacos,” said Thorne. “There are combinations of flavours that work better, but it is just about carrying food to your mouth.

“Going on those trips really helped me understand how amazing Mexican food can be and how that’s missing in this country.

“It’s mind-boggling that everywhere you go they have their own styles.

“In Mexico City I had an Argentinian fusion taco with smoked cheese and rib-eye steak.

“I’m interpreting different areas and bringing a different collection of flavours and styles to London.

“The Mexican wave is very early on and I’m hopefully catching it at the right time.”

Formerly an east Londoner, Thorne and his wife moved to Deptford in 2018 attracted by its “cool vibe”.

“It felt like there was a strong community here and such an array of food and drinks and shops as well,” he said.

“Walking down the high street, it almost felt like you could be in a different country with the smells, colours and fabrics.”

As we talk I can sense Thorne is in that new baby haze, where parents are prone to streams of consciousness.

“It is still in the phase where it’s all very new and we’re like: ‘What is this thing? How do we keep it alive?’,” he said.

The restaurant blends Mexican and Californian flavours – image Matt Grayson

My request for some career background is met with a 20-minute rundown of his life from age 14, when he started as a pot washer in his home town of Hay On Wye in Wales.

He talks about learning the importance of little things such as caramelizing onions for flavour, his move to London to work at Jamie Oliver’s steak restaurant Barbecoa in St Paul’s, and his two-year hiatus at a food and drink PR agency in Shoreditch.

The pull between kitchen and office continued, with a stint doing savoury waffle pop-ups in east London followed by a job for St Austell brewery in sales. 

“I didn’t love it or hate it,” said Thorne. “But fast forward two-and-a-half years and I got that itch again to do something with food. 

“My mum’s family are American and we were very lucky as kids that we were able to go to California near enough every year, where there’s lots of Mexican food.

“So my wife and I went on a road trip there and spent a lot of time eating tacos to really soak up some of the Mexican food that was about.

“When we came back, I started recipe testing and finding authentic suppliers in London.”

In June 2019 Thorne started with a four-week taco pop-up at The Greenhouse in New Cross Road (since closed), which sold out every night.

A three-month stint at a tequila bar in Dalston was juggled around his job, but just as momentum was building, Covid hit.

Furloughed from work, Thorne sold taco meal kits and a partnership with Plateaway saw his numbers jump from batches of  20 that he hand-delivered in south-east London to selling 200 a week nationwide.

“We got lots of good reviews, lots of bloggers wanted to try them but, as lockdown began to ease, we had to stop,” he said.

“All the way back in 2018, I’d put in a proposal for Brockley market, which is notoriously difficult to get into, but then the guy who runs it contacted me the day before we got married last August, and asked if I could do tacos there.

“It was a big moment as it’s established – some of the traders have been there for 10 years and it was a gateway to something a bit more serious.

“I could buy some equipment and it wouldn’t just be a pop-up.

Thorne cooks beef for six hours for his beef birria tacos – image Matt Grayson

“We did that every Saturday and built up a customer base and got lots of good feedback.  

“It was the first time I was able to interact with customers and having them come up and tell you they’ve enjoyed it makes it all worthwhile.”

Events with Kerb and wedding catering followed and then Thorne decided to up his game with a trip to Mexico.

“I hadn’t ever been before, which I didn’t feel was great given I was selling tacos,” he said.

“I went to Mexico, southern California and Austin, Texas – I read lots of books and blogs and ate tacos and burritos all day.

“The food trucks of LA  became a big inspiration for our business.

“It’s a pretty good way of bringing it over to London because they are Mexican families but they cater for western buyers.

“Going there, seeing it, eating it, tasting it was so important. Knowing my food was up to scratch compared to those who have cooked it from recipes that have been in families for generations.

“When I came back, I felt fully inspired.”

He had taken on Deptford local Tung Van Phan as head chef in November who encouraged him to go for it, when the Market Yard space came back on the table.

“Tung has completely thrown himself in and I could not have done this without his help,” said Thorne. “He is such a big part of the story and the journey. “

The duo spent time building the menu and the venue, with handmade tables, authentic Mexican ingredients and finishing touches Thorne said made all the difference.

“We spend three hours making a salsa because the ones you buy aren’t fresh,” he said. 

“They don’t really give you that hit of deliciousness and umami, where you taste all of the different levels.

“We spend a lot of time recipe testing and speaking to butchers and suppliers about what they’ve got. 

“I think the tortillas I use are the best in the UK because they are made fresh by two Mexican guys and delivered the next day.”

So how is he managing to juggle childrearing and restaurant running?

