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Stratford: How BabaBoom combines its founder’s love of travel, running and kebabs

Latest branch of London business at Westfield Stratford City will offer £1 meals on its launch day

BabaBoom founder Eve Bugler
BabaBoom founder Eve Bugler

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A little like the kebabs her company serves, there are lots of ingredients to Eve Bugler.

There’s the degree in PPE from Oxford, time spent working for a Democrat in the States, a stint at McKinsey and a spell at a development bank in Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that devastated the island.

Then there’s the lifelong passion for distance running culminating in selection to compete for England at ultramarathon distances, a prospect stymied by Covid cancellations and now on hold due to the fact that she’s currently pregnant.

We’re here to talk about all of that, because it’s all relevant to her move into the hospitality industry and the decision to start her own business – BabaBoom – which is set to open what will technically be its third location at Westfield Stratford City in April.

- In celebration of its opening on Thursday, April 21, 2022, Bababoom will be offering kebabs for £1 between noon and 2pm with all proceeds going to Greenhouse Sports, a charity that supports and mentors children.



- There’s more: Starting May 1, BabaBoom will be sending its Kebab Chase from its Battersea branch to its new Stratford location and back. Participants should turn up at Battersea from 11am, do the run by 4pm (proof via selfie), and get a FREE kebab for their trouble. Usually chases take place on the first Sunday of the month. Find out more about the Kebab Chase here

“When I was in Haiti working on an infrastructure project, I realised that the people having the greatest impact were the entrepreneurs,” said Eve.

“I came back with the idea that I really wanted to start my own business, and I wanted to do hospitality – it’s great for social mobility.

“It’s the only industry where you can come in completely unskilled, and you can move up really quickly.

“Because I’d worked behind a bar in Greece and in a ski chalet in France, I knew it was a really positive industry to be part of – when you’re working in hospitality it’s easy to make someone’s day.” 

A selection of the dishes available at BabaBoom
A selection of the dishes available at BabaBoom

Having returned to the UK, Eve first landed a role at Nando’s, working for the company for four years, first in London and then Johannesburg and Delhi.

She then secured investment from the hospitality giant’s then CEO, among others, to develop her own business, launching BabaBoom in Battersea in 2015.

“Boom is my favourite word – it’s filled with positivity,” said Eve.

“My dad has been a massive influence on me – an Irishman who came to London and someone who’s always interested in the next opportunity.

“Baba is the Turkish and Arabic word for father and the two together just means we’re doing things with energy.

“BabaBoom is a passion project. As an elite runner and someone who’s lived around the world, I always found myself gravitating towards kebabs as the best sort of fast food.

Eve says kebabs are a comparatively healthy fast food
Eve says kebabs are a comparatively healthy fast food

“I can’t really eat pizzas and burgers when I’m training properly, whereas kebabs are generous, protein-filled with salad, fresh bread and good Middle Eastern flavours.

“I thought that somebody needed to do that in the UK and make it a fast food accessible and welcoming to everybody.

“Kebabs have often been marginalised as a late night snack but they’re good all day.

“We’re all about making really fresh kebabs with good quality ingredients and cooking over charcoal, which helps the flavour.

“We import a lot of our spices and flavours from the Middle East and that gives our products a fresh taste. 

“It’s bringing the fire to the table and I think that’s why we’ll stand out at Westfield – customers want that immediacy but also that theatre of cooking.”

Eve after completing the Paris Half Marathon while pregnant

Having launched in Battersea, BabaBoom’s second location in Islington fell victim to the pressures of the pandemic but with restrictions receding, a fresh opening beckoned.

“Westfield came along as an opportunity, and it’s great for us,” said Eve.

“To have a site which is a stone’s throw from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is incredibly exciting, because it fits the upbeat, energetic nature of our brand.

“It’s really easy to slag off kebabs, but small businesses largely run by immigrants are really successful, and I think there’s a real vibe in kebab shops – they’re a refuge, there’s a sense of fun, you chat to the people next to you.

“When people come down to us they will be struck by our friendliness – we say we’re gluten-friendly, vegan-friendly, but overall we’re just friendly.

“Then it’s about freshness and the generosity of our portions.

“Time Out said our food was as healthy as people want it to be and that’s hitting it on the nose.

“We’re not here to preach or to make you eat low-calorie food. We’re here to provide really generous plates that can be really good for you.

“Then, if you want some curly fries, you deserve them too. We’re here to be accessible to everyone.”

That extends to kebabs made with beef (a cheaper option than lamb), chicken and plenty of options for veggies and vegans.

“In Middle Eastern food, the vegan thing isn’t a cop out, it’s accidental,” said Eve.

“For example, our super green falafel and sweet potato hummus are entirely vegan, as is our Triple-B sauce – a fiery condiment made with Aleppo chilli.

“Our bread is baked fresh and all our kebabs come with slaw with apple in it, which gives it a sweet crunchiness. We’ve thought about  the detail to make everything delicious.”

Super green falafel at BabaBoom

Read more: How Humble Grape in Canary Wharf is raising its food game

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Isle Of Dogs: How The Sushi Co has ambitions to spread throughout the UK

Brand intends to open 13 takeaway restaurants in 2022 serving sushi made to order without the chill

Sushi from The Sushi Co on the Isle Of Dogs
Sushi from The Sushi Co on the Isle Of Dogs – image Matt Grayson

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When branches of The Sushi Co have swept the nation, with outposts in every major city and restaurants every couple of miles in London, remember that it all started on the Isle Of Dogs.

The business opened its first restaurant and takeaway at the eastern tip of Westward Parade opposite Crossharbour DLR in January and already it’s one of three locations in the capital. 