“It’s been a crazy couple of months really,” he said.

“We’ve got family based in Deptford so yesterday my auntie picked our daughter up and one of her cousins was playing with her all day.

“I was able to do prep and my wife was able to sleep.

“Being a parent is a completely new area of life that you never knew existed until you’re in it. It’s definitely been interesting doing both.”

Thorne visited California and Mexico for inspiration – image Matt Grayson

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Canary Wharf: How M restaurant takes dining on the estate to another level

Founder of the steak specialist, Martin Williams, on water bikes, St Tropez and carbon-neutral meat

M founder and CEO Martin Williams
M founder and CEO Martin Williams – image Matt Grayson

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Water bikes, duck eggs from the local waterfowl, hydroponically grown salad ingredients from the Isle Of Dogs – oh, and steak, a great deal of steak.

There’s something happening on the lower floors of Newfoundland tower at the eastern edge of Canary Wharf and it promises a completely different experience to anything the estate has seen before.

Open now for summer previews, with an official launch set for September 5, M restaurant has been long in the making.

For the brand’s CEO and founder Martin Williams, to see the doors open is both a thrill and a challenge.

“We signed the deal for the space when the building was just foundations and it went up pretty spectacularly,” he said. 

“But it’s taken a bit longer than everybody planned, with the pandemics and the war, but it’s great that six years on the dream has become a reality.”

That dream is one that builds on the success of M’s first two sites – in the City’s Threadneedle Street and Victoria. 

Cobia tartare at M restuarant
Cobia tartare at M restuarant

Its latest opening, in Canary Wharf, promises to further the spirit and verve of the brand.

It’s a reflection of the complementary dichotomy Martin’s character hints at – a man who is at once laser-focused on the detail of the businesses he runs, balanced by the kind of sense of fun that has seen his restaurants offer wheel of fortune prizes to Christmas revellers and an hour of free wine and cheese to mark the recent spate of Governmental resignations.

The slick operation of the venues is a given, but it doesn’t take much for him to sail away on the romance of the inspiration behind them.

“While there are small moments of self-congratulation in running a business – when everybody’s gone home and you sit there and feel you’ve achieved something – in your mind you’re always thinking what more you can do, how you can make the place super special,” said Martin.

“When you walk into any restaurant, you’re looking at the micro details – when I dine out with my wife, she makes me sit facing the wall.

“And there’s so much detail in our Canary Wharf restaurant – the inspirations are from the Cote d’Azur, the Riviera and Lake Como.

“We want to stay with the water – we’re surrounded by it with 360º glass – and we wanted to play on that with the colours.

“There are lots of net details, metalwork inspired by yachts, portholes, seagulls – real maritime inspiration and that feels very fitting.

Tuna tataki at M restaurant
Tuna tataki at M

“There’s nothing like this on the Isle Of Dogs or in Canary Wharf – it’s a different level in terms of decor, the level of hospitality and the quality of the products.

“When combined with the wow factor of the views, people who visit will very quickly acknowledge this is somewhere special.”

M is set to launch its St Tropez Beach Brunch on August 27 and 28, slightly ahead of its official opening.

Running from noon-3pm on the Saturday and Sunday of the Bank Holiday weekend, £65 buys a two-course meal and 90 minutes of free-flowing Mirabeau wine or  cocktails.

As with other M sites, the venue has a range of facilities that will act as host to a varied programme of events in addition to its core business.

“We’ve tried to create a venue that you can use for a number of different reasons,” said Martin

“On the ground floor we have La Petite M, which is a wine and wagyu bar with wagyu sausage muffins and bacon sandwiches for breakfast – then it goes into wagyu Cuban sandwiches for lunch and, in the evening, charcuterie plates and wine

“The cafe is very much a grab and go concept and with 600 residents above us, we think it will be very popular for breakfast.

“Then, the main venue is our gastro playground, which is reached via a spiral staircase. It’s akin to walking into a hotel lobby, a very sensory environment that we hope will build anticipation.

Martin says M is a gastronomic playground
Martin says M is a gastronomic playground – image Matt Grayson

“Go up and you’ll be confronted with six ageing chambers for our beef – it’s a bit in-your-face.

“Then there’s a cocktail bar, two private dining rooms, a private members’ lounge, a wine tasting area, a terrace and the grill restaurant specialising in Provencal cuisine.

“Throughout, you can enjoy heightened hospitality.

“It’s always our intention to give you an amazing dining experience.

“We’re cooking on wood, coal and smoke and we specialise in beef with the best meat from around the world.

“We have quality wagyu from Japan and cuts of Blackmore wagyu from Australia – exclusive to us, Heston Blumenthal and The Ledbury – so there are some incredible beef offerings

“All of our steaks are carbon neutral – the way we do that is by having partner farms across the globe where we know the farmers very well and we measure their carbon footprint and the methane output of the cattle. 

“Then we measure the transportation impact of bringing all of our foods to the table, and then we mitigate or reduce that at source as much as possible, and we offset it with a charity we have that is concerned with a reforestation programme in the Amazon.

“That means you can dine knowing it’s not having a negative impact on the environment.

“We also offer a lot more besides. About 50% of our diners eat steak and that means half order other dishes – the rest of our menu has been described as Michelin level food with flair. 

Wagyu scotch egg at M

“We’re very casual and accessible, but the quality is up there with the best restaurants in the UK.”

That M’s third site is in Canary Wharf is no coincidence. Martin, left Marske-By-The-Sea near Middlesborough for London aged 18, working in hospitality through his studies before deciding to take restaurants “very seriously” at the age of 24.

His first managerial role was at Gaucho’s Canary Wharf branch, a business he eventually rose to become MD at and that he is once again running alongside M.

“We had a sheltered upbringing with one row of houses between us and the North Sea and a five-minute drive to the North York Moors – Heartbeat country,” he said. 

“When I came to London it was a wonderful shock to the senses, very busy and very diverse.

“You could be anyone you wanted to be. Canary Wharf has changed immeasurably since I first came here – it’s a very different landscape.

“When I launched M in 2014, I was looking at the Wharf and the City, but the Threadneedle Street site had previously been a restaurant so a lot less capital was needed to open.

“This new venue should be the making of M. 

“I love Canary Wharf, the cleanliness and the safety but also the journey it’s been on over the past 15 years to become more than a sterile environment, with real culture and art and the way the waterways are being used in different ways now. 

“We’re hoping to do a competition where businesses and residents can race water bikes along Middle Dock with some great prizes for the winners.

“We want to open with a bang and offer the highly competitive people of Canary Wharf a way to have some fun, get some exercise and enjoy the world’s best beef.”

M’s signature Bakewell Tart

Read more: Go for a dip in the dock in Canary Wharf

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Blackwall: How Gelato A Casa offers refreshment with a Greek twist at Republic

Dessert restaurant near East India DLR station serves layered gelato and a range of sweet treats

Bitter chocolate and sour cherry gelato at Gelato A Casa
Bitter chocolate and sour cherry gelato at Gelato A Casa

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This might be the perfect time to be writing about Gelato A Casa.

As the UK endures another heatwave – an increasingly common occurrence – what better establishment to showcase than an independent business that predominantly trades in edible products served below freezing.   

Gelato A Casa opened a year ago at the Republic campus in Blackwall and is the brainchild of directors Theo Alatas and Elvira Govosti.

Having met in Athens, the couple decided to relocate to London, moving to the Isle Of Dogs six years ago. 

“We met nine years ago and very quickly became a couple – we had similar outlooks on life,” said Elvira. 

“We both wanted to pursue something more than what we had in Greece.

“We came to the UK to see what we could do with our skills in advertising, sales, construction, organisation and project management. 

“Covid was one of the things that sparked the creation of our own business – we thought we wanted to do something with our lives that we were passionate about.”

Gelato A Casa directors Theo Alatas and Elvira Govosti
Gelato A Casa directors Theo Alatas and Elvira Govosti

The couple decided to combine a love of food with connections to a gelato business in Greece, by opening a hospitality business primarily focused on sweet, frozen refreshments.

“This comes from our culture, the way we grew up – you can go to a restaurant at midnight for a steak or whatever in Athens,” said Theo.

“Hence the concept of the dessert restaurant. We’re open all the time – from 8.30am until 9pm every day.

“We were looking for somewhere with a nice exterior so people could sit down and enjoy our food.

“Republic is a lovely development that’s full of small gems that people need to find. Even though we lived in Crossharbour for five years we never knew about it.

“The biggest challenge for us at the moment is to say to the people that this is who we are, this is what we do and that they can have a lovely experience. 

“We serve eastern Mediterranean flavours and we have a wide variety of options.

“Back in the day our grandparents would take us to pastry shops with desserts rich in syrups and spices – this is how we grew up – and now we’re serving those same flavours here.

“The idea is to serve those desserts, but to also bring the tastes into the gelato we sell as well.

“We want people to come and try as many different flavours as they like, for free.

“There are two categories – customers who are already aware, because they come from these cultures and others who are new to them.

“It’s very interesting describing the flavours and telling the stories of how they came to be developed. 