Targeting rapid growth, with plans for at least 13 restaurants this year, its owners believe they’ve spotted a gap in the takeaway market and they’re moving fast to claim it as their territory.

“We already had a background in food, running pizza franchises,” said Sam Reddy, who oversees operations on the ground for The Sushi Co.

“We’d seen the trend for sushi and initially we thought we’d become franchisees but we decided to create our own brand instead. 

“Doing that gives you a lot more freedom – you are able to determine the quality of everything and you can make decisions much more quickly.

“Personally, two years ago, I’d never even tried sushi so we had to do a lot of research. We ate in so many places, we must have tried every brand in London.”

Peng Zheng and Sam Reddy of The Sushi Co
Peng Zheng, left, and Sam Reddy of The Sushi Co – image Matt Grayson

That included eating at the restaurant of Peng Zheng, whose food impressed so much that The Sushi Co approached him to join the project. 

“Peng has designed the whole menu from scratch,” said Sam. “He’s our head chef, so while we’re good at building the sites, finding the best suppliers and investing the money where it needs to be, he can concentrate on creating the right food.

“We told him our idea – to create a UK-wide brand – and he really liked it.”

Part of the reason for that is a shared commitment to the quality of the food. Walk into The Sushi Co’s Isle Of Dogs branch and you’ll see a chiller cabinet with a selection of drinks and a couple of cheery signs explaining that the kitchen hasn’t run out of food, but that all dishes are made to order.

“When we were doing our research, we realised there were lots of brands storing products in the fridge,” said Sam.

“But that’s not sushi. It should never be stored that way and you shouldn’t eat it chilled. It should be eaten warm and freshly made.

“That is what we do. It’s not instant, customers have to wait five or 10 minutes. But because they want to eat good quality sushi, they’re happy to do that.

“Whether a customer has come to the restaurant to collect the food, or it’s being given to a delivery driver, it’s all made and served to order.

“Top sushi restaurants would never put their products in the fridge, so why would we?”

While the first restaurant has some seating for diners to eat in, The Sushi Co has primarily been conceived as a takeaway and is available through Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat. 

Sam said: “Our main target is that customers should receive food from our restaurants in under 25 minutes.

“Our focus now is on scaling up because there’s nobody else in this market in terms of delivering fresh sushi. There are some independent restaurants, but we want to grow quickly.”

The Sushi Co is located on Westward Parade
The Sushi Co is located on Westward Parade – image Matt Grayson

With an eye on maximising accessibility, Peng and the team have developed a menu rich in sushi and sashimi but that also includes a range of poke bowls, gyoza dumplings and hot meals as an alternative to the core dishes.

“Some people think sushi isn’t for them, but it is for everyone,” said Sam.

“To be honest, I had that feeling two years ago, but not anymore and that’s because I experienced it.

“When people see that it’s raw, some wonder if it’s safe to eat, but our brand follows the highest standards of food hygiene.

“We think we’ve developed a really good product, quite different to pre-prepared boxes you might buy at the supermarket and now we just really want people to try it.

“Once people come to us, they will realise how much better sushi that hasn’t been chilled really is. 

“The feedback from customers has been really great – in the end you can’t build a business if the product isn’t right.”

All of the brand's sushi is made fresh, never chilled
All of the brand’s sushi is made fresh, never chilled – image Matt Grayson

As for the future, The Sushi Co plans to roll out branches across London first, with slightly larger outposts in big cities across the country being an ambition for the future.

Food-wise, having found its feet, there are also plans afoot to collaborate with chefs on signature dishes on a regular basis.

The brand serves an extensive range of sushi including nigiri, uramaki, hosomaki and futo maki as well as selection boxes. Hot dishes include the likes of curries, noodle dishes and soups.

“Personally I really like the prawn katsu, which is fried in breadcrumbs,” said Sam. 

“But I also really enjoy the rolls we offer, many of which come with special sauces that we also make in-house.

“I really like to eat sushi, but my wife doesn’t, so having that variety on the menu is very important because it means we offer something for everyone.

“Not every takeaway business does this but we think it’s essential.

“There’s still a lot to learn for us on this brand, of course, but the first two branches have been really, really successful and we’ve just opened the third so we’re very excited about the future.

“I really believe you can’t get the quality of food that we’re serving in any other fast food takeaway.

“Of course you can go to an expensive sushi restaurant, but many of our dishes are only £10-12 and we use top quality ingredients.”

The Sushi Co is trading on the Isle Of Dogs and in Chiswick and Holborn with branches in Woodford and Lewisham set to be open by May 9.

Expect to see quite a few popping up over the coming years.

The restaurant does have space to dine in
The restaurant does have space to dine in – image Matt Grayson

Read more: Market Hall Canary Wharf set to open on April 7, 2022

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Canary Wharf: Why Market Hall Canary Wharf is set to take the estate by storm

Venue at Cargo off Adams Plaza will feature eight food traders and is set to open on April 7, 2022

Founder and chief executive at Market Halls, Andy Lewis-Pratt
Founder and chief executive at Market Halls, Andy Lewis-Pratt

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Unusually, this is a story that starts with retirement.

At the age of 49, having worked extensively in commercial property and run a big public company, Andy Lewis-Pratt decided he hated what he was doing, resigned and headed to the Algarve with his wife and daughter.  

“I had no intention of doing any kind of work ever again,” he said.

“I burnt all my suits and it was one of the most cathartic moments of my life.”

But after five years of Yoga, tennis and golf, boredom was setting in.

Coupled with a desire to see their daughter educated more effectively than ex-pat life allowed, the family decided to return to the UK.

“Being retired in your 50s in Portugal is great because you find people like yourself – the average age of retirees like me out there was 42 and we had lots of fun,” said Andy.