“For us, growing up and eating these desserts was another level of happiness.

“The ultimate goal of this shop is to be exactly the same as those our grandfathers and grandmothers took us to when we were children. 

“That way, people can bring their families here and have those hand-made desserts that they will remember in 30 or 50 years.”

Gelato A Casa is located at Republic near East India DLR
Gelato A Casa is located at Republic near East India DLR

The couple had no experience in the hospitality industry when they decided to set the business up, but see this as an asset.

“We are both passionate about food, good quality and finding the best ingredients,” said Elvira.

“The desserts we make are something you would serve your friends at home, not just something to sell and earn money.

“We like to feel proud about what we serve to our customers.

“When our amazing friends created their gelato laboratory in Greece we were among the first people to experience it.

“There’s nothing like it in the UK, so we thought we should find a way to work with them and to share it with the world.

“The response was: ‘Wow’. If you do things honestly and are hospitable when people come through the door you can really stand behind what you’re doing.

“We have approached the business as though we were inviting people into our home – we want to make it as safe and as comfortable as possible for families and everybody else to enjoy.”

Cadif gelato at Gelato A Casa
Cadif gelato at Gelato A Casa

Gelato A Casa offers an extensive array of flavours including kadaif, bitter chocolate and sour cherry, banofi and even bubblegum.

“Pastries include baklava, ravani and terkenlis brioche chocolate alongside savouries such as Feta pie and the sesame-coated koulouri.

“We serve food that we miss from our country and that’s what people appreciate the most,” said Theo.

“We get people who are trying these things for the very first time and have no idea what they’re all about and others who say that we have done the impossible by putting these flavours into gelato.

“It’s also lovely that we’re here because the walls surrounding Republic were originally to protect the East India Company’s docks to stop thieves stealing from the sugar and spice warehouses.

“We want people to come through the walls for a taste.”

Located just across the bridge from East India DLR, Gelato A Casa also sells coffee including another Greek favourite.

“Coffee freddo is not a thing in the UK,” said Elvira.

“People usually have it warm and if you want an iced coffee then you’re pretty much out of options unless you have a latte from a chain which is usually really acidic and milk-heavy.

“We serve it because it’s complementary to the other flavours we have here.

“What we’ve discovered is that not everyone is very adventurous with what they want to try, but here people can sample as many flavours as they want.

“Then they get that confidence and when they discover something, that becomes their favourite.”

Theo added: “It’s important to realise the difference between ice cream and gelato. Ice cream is what you buy from the supermarkets, with an expiry date of two, maybe three years, and it’s as solid as a brick.

“Gelato is made from milk – we have our own machinery to pasteurise it ourselves – and then we buy the fruits from producers, and it needs to be eaten within a few days.

“Some of our flavours are seasonal because the variety of ingredients we’re able to source changes.

“We think we have a great product and we’d love people to come and try it.”

Gelato A Casa also offers savoury food and coffee
Gelato A Casa also offers savoury food and coffee

Read more: How Just Vibez is set to take over Greenwich Peninsula

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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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Royal Docks: How Little Hudson cafe at Royal Wharf was inspired by New York

Owner Nicola Micah talks banking, motherhood and serving up all sorts of dishes to east Londoners

Nicola Micah outside her cafe - Little Hudson
Nicola Micah outside her cafe – Little Hudson – image Matt Grayson

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

The concrete jungle is “where dreams are made of” according to Alicia Keys’ song New York.

But for Nicola Micah the Big Apple simply provided the inspiration for her Royal Docks reality.

The Londoner was living it up in Manhattan with her husband – banking by day and soaking up all the city had to offer by night

“We moved to New York in our late 20s and loved it,” she said.

“For me, the whole point of being there was to be in the centre of everything. 

“But we knew we wanted to start a family and I didn’t want to do it there. We knew we wanted to move back home.”

By 2019 she was back – running fledgling café Little Hudson around the corner from Thames Barrier Park and raising her newborn son.

It was a huge transition, but one Nicola makes seem as natural as breathing.

“In New York, brunch is such a big part of the lifestyle and I’ve always loved food – working in a bank wasn’t really me,” she said. 

“So I decided I was going to have a look into it and see if there were any units around.

“When I did, I quickly realised we needed to go for it because there were some available. 

“I knew if we waited we might miss out or other places might move in and then there would already be competition.

“Then I got pregnant, unexpectedly, and that really pushed us to do it. I could have moved back to the UK and got a job in banking, but I wanted to do something I really loved.”

Little Hudson is located in Starboard Way, Royal Wharf
Little Hudson is located in Starboard Way, Royal Wharf – image Matt Grayson

Nicola named Little Hudson to “bring a little slice of New York to Royal Docks” and juggles running it with raising her three-year-old son Rafi.