“But it’s not fine in the UK – I was bored out of my skull, so I started googling some ideas about what I might do before we left.

“Then one of my friends asked if I’d been to this market hall in Lisbon. It was in an old fruit market and it was fantastic.

“There were lots of different restaurants – all kinds of food from all over the world – and communal seating.

“You could get what you wanted, when you wanted it and there were bars too that were full of life. I just loved it.

“Then, about five years ago, I’d travelled to the UK for an ‘old farts’ reunion where I saw an old friend who was CEO of a big property agency and I asked how many market halls there were in London.

“He told me that, while there was street food, there wasn’t anything like the one in Lisbon.”

Market Hall Canary Wharf will be based in the Cargo building
Market Hall Canary Wharf will be based in the Cargo building

From those seeds of an idea, Andy swung into action and put a team together, researching the business in Europe and New York. 

Convinced this was no passing fad, he raised finance and launched Market Halls with its first location in Fulham in the old ticket office next to the station.

“People loved it, we made lots of mistakes of course, but then we opened our second site at Victoria which was in an old ticket hall that had become a nightclub on two floors,” said Andy.

“I was nervous of that because my old retail background said don’t put anything on the first floor. 

“But it had a big roof and so we created a roof terrace and it was an unbelievable success, almost from the moment we opened its doors, it was full all of the time.”

The venue will have two bars and eight food traders
The venue will have two bars and eight food traders

A third site at Oxford Street also proved successful but, at twice the size of Victoria, proved unwieldy and has now been altered to fit the latter’s template. 

The original site in Fulham has also closed, more a recognition that to reach its best, the business is dependent on office workers.

Which brings us to Market Hall Canary Wharf – set to officially open on the ground floor of Cargo, off Adams Plaza, on April 7. 

“If I’m honest I was reluctant to come here,” said Andy. “I was a bit reticent as to how traditional City suit types would take to my cool venture with independent traders. 

“But my colleagues had told me the area had changed. I read up on it and I had to learn that my impression was wrong. 

“I spent time on the Wharf and realised it was ready for Market Halls – that’s why we took the lease on the space four months before lockdown.”

Wharf favourite Black Bear Burger will be returning to the estate
Wharf favourite Black Bear Burger will be returning to the estate

So, having overcome the “interesting journey” to get to the point of opening and with the pandemic receding, what can Wharfers expect from the latest hospitality venue to hit the estate?

“Market Hall Canary Wharf is a slightly more premium offering than our sites at Oxford Street and Victoria, but the concept is the same,” said Andy.

“We have eight independent traders that serve bloody good food and that’s their only job.

“As a business, we do everything else – we provide standardised kitchens – so the cost of entry is very low for them.

“There’s no deposit and they don’t have to worry about paying a quarter’s rent up front – we just take a percentage of their turnover every week.

“We look after the clearing of the tables, the dishwashing, the promotion of the venue and we operate the bars. 

“They just do what they’re good at, which is making great food with all the hassles taken away.

“We have a long list of people who want to be in our venues but they need to show their quality and that they can serve food fast and consistently.

“In Canary Wharf, the lunchtime trade will be big and that’s 45 minutes. If you can’t cook your food in seven minutes, you’re probably not going to have many customers coming back.”

Diners can expect Mexican cuisine from DF Tacos
Diners can expect Mexican cuisine from DF Tacos

Visitors to Market Hall Canary Wharf will be free to order from any of the traders and bars, with buzzers given out so diners know when their food is ready.

The opening line-up of eight restaurants includes Le Bab’s modern gourmet kebabs, Baoziinn’s dim sum and Chinese dishes, Mexican cuisine from DF Tacos, Malaysian roti canai from Gopals, fried chicken from Chick Chick Crew and Italian food from Pasta Evangelists.

There will also be Japanese flavours from Inamo Sukoshi and a welcome return to the Wharf by Black Bear Burger, which used to serve up fine patties at Giant Robot before its closure due to the pandemic.

Andy said: “This is a starting place for some with us and growth ground for others, so I’m particularly excited about opening up here.

“People ask me why I do it. I’m not young any more, but I go to the gym and I feel 30, even when I’m not.

The Canary Wharf venue will have dim sum by Baoziin
The Canary Wharf venue will have dim sum by Baoziin

“I’m not a foodie, but I love seeing people having fun – joy is the word we keep using – I like to see people having a bloody great time, and that’s why I do this.

“I get real enjoyment in seeing people smiling, laughing and having a blast.

“The great thing about Market Halls as a concept is that you can come here by yourself, in pairs, in a group of 10, 15 or 20 – it doesn’t matter.

“You can arrive any time, eat what you want to eat and there’s no grumbling about who’s going to pay the bill because mostly everyone has paid for themselves. 

“You can come and choose what you like, when you like and then just concentrate on enjoying yourself.”

And here’s a little music, appropriate for stepping into the hall of the food court king…

Read more: The Pearson Room reopens with a new team and fresh flavours

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Stratford: How The Gantry hotel’s head chef combines his roots with travel

Why Salvatore Coco is willing to go the extra 332 miles to get the right flavours for its restaurant

Head chef at The Gantry, Salvatore Coco
Head chef at The Gantry, Salvatore Coco

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

All head chefs want to make great food. But Salvatore Coco is literally willing to go the extra 332 miles.

That’s how far it is from his job as executive head chef at The Gantry hotel in Stratford to Wageningen University in the Netherlands. 

“I recently discovered a professor there who had grown vanilla – one of the first times that’s successfully been done in Europe,” said Salvatore. 

“There are a lot of problems with the vanilla trade – it’s a money business. So when I heard about this I fell in love because it is such a unique product.

“That’s why I’ll be travelling to Holland to bring back a bit of the vanilla to use at The Gantry.

“It isn’t on sale because it’s just for research, but I persuaded the professor to give me some. It’s like gold for me.”

The Italian native will be using his foreign treasure to create an ice cream and a dark chocolate brownie dish that will feature on the new spring menu at Union Social, the hotel’s first-floor restaurant.

But he has also been looking much closer to home for his inspiration.

“Just in front of the hotel is a small set of seven beehives in East Village run by the locals,” said the 36-year-old.

“They produce a very small quantity of honey, only about 30 jars a year and I was able to meet them and get half.

“It’s a beautiful product created just a few steps away and tastes amazing.

“I have used it to create a Greek-inspired dessert, which uses filo pastry, ricotta cheese, cinnamon, orange, all the ingredients that were available during the time of Homer, which pair perfectly with this local honey.”

Union Social at The Gantry
Union Social at The Gantry

Like many Italians, Salvatore grew up in the kitchen watching the family matriarch cook.

“As a kid I would always spend time close to my grandma and was fascinated seeing her make focaccia and pasta,” he said.

“The first dish she let me cook was prawn spaghetti for my grandfather. It was so bad, tough and salty.”

By the age of 13, however, he was working in a professional kitchen at a local restaurant in his native Sicily, doing everything from pot washing to working the grill.

Next came a tourist resort where the 18-year-old Salvatore was in at the deep end.

“It had room service and three restaurants, but I was so passionate about my job that after a couple of months they left me running the kitchen by myself,” he said.

“Looking back, I don’t know how I did it, but I survived and it didn’t put me off.”

Stints at hotelier school and as a chef de partie in a Sheraton hotel followed, before he landed in London and was seduced by the capital’s eclectic culture.

“The plan was to stay a couple of years, but I never left and I became a British citizen in 2019 and don’t think I will ever go back,” he said.

“You get such a variety of food here. Places like France, Italy, Spain are focused on their own food – but here there are all sorts of cuisines. For a chef, it is like a candy shop.”

The Gantry's food reflects Salvatore's travels
The Gantry’s food reflects Salvatore’s travels

His big break came when he bagged the role of head chef at the Pestana Hotel in Chelsea.

“But when the pandemic hit, it closed and Salvatore was out of a job. He returned to his roots, taking a job at Park Lane Kitchen, a small deli and rotisserie near where he used to live in Battersea.

“It was really strange but kind of nice, like going back to when I started out 20 years ago,” said Salvatore.

“The owner didn’t know I was a head chef. I just started working and after a week he was really impressed so I told him.

“It was a funny moment. It wasn’t stressful at all working there and I loved it.”

But when The Gantry came calling, he could not resist the chance to unleash his creative side.

“The general manager told me he didn’t want to have the normal international food other hotels have, like the club sandwich and Caesar salad,” said Salvatore.

“He wanted the menu to be personal to me and be created with fresh ingredients on a daily basis. 

“That’s hard to find in the hotel business and, while it was a big challenge, the menu is based on my travels, which is something I’m really passionate about so it was easy, in a way.”

A dessert at Union Social

Diners at Union Social can expect dishes such as a dessert made with crystallised violet petals Salvatore found while visiting Toulouse, a Jack-In-The-Green salad based on a mythological figure he discovered in Scotland and a slow-roasted shoulder of lamb from Kent. 

“I’m not competitive with other chefs at all,” said Salvatore.

“I just do my own thing. Of course, the food has to be tasty but it is about sustainability and the exclusivity of the food. 

“It has to have a story behind it because I’m very interested in culture and history. I call it food with a soul.

“I don’t want to just make food with a Michelin Star which looks pretty and tastes nice but has no character. 

“I’m not a fan of fancy decorations, just simple food that has value behind it. That’s really important and the main reason behind my cooking.”

Like a surgeon, Salvatore said he is “always on call” and has moved 10 minutes away from the hotel in Stratford in case of any kitchen emergencies.

“My private life is zero at the moment,” he said.

“But if you don’t have a passion for this job you can’t do it because it is so many hours.

“You cannot just be selfish and narrow-minded because otherwise, you don’t go very far. But you need to explore your own creativity and, in a way, be single-minded.

“I remember taking a boat in Thailand and the wife of the captain was cooking some noodles on board. 

“I was amazed at how easy it was for her to combine ingredients and make something that tasted amazing. 

“Sometimes you go to restaurants with a full brigade of chefs and the food doesn’t taste that good. 

“I’ll always remember that because it really made me think a lot about how food is passion.” 

Read more: The Pearson Room reopens with a new team and fresh flavours

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Deptford: Why Bluethroat in Deptford Market Yard wants to make a name for itself

Bar and restaurant run by brothers Ari and Landi Mucaj is keeping its focus on quality drinks

Landi, left, and Ari Mucaj of Bluethroat
Landi, left, and Ari Mucaj of Bluethroat – image James Perrin

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Deptford Market Yard’s arches are typically filled with magic. It might be the ramshackle ephemera of Little Nan’s, the slick seafood of Sharkbait ‘N’ Swim or the wholesome cafe cuisine of Dirty Apron.

All of theses businesses pulse and buzz with the passions of the people behind them. It’s why the area draws ever increasing numbers of people seeking independent places to hang out.

It’s also why Bluethroat’s owners thought their idea could work.

Brothers Landi and Ari Mucaj had been talking about starting a business together since 2013.

“I’ve lived in Deptford since 1997 and I’ve worked in many central London bars,” said Ari.

“I started working as a kitchen porter and then got a job as a chef, which I did for about three years.

“I’d finish work about 10.30pm and then go behind the bar and wash glasses for fun. I fell in love with being behind the bar and that’s what I’ve done ever since.