The café, in Starboard Way, is open seven days a week until 4pm with a staff of 10 and the menu is very much inspired by the brunch scene in Manhattan while also including some English classics.

Dishes include banana and caramel pancakes (£11), a brekkie bagel (£8) with scrambled egg, cheese, chives, turkey bacon or smoked salmon, and the popular ​​Hudson brekky plate (£12) with turkey bacon, two eggs, hash brown, Hudson beans, sautéed mushrooms and sourdough toast. 

Nicola said: “When we were planning I was thinking about what kind of place people would go to regularly, not just once every two weeks.

“I wanted to choose the best thing to do in terms of being able to survive.

“Our food is the kind people want to eat every day, because it’s not really greasy. I like to keep the menu fresh and change it every few months for people who come quite regularly.”

Royal Docks is no Manhattan – the population is still small – but Nicola said that was the draw for her.

“Before we went to New York we were living in the area, so we knew it really well but there was literally nothing there,” said the 32-year-old.

“Then they started developing it and all the flats were put up and I thought it was a great opportunity to open something related to food, because there’s nothing else around there.”

Nicola's food is inspired by her life in New York
Nicola’s food is inspired by her life in New York – image Matt Grayson

She and her husband left the area to move Stateside after he landed a role with financial services company Moody’s.

Data analyst Nicola had previously worked for Santander and HSBC and then found work with Citibank.

When they decided to return, Nicola used her financial skills to create a business plan, carried out market research to build her brand and organised the lease, all from across the pond.

She said of husband Salem: “I’m pretty sure he was freaking out inside, but he was really supportive of it and he always has been.

“When we opened, he was in between two jobs, so was able to help out a bit, which was great because our son had just been born.”

Nicola launched the café in September 2019 with her six-month-old strapped to her chest.

“My son has grown up in the café,” said the Beckton resident. “When everything was being put together, we set up a play area for him in the back and, when we first opened, I had just started weaning him, so he had avocado and bits from the menu, which was fun.”

Nicola is now pregnant again but setting up the business is not an experience she is keen to repeat.

“It was probably good that I was quite naive about the café beforehand,” she said. “I can’t even imagine being able to do it now while raising two children. 

“The beginning was so intense, getting everything right, getting the processes right.

“When you’re new, you really want to make sure that every customer is happy so that they come back.

“I didn’t realise how intensive it would be, but in hospitality if your main driver is to make lots of lots of money, then it’s not the best sort of industry for you.

Little Hudson serves up a range of dishes at Royal Wharf
Little Hudson serves up a range of dishes at Royal Wharf – image Matt Grayson

“Even though it’s stressful with ups and downs and a pandemic and everything, I actually genuinely do love it, especially now we’ve got a really supportive team and people who actually care about the business.

“That makes such a difference and we have a lot less stress now.”

Six months after opening, the UK went into lockdown and the café was forced to shut. It was a strange time for Nicola.

“Looking back it was actually quite nice, because I had my son so we were able to kind of spend that quality time together,” she said.

“But it was really upsetting shutting the café. 

“We kept the community involved by doing supply boxes with fruit and veg, milk, eggs, flour, yeast, bread and coffee.

“We delivered them to people’s doors using a little trolley.

“No-one in our area could get anything because we only have a small Sainsbury’s, so the queue would literally wrap around the whole development. 

“When we reopened, we actually had a lot of support then from people who bought from us. All those same customers came in, which was really nice.”

Nicola said lockdown also forced Little Hudson to launch on Deliveroo, which has prompted her to consider opening a dark kitchen.

“Delivery has just blown up since the pandemic, it is about 15% of the business.

“Sometimes, on weekends, we have to switch it off because it’s so busy already in the café.

“I didn’t think people would order brunch for delivery, but they do, especially at weekends.

“I’ve been thinking about doing some sort of delivery kitchen and maybe expanding other parts of the business as well to do more cakes for events and celebrations and expand the catering side.”

The café is open seven days a week until 4pm and has just launched a burger night on Fridays from 6pm-9pm. Nicola is also looking into holding live music events in the future.

So does she want to expand to another location now she is expanding her family?

“Maybe,” she said. “But I’ll wait a little bit until my next child is a bit older.”