“I’ve worked mostly in central London in places like the Cuckoo Club and Chinawhite and I ran the bar at Maddox for about six years.

“Every time Landi would come to see me in central London he would always say: ‘We should do this ourselves’.

“That was really my plan all along, at least for the last 10 years, trying to save up and do it.”

In 2018 Ari quit his job and teamed up with Landi, who had been in Deptford himself since 2001, to look for premises.

Guests at Bluethroat in Deptford Market Yard
Guests at Bluethroat in Deptford Market Yard

“We were searching and then we thought, what better place than Deptford?” said Landi.

“We’d seen a lot of changes in the area over the years, so when we saw an opportunity here, we thought it would be the best place to build something.”

The brothers took one of the larger brick arches at Deptford Market Yard, more or less next to the train station itself, and set about doing just that.

“Instead of doing it somewhere else, we thought it’s just around the corner, we can walk home and it’s the perfect place,” said Ari.

“We found this fantastic space here – it was a shell when we got it and we’ve built it from scratch.

“It took about a year to build it – we didn’t know anything about doing that so the fact we have this location and that we’ve created it from scratch is crazy, but it feels amazing.”

Landi added: “I fell in love with it really – the whole experience of setting up a business. It’s had its ups and downs and it probably took us longer to open than most other places, but we learned a lot in the process.”

Landi Mucaj pours a drink
Landi Mucaj pours a drink – image James Perrin

Unfortunately things didn’t go quite to plan. Just days after Bluethroat opened its doors, the first national lockdown came into force and they slammed shut.

Like many hospitality businesses, the brothers have since been riding a rollercoaster of uncertainty, most recently closing at Christmas as the responsible thing to do, despite the lack of official government direction to do so.

With restrictions lifted, however, both Ari and Landi can’t wait to run their cocktail-focused establishment unfettered. 

“This is the first chance we’ve had to run in a normal market, there’s been a lot of opening and closing,” said Landi.

“Our plan remains very much the same and it’s about refining our formula.

“Firstly, we’re really passionate about our drinks, delivered with great service. We’re also a very good restaurant.

“We are a place where people can come and chill out and have some really good cocktails.”

Bluethroat also serves food
Bluethroat also serves food

Walk into Bluethroat  and that focus is unmistakeable. The bar’s shelves are laden with spirits, ready to be whipped into a multitude of alcoholic concoctions.

“This is where my brother’s experience comes in,” said Landi. “We have about 11 drinks on our menu, all of which we’ve created for Bluethroat.

“There are boozy ones and lighter drinks, some that are bitter, fruity, bitter, sweet and sour – something for every taste.

“We are constantly working on the list and evolving it, but we really enjoy asking customers what they like and then building something for them.”

Bluethroat – named for a small member of the thrush family with a distinctive blue collar and a powerful song – also develops seasonal drinks, with two of its four spring specials already in hand.

“Customers will always find something new,” said Landi. “We’re getting ready to launch one made with Haku Vodka from Japan. 

“We just love the taste of this spirit, made completely from rice, and we mix that with a bergamot liqueur and blackcurrant to make a sweet drink with a hint of spiciness. We think people are really going to like it.

“The second cocktail we’ve created for our spring menu is based on whisky with a fig liqueur and mulberry syrup. 

“We make pretty much all our own syrups in the bar using a range of techniques such as sous vide and hot and cold infusion.

“The drink has a creamy taste and we also infuse the whisky with violet leaf to give it a beautiful aroma when you’re drinking it.”

Ari added: “When we opened, I gave Landi a crash course and now he’s a genius behind the bar. One of our challenges since opening has been finding bartenders with experience.

“But I think local bars are taking over in terms of quality – you can find cocktails that are as good here or in places like Hackney, as you will get in Mayfair.

“I worked in central London for 20 years and the quality here is no different. 

“You are seeing people who are going out locally to get this, instead of making the journey in.”

Bluethroat is locate in Deptford Market Yard
Bluethroat is locate in Deptford Market Yard

While its extensive collection of bottles, rich brown hues and speakeasy vibe mark Bluethroat out as a haven for drinkers, the brothers hope that its food offering will be a welcome surprise for those ordering.

“We change the dishes all the time, but we serve Mediterranean and modern European food,” said Landi.

“There’s always something new, but we love seafood. There are a lot of Italian influences because our chefs are from Italy.”

Ari added: “We serve a lot of fish – black cod, king prawns and salmon – and we do specials every week.

“I think people are a bit shocked that the food is as good as it is because of the way the bar looks.

“We started off serving smaller plates, but we’ve extended the menu because people wanted more food.” 

The primary focus remains the liquid though, and, having worked widely on the city’s bar scene, Ari is keen to build the bar’s reputation in the capital.

He said: “Ultimately we want to be known as one of the best cocktail bars in London. That’s our ambition. 

“We’re taking things slowly and we haven’t really promoted ourselves yet. We wanted to grow organically and for people to find out about us that way.”

Bluethroat is open Weds-Sun. Cocktails typically cost between £10 and £11. Small plates are £6-£11 and bigger dishes around £14. 

Read more: New team at The Pearson Room deliver fresh flavours

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Greenwich: How Joy’s Caribbean Fusion tackles waste and meat consumption

Founder Tescha Joy blended banana skins, spices and veganism to create a street food business

Tescha Joy of Joy's Caribbean Fusion
Tescha Joy of Joy’s Caribbean Fusion image Matt Grayson

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Taste and waste is what Tescha Joy is all about. Driven by a desire to create sustainable, eco-friendly, flavourful food, she created Joy’s Caribbean Fusion – a street food brand that had its debut at Bexley’s Wasteless Market two-and-a-half years ago.

Since then she’s gone on to establish herself at RARE Farmers Market at Royal Arsenal Riverside and recently started a residency every Thursday from noon-8pm, at Pegler Square in Kidbrooke Village, just by the station.

 Her food is vegan and contains only plant-based ingredients, cooked with Caribbean spices to create dishes that attract longer queues at the markets she serves than stalls selling meat. And it all started with some banana skins.

Scroll down for Tescha’s Banana Skin Curry recipe

“I’m a public health nurse and work three days a week in the NHS,” said Tescha.

“My first dish was banana skin curry – I was at work one day and everyone was throwing away their banana skins and I asked them to give them to me instead.

“I hate waste so I took those skins and created a dish with them. There’s lots of iron, fibre and many other nutrients in them. The whole point of the dish was that I wanted to show people that you don’t have to throw away certain ingredients. 

“I showed you can create a nice meal from them and that’s where I got the idea for the business – it’s the dish I took to the Wasteless Market and it’s the only recipe I’m happy to share because I want people to recreate it at home.

“I want to have it printed in this paper so readers can use it rather than throw away their banana skins. 

“We’d normally throw them away in the Caribbean too – people over there are amazed when I tell them.   

“I’d decided to go vegan for environmental reasons – I think we eat too much meat in this country. I’m not anti-meat, but I think it’s important to cut down.

“Climate change is important to me because I want a better future for my children – I want them to grow up in a world where we waste less food. 

“I know what it’s like to be hungry. The majority of people in this country don’t know what that’s like and we need to cut the amount of food we throw away.

“I’ll literally make a dish from nothing – some potato peelings can be put in the oven with olive oil and you have some crisps.”

Tescha's take on doubles with chickpea curry
Tescha’s take on doubles with chickpea curry and pickles – image Matt Grayson

Tescha’s banana skin curry remains a firm favourite on the menu at Joy’s, joined by a host of core dishes intended to delight diners with both flavour and texture.

She said: “Cooking is also my passion and it’s in my blood. My parents owned a restaurant in the Caribbean. I would have to just get changed after school and go and help whether I wanted to or not.

“My brother owns a restaurant in Catford and I have another brother who is in America and has a restaurant there.

“There’s a long family tradition of cooking, but I’m the only one who does vegan.

“Normally you’d have jerk chicken and jerk pork – quite meaty dishes. I wanted to explore different types of food using Caribbean flavours.

“Also, I think it’s good for my children to see that vegetables can be really tasty and it’s better for the planet.

“On the classic menu, I have chickpea curry with flatbread – it’s really naughty because it’s deep fried – and that’s served with mango chutney, which I make from scratch before every market, tamarind sauce and pickled onion, red cabbage and cucumber.

“In the Caribbean we call it doubles because you get two smaller breads, but I do it as one large one, just to be a bit different.

“We also do rice bowls with toppings of barbecue jerk mushroom, jerk tofu and cauliflower bites.

“My best seller is the combination bowl where you get a bit of everything including the chickpea curry and the flatbread. It all comes with the same toppings – the chutney and the pickles.

“Then we do specials such as vegan fish, which is made from jackfruit or banana blossom with plant-based marine ingredients to give it that fishy flavour.

“People can be a bit hesitant to try vegan dishes, but once they do, they usually come back and say they don’t need the meat.

“I catered for a wedding in December and the bride told me some of the guests thought they’d need to go to the local burger shop after they’d eaten the food.

“But she called me back later and told me nobody had gone – they all were amazed at the texture of the dishes and the different flavours.

“I’ve built up a big following in the areas where I trade – at RARE in Woolwich I have a queue, which is longer than the meat queue and I think people are becoming more aware of veganism and meat-eaters are also cutting down and having plant-based food instead.”

Joy's serves a range of vegan dishes
Joy’s serves a range of vegan dishes – image Matt Grayson

New dishes undergo strict quality control from Tescha’s children who taste all of her dishes before they’re allowed to make it onto the stall.

Her ambition is to keep growing the business to the point where it can operate more widely and be her sole focus.

“I’m still working as a nurse, which is something I’ve been doing for 20 years,” she said. “I’d love to have Joy’s in multiple locations, to train people up to run those stalls and serve the food. 

“At the moment my goal is to get a van so the business can be more mobile.

“This really is my passion – it’s something I want to develop. I now make and sell my own sauces too – called Island Drizzle. 

“People kept coming and asking me for my recipes and my husband said: ‘Don’t tell them, just put it in a bottle’.

“It comes in medium, hot and extra hot. They’re all vegan too and are quite different to a lot of sauces out there because you can use them as a marinade, a dressing and as a condiment.

“It’s not the hottest sauce around because I’m more into the flavour than the heat – customers can come down and try it.”

Cook it: Banana Skin Curry

While most of Tescha’s recipes remain secret, she’s happy to help people cut down on waste by sharing this one – perfect for using up that unwanted peel…

Tescha's Banana Skin Curry
Tescha’s Banana Skin Curry

Ingredients (serves three-four)

4-5 large ripe banana skins

1 cup peeled, diced potato

3 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp sea salt

1 tbsp curry powder 

1 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp fennel seeds 

1/4 tsp cumin seed

2 cardamom pods

3 cloves garlic

1 tsp ground coriander 

1/3 tsp chopped scotch bonnet 

       chilli pepper (optional) 

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 large onion finely (chopped) 

1 tbsp fresh thyme (chopped)

1 tbs curry leaves (optional)

2 tbsp fresh coriander (chopped)

1 cup water 

1/2 cup coconut milk

Method

Thoroughly wash the banana skins, remove the rigid woody end at the top and dark spot at the end. 

Add lemon juice to the skins to stop them going dark while chopping (they will still be edible, even if this happens, so don’t worry).