Little Hudson’s interior – image Matt Grayson

Read more: How chefs created From The Ashes BBQ in Fish Island

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Fish Island: How From The Ashes BBQ rose to success from the desolation of lockdown

Co-founder Curtis Bell talks inspiration, meat and serving up pulled pork in a doughnut from his hatch

Curtis Bell, co-founder of From The Ashes BBQ in Fish Island
Curtis Bell, co-founder of From The Ashes BBQ in Fish Island – image James Perrin

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

Fire can be a sudden spark that ignites with a burst or a softly glowing flame that slowly smoulders.

Curtis Bell has experienced both since founding barbecue business From The Ashes BBQ in June 2020 after just a few weeks of planning.

“It was just a burning desire,” said the Swansea-born chef, with no hint of a pun intended.

“My favourite thing was always to cook on the beach. Maybe it’s a primitive thing, but I have always just been drawn to the flame. I tried doing the posh stuff – fine dining – and it just isn’t me. 

“I just like the rawness of cooking in a very direct and simple way over the flames.”

Tucked behind a hatch on Fish Island, the takeaway experienced a rush of fame in lockdown, with its salty smoked pork served in sugary handmade doughnuts.

Customers were walking from as far as London Fields to queue for up to an hour. It was a success that took Curtis and his co-founders by surprise.

“It just exploded overnight and we were getting reviews and write-ups in the papers – we had to hire staff,” said Curtis.

“It was daunting, unexpected and an amazing thing to happen out of lockdown.”

The “we” is Frank Fellows and Martin Anderson, who Curtis met when he moved to the big smoke (pun very much intended), having landed a job at barbecue joint Temper in Soho.

Until then he had followed the recipes of another renowned restaurant, Pitt Cue, “like the bible” – bosses had even offered him a job, which he wound up turning down.

“I felt like it was ‘don’t meet your heroes’ and I wanted to keep it almost as a fantasy,” said the 29-year-old.

“By then they had gone from this really gritty, basement barbecue to this corporate steakhouse for City workers and it had kind of lost its magic.”

It is that hands-on flavour that Curtis loved and wanted to capture with From The Ashes.

That, he feels, is achieved by working directly with farmers such as Farmer Tom in Herefordshire and McDuff in Scotland to source meat.

Curtis at wok in the kitchen
Curtis at wok in the kitchen – image James Perrin

The team also does most of the butchery themselves in a tiny eight foot by six-foot kitchen, so they can stick to their whole animal approach.

“We make sausages from the legs and smoke down the necks and shoulders and bellies and then smoke the loin like a rib roast,” said Curtis.

“We get half cows and use the bones for stock and the fat for potatoes and trimmings for mince for a special. 

“It’s not only more cost effective, it’s also a much more efficient way to cook. I think everyone needs to be cooking like this.”

They launched the business thanks to a loan from his dad and a pig from Farmer Tom who said: “Pay me when you can”.

A friend made them a smoker from recycled parts, which they dubbed “The Piggy” and they began experimenting.

“The hardest thing is patience,” said Curtis. “From seasoning it right the way through, to resting it can be 12 hours and the temptation to get into it earlier is huge. 

“It does take its toll when you’re doing big events and have to start at 6am and go through until midnight. It’s endurance, stamina and hard work.

“Sometimes you cut into it and it’s overcooked. That’s disappointing, but I will braise it down and make a brisket ragu and try and make the best of a bad situation.

“We try to avoid as much wastage as possible.”

From The Ashes serves up its food from a hole in the wall
From The Ashes serves up its food from a hole in the wall – image James Perrin

So is it worth all the effort?

“Yes, I love it – all good things come to those who wait,” said Curtis.

“You can have a steak, which takes 15 minutes to cook, or a piece of rib, which has taken seven hours. I guarantee you will be way more satisfied with the latter.

“As much as my back hurts and my legs hurt, there is so much satisfaction in the joy it brings people.

“When you put all those hours in and it pays off watching those people bite into it – it’s just amazing.”

The chance to birth his own business came when he, Martin and Frank were made redundant during the pandemic.

Curtis and Frank opened a dark kitchen for fried chicken restaurant Coqfighter and decided they should “copy the formula” with barbecue.

“The person who was renting out the Coqfighter kitchen had one on Fish Island too and we went over and had a look at it and scrambled some money for the deposit and the first month’s rent, and in we went,” said Curtis.

Martin came on board and they spent four weeks testing out recipes, eventually landing on a doughnut filled with pulled pork as their signature dish, inspired by Black Axe Mangal restaurant in Islington.

“Lee Tiernan up there is a genius and did a duck liver parfait and prune doughnut which probably changed my whole life, it was that good,” said Curtis.

“We were just toying with ideas and one day ordered some really shit Tesco doughnuts and tried putting some pulled pork in the centre of it – it just worked with the sweet, savoury, salt, smoked fat.