Use a spoon to scrape out the inner lining and discard the scrapings. Depending on your preference, finely or roughly chop the skins. Then add the diced potato to them and combine with salt, curry powder and turmeric. 

In a pestle and mortar, place the fennel seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom pod, garlic, ground coriander and chilli. Grind into a paste. Add the paste to the banana skins and potatoes and mix in well. Add chilli here if preferred for a spicier dish.

Add the oil to a frying pan, heat and turn down. Add the chopped onion and stir until softened and then tip in the chopped banana skin mix. Increase  the heat and sauté for 10 minutes. 

Add the coconut milk, water, thyme, curry leaves and fresh coriander to the pan. Cover and leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes. 

Add an extra 1/4 cup of water if you prefer a more moist curry. Remove from heat once the banana skins and potatoes are soft. Serve with rice of your choice, a flatbread or on a bed of salad.

Tescha Joy

Read more: Tom Carradine celebrates six years of Cockney sing-a-longs at Wilton’s

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Canary Wharf: Shutters opens doors at two sites in One Canada Square’s marble lobby

Restaurant, cafe and bar aims to offer hotel-style service to workers and visitors to the estate

Taskin Muzaffer of The Happiness Cartel
Taskin Muzaffer of The Happiness Cartel – image Matt Grayson

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Organised crime syndicates are in my mind, having just binge-watched the latest series of Netflix drugsploitation epic Narcos: Mexico.

Fortunately The Happiness Cartel, which recently opened Shutters across two sites in the lobby of One Canada Square, bears little resemblance to the brutal mobs of Sinaloa, Juarez, Tijuana and Guadalajara.

But its creative director and founder, Taskin Muzaffer, does want Wharfers to keep coming back for more.

It’s one of the reasons why the group’s latest establishment is really three venues in one.

Firstly, Shutters itself has taken the shell of what was ETM’s One Canada Square, stripped out the walls, opened up the windows and painted everything white to form a welcoming, accessible restaurant and bar.

Secondly, head up its diagonal stairways and there’s Cartel – a separate bar space tucked away on the mezzanine, specialising in spirits and cocktails. 

Finally, look round the corner and there’s a cafe space called SuperNatural that shifts seamlessly from breakfast bar and lunch joint to wine bar after 5pm.

Shutters at One Canada Square
Shutters at One Canada Square – image Matt Grayson

That means there’s something available at all hours to keep Wharfers in a state of temptation, something that’s also down to the brand’s lineage.

“We started as a group in London, and, like most people, had a bit of a revelation in lockdown,” said Taskin, who previously worked for Drake And Morgan around the time it opened Shutters’ near neighbour, The Parlour, in 2009.

“Our first venue was Pedler in Peckham in 2014 (now reborn as Pedler Good Fortune) and we have always got a lot of our produce from Cornwall and Devon – in fact most of our fish came up from Cornish day boats on the back of a bike, so there was always that love affair with that area. 

“In 2017, we started looking for a site there, and finally opened the Unicorn On The Beach at Porthtowan in August of 2019.

“That ran really well until March 2020, when everything had to close. We decided we would keep the sites shut in London over last summer and the other members of the Cartel and myself moved to Cornwall, reopened the Unicorn and worked it as hard as possible last summer.

“Then the opportunity came up for us to purchase The Godolphin hotel in Marazion, which we renovated and briefly opened in December 2020, then properly in April 2021.

“We were very fortunate that both the Unicorn and The Godolphin had large outside areas so that was amazing when people could only be outdoors.

“Shutters was born in Cornwall as it’s the restaurant for our hotel there and we wanted to bring a slice of that back to London.

Looking down from Cartel
Looking down from Cartel – image Matt Grayson

“We’ve come to Canary Wharf with that service mindset. We essentially view anyone who passes by or who is working in the offices above at One Canada Square as a hotel guest. We want to be somewhere people can come back to multiple times a day.

“We’ve brought down the walls of the old restaurant and expanded out into the lobby, creating what we call a library area that is almost a co-working space.

“People can sit there with their laptops and have a breakfast or a lunch. It’s not bookable, it’s walk-ins only.

“On the other side of the lobby, SuperNatural serves our own Happiness coffee blend, hand-roasted in Cornwall, as well as fresh juice and smoothies. 

“In the morning you’ll see pastries and croissants – all those breakfast things – until 11am when salads with different proteins, like smoked chicken or smoked trout appear.

“Then at about 5pm it flips and becomes all about natural and low-intervention wines and build-your-own nibbles. Expect cured duck or venison done a bit like Parma ham, all made in Cornwall.”

Tuna tataki with pistachio at Shutters
Tuna tataki with pistachio at Shutters – image Matt Grayson

While the produce is Cornish, Shutters’ core menu has a pronounced American flavour to it, with dishes such as crab nachos and the Vegan Cali Sur burger.

“We wanted to give everything a kind of southern Californian twist,” said Taskin. “Cartel, for example will be doing nibbles and tacos. 

“Down in the restaurant we’ll be serving a lot of seafood dishes with those west coast flavours. 

“Personally I like the crab cakes – it’s the kind of thing you’d see on menus years ago but they’ve kind of disappeared. We’ve brought them back with a little twist – bois boudrin sauce, burnt leeks and anchovy mayo.

“I also really like the nachos, which come with a light cheese, scallions, pickles and a lime sour cream. They’re really, really good.

“As for drinks we have tank-fresh beer from Meantime, brewed about a mile away as the crow flies. 

“Otherwise we’re very much about cocktails at a reasonable price. Good value is something we’ve always tried to offer as a brand.

“We want people to come to us for breakfast, come back for a drink after work, meet their mate or a girlfriend or boyfriend for lunch and come back and have dinner.