“A lot of people are still very cautious but, because you have every sense in your mouth, it’s perfect.

“We put it on Instagram as a draw and it worked. It was a magnet and there was a time I couldn’t open Instagram without seeing my doughnut. 

“Some people may think of it as a gimmick and are not impressed, but I find that hilarious.”

A party in June 2020 with all their hospitality mates, kicked things off for the trio and they just began opening the hatch every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Del Piero doughnuts ready to go
Del Piero doughnuts ready to go – image James Perrin

“People started walking up  – it built momentum and, the next thing we knew, we had queues round the block,” said Curtis.

At the peak, he was waking at 6am on Saturdays to tend to the smoker and meats and start rolling and proving the 120 doughnuts they were selling a day.

Made over two days from a laminated enriched dough, they included sweet options such as custard in different flavours and dark chocolate Hennessy and hazelnut praline.

Other creations included a smoked pork bun with pickles, sriracha Marmite mayo, smoked garlic mayo and a slaw made with hispi cabbage, fennel, apple, lime juice, walnut, jalapeño dressing and gorgonzola sauce.

They quickly attracted queues, which stretched as far as the Premier shop on Roach Road with punters soaking up the sun and free shots handed out by Curtis.

“It was just a really special time and something I would love to relive again,” he said. “But we’re back in the real world now, sadly.”

Since London went back to business, Curtis has found himself having to stoke the flames of success in new directions.

Following their early success, From The Ashes landed spots at food venues Two Tribes Campfire in Kings Cross and Kerb Seven Dials.

And their summer has a full roster of festivals, events and private parties, including Bigfoot Festival, British Summertime, Bike Shed in Tobacco Dock, Big Grill Festival in Ireland, London Craft Beer Festival and Manchester Craft Beer Festival.

Frank left in October last year to work with his girlfriend at the cafe of local company Barkney Wick, but Curtis now has a team of seven chefs and said there is no such thing as a day off for him.

“The hatch will remain open and we want it to go from strength to strength,” he said.

“We’re looking to get an outside licence so we can have benches and seats.

From The Ashes cooks up a range of meats – image James Perrin

“We now sell some craft beers and park wines, perfect for a summer day when you’re sitting on the kerb eating barbecue.”

He’s also been implementing a huge shake-up of the menu to help with the business’ longevity.

“Now summer is coming, I’m changing the menu on a weekly basis,” he said. “I ring my farmers and see what’s available and create the menu around that.

“This weekend we have got some whole smoked chicken with some wild garlic pesto, an aged sirloin with horseradish cream and roasted beef fat.

“Last week I had an aged beef meatball sub with mozzarella, parmesan and wild garlic again. We’re going to become seasonal.”

Curtis said the founders had been a bit unsure of themselves as they tried to transition from their blaze of glory in lockdown to the more even tempered real world.

“It’s been daunting,” he said. “We’re still trying to figure out what our dream is but I think it is to be a bit of a household name in London and keep on enjoying what we are doing.

“I just want to keep cooking outside and doing amazing pop-ups – happy and free. I don’t want to do anything too serious. I’ll never be the person who wants a big huge chain.”

Curtis said the pressure of running a small business was enough. They’ve never had any investors and are just about breaking even.

But with prices skyrocketing across the board, the profit margin is getting smaller.

“We are increasing our prices and I hope customers understand why we need to do that,” he said. 

“I think the next year will be incredibly tough on hospitality with everyone trying to save pennies.

“I can already feel the pressure, but hopefully, we can keep our heads above water and keep going and growing.”

Read more: How Squid Markets is bringing street food and fresh produce to Canada Water Market

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Wapping: How Pop Skewer is serving up a taste of Brazil underneath the railway

Marina Simoes and Marcio Yokota opened their kiosk after both losing their jobs during lockdown

Marcio Yokota and Marina Simoes of Pop Skewer
Marcio Yokota and Marina Simoes of Pop Skewer – image Matt Grayson

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

Underneath the grey stretch of railway tracks in Wapping lies a surprise. Well, more than one, actually.

Venture off the beaten path of Cable Street and you will find Brazil’s most popular street food on offer at Pop Skewer

Succulent beef on sticks, halal chicken and sausage are freshly barbecued and served up on the side of the road, just like in South America.

The compact kiosk was opened by Brazilian couple Marina Simoes, 46, and Marcio Yokota, 53, after they both lost their jobs during the first lockdown.

They had never worked together, but decided to use their skills and take a chance on their new venture.

Marina said: “We were both doing something completely different before.

“I was working in property sales and then started temping because I knew I wanted to do something else but never thought of opening my own business.

“My husband was working in a coffee shop as manager but because of lockdown we were both at home unemployed, so we said: ‘Why not work together?’.

“He’s a very good cook, so we thought we’d do something that uses his skills and gives people a taste of Brazil.”

They decided to serve the skewers with another popular dish from their home country – rice and beans.

“In Brazil, they wouldn’t normally be served together,” said Marina. “But we decided to combine them. 

“The skewers are everywhere in Brazil. You grab them and eat them on the street really informally on the stick.

“They’re a really profitable business there and, hopefully, we will get the same success here.”

Pop Burger and Pop Sandwich from the kiosk
Pop Burger and Pop Sandwich from the kiosk – image Matt Grayson

They also serve up a Pop Sandwich and Pop Burger and daily specials like beef stew with cassava, beef stroganoff, beef parmigiana and, once a month, slow-cooked beef ribs.

“Every Saturday we serve the feijoada, which is black bean and pork stew,” said Marina.

“It’s made with different types of pork meat served with rice, tomato salad, spring greens and the farofa, toasted cassava flour with bacon and something else.

“Forgive me, I forget as I’ve been a vegetarian for  20 years.”

A vegetarian running a meat-based business? How does that work? 

“To be honest, I don’t like the smell of the BBQ, but I respect everyone whether they are vegetarian or not,” she said.

Marina admits she mostly stays away from the kitchen and sticks to handling other parts of the business.

The couple buy all their food fresh every few days and have items like the black beans delivered from a Brazilian supplier.

“I don’t cook anything, I’m terrible with that,” she said. “Of course, I help put the meals together. But cooking? No.”

Thanks to her, Pop Skewer also serves up plenty of vegetarian options, including a halloumi, onion and courgette skewer, a halloumi burger with courgette and lettuce, tomato and homemade sauce and a vegetarian sandwich in ciabatta bread.

Marina said: “Cooking with a charcoal grill makes such a difference to the taste. 

“We have never just aimed to target Brazilians and, so far, everyone is enjoying eating it, which we find amazing.”

A range of dishes are available from the kiosk
A range of dishes are available from the kiosk – image Matt Grayson

It’s not the first time the Bromley residents have taken a leap into the unknown.

Marina, who is of Italian heritage and grew up in Minas Gerais, left Brazil in her 20s on a one-way ticket to London.

She said: “My first job was working in silver service in hotels. I was terrible. Then I started in retail sales and then management and then property sales.”

Marcio, who is of Japanese heritage and grew up in Sao Paulo, arrived in England 15 years ago. He left behind a clothes business and found work in restaurants and coffee shops.

 Having grown up 370 miles apart, it took them both travelling 5,900 miles across the Atlantic for their love story to begin on the streets of London.

“We met through a mutual friend and have been together ever since,” said Marina.

Their relationship is being put to the test with the challenges presented by their joint venture.

They built the business in just eight weeks, launching just after the first lockdown, and have faced struggles with supplies during the pandemic, getting word out to customers on a shoestring, and working together in very close quarters.

“Sometimes I want to strangle my husband,” said Marina

“But we have separate areas with me in the front taking orders and the other two guys in the cooking area. Sometimes we do bump into each other and bicker.

“It’s been very challenging having our own business under these conditions for the past year, but I’m really enjoying it.”

Pop skewers are very popular in Brazil
Pop skewers are very popular in Brazil – image Matt Grayson

They have also taken on fellow Brazilian Lucas Montagnini and trained him up to work on the grill.

“It was very hard to find someone because of the pandemic,” said Marina.

“He was a friend of a friend who was an engineer in Brazil, but he’d had enough and decided to leave and do something else.

“That’s what we all do when we come to England – something completely different. It’s great and challenging, leaving our comfort zone.”

The Pop Skewer site was empty before they took it over and they rely on Instagram, Google and word of mouth to gain customers. 

But business can be unpredictable, with the lunch crowd sometimes arriving at 11am and sometimes not until 1.30pm, which makes it hard to plan.

“It can be really unpredictable,” said Marina.“We are not just building up Pop Skewer but also the location.

“The residents kept us going during the pandemic, but now the office workers are coming back. Hopefully, when the weather gets warmer, there will be lots of BBQ for everyone.

“We really want Pop Skewer to grow and get more customers.

“The past year has been about working hard and not getting much money, so we really want to move to the next level now and become known by everyone for Brazilian food.”

Pop Skewer is located by the side of Cable Street
Pop Skewer is located by the side of Cable Street – image Matt Grayson

Read more: BabaBoom set to launch kebab restaurant in Stratford

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