“Maybe during the week you’ll have a glass of wine and only one course or a little nibble.

Shutters’ second site SuperNatural – image Matt Grayson

“Perhaps you’ll come back towards the end of the week and have three courses with a cocktail before or after. It’s all about creating different areas, different spaces, to make it exciting.

“You could be here having a chat with me now, then you might go and work over in the library this afternoon.

“Maybe then you’ll go over to SuperNatural tonight and meet friends and have a glass of low-intervention wine and a couple of nibbles on the board.

“Tomorrow you’ll maybe come in for breakfast or for lunch, or you might stick around for dinner.

“Then we have Cartel, which specialises in tequila and mescal with a range of 28 so far. There are some really special bottles to try. 

“We’ve tried to create something going on at all times, whether you want a quiet little corner just to get on with something, or you want to be a bit raucous.”

Shutters is set to reopen from January 9 followed by SuperNatural on January 17. Check opening hours and menus online.

Read more: How Hawksmoor constantly refines its offering

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Wapping: How Wapping Docklands Market provides a platform for small businesses

Zeroo Markets founder Will Cutteridge talks under-used land, sustainability and his plans for expansion

Will Cutteridge of Wapping Docklands Market
Will Cutteridge of Wapping Docklands Market – image Matt Grayson

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Will Cutteridge is a bit of a visionary. Where some see awkward, unused expanses of land left over from Docklands’ industrial past, he sees opportunity.

Take the patch of cobbles, wharf and compacted earth beside the Glamis Road bascule bridge, for example. 

Walk under the crossing’s red riveted metalwork, turn right through a gate off Wapping Wall at the entrance to Shadwell Basin you have the site of his first venture under the banner of Zeroo Markets.

“I worked in commercial property for five years on an apprenticeship scheme, changing teams every year,” said Will. “It was managing real estate in many different formats, but it wasn’t for me.

“When I was very young and working in property – I was 17 when I joined the industry – I didn’t have much money so I was looking at ways of making some extra cash on the weekends. 

“I started working for a company called Bath Soft Cheese who have a farm just outside of Bath, funnily enough.

“The job was selling their products at various markets around London and I absolutely loved it.

“Before I became an apprentice I’d had an interest in starting my own business of some kind. I had experience of real estate and markets – I didn’t enjoy one of them so the other one seemed the obvious place to go.

Hannah Nicholson of Peaches
Hannah Nicholson of Peaches – image Matt Grayson

“I think people are increasingly conscious of sustainability, the environment and the future of the planet.

“That was also an interest of mine, so I wanted to see how I could work that into my ideas and actually make a difference. 

“I felt almost a moral duty to factor that into my business plan and markets provide a brilliant platform for primary producers to sell their products at a price that doesn’t need to compete with large commercial supermarkets. 

Chegworth Valley, for example, is our fruit and veg supplier based in Kent, so it’s only 50 miles away.

“Our butcher is in Leicester, so that’s about 100 miles. When you buy a steak in a supermarket for £3, it may well have come from Australia or Texas.

“It’s far better to shop local and we describe ourselves as a sustainable alternative.”

By we, Will means Wapping Docklands Market, the venture he launched in April after founding his company in October 2020.

“The most important thing to do is to find the site, get the right demographic and then apply to the landowner,” he said. “In this case it’s Tower Hamlets Council.

“This was just an abandoned car park – it’s not used by anyone for anything.”

Egle Kleivaite of Stomping Grounds
Egle Kleivaite of Stomping Groundsimage Matt Grayson

Visitors to the market, which normally operates on Saturdays, will find a range of traders.

“It’s lots of different things for many different kinds of customer,” said Will.

“For the residents of Wapping and further afield in east London, it provides an opportunity to support local businesses and to get their weekly shop in from us.

“A lot of people do that – one of our best performing pitches is the fruit and veg stall. People do support that mission.

“We also have a pub, in effect, operated by the Krafty Braumeister.

Visitors can come and have a beer and enjoy refreshments from a plethora of street food stalls as well.

“On average our products have travelled 900 miles less when compared with a like-for-like product in a supermarket, so what we’re doing is working, and we’re always looking to improve.

“That’s a very important part of the market and attracts a younger crowd.”

Ben Tyler-Wray of Celtic Bakers
Ben Tyler-Wray of Celtic Bakers image Matt Grayson

The market also features baked goods, gifts, clothing and homewear brands.

“It’s been going really well since we launched and the local community have taken to it really well and we’re immensely grateful to them for that.

“We’re still trading strongly despite the weather turning. We don’t see a dip in our footfall with cold – it’s wind and rain that can be the problem.

“We want to continue to operate here and to extend our normal operation to Sundays and then Fridays, which is what we’re doing for Christmas.

“Eventually I’d love to work with the council to redevelop the site with a temporary canopy in the style of Borough Market and have a high street in a market setting.

“That potential is what we’re looking for at all of our sites.

“That’s why we wouldn’t operate at schools, for example, because it’s not under utilised space and there would be no flexibility to expand there. 

“With our next ventures, I’m looking to keep it local – my dad lives in Wapping and, while I’m in Holloway at the moment, I’m looking to move to the area. 

“We’re in contact with a number of local authorities, private developers and private landlords on a number of sites around east London.”

Brendan Preece of Brnd And Co
Brendan Preece of Brnd And Co image Matt Grayson

Wapping Docklands Market is always interested to hear from potential traders.

Will said: “There’s an application form on our website, which goes straight through to us.

“There are lots of things we’d love to add to the market. I’d love to have a crèche. A lot of parents come here with their kids and say they’d love to stay longer but have to leave because of them.

“I think a lot of adults would like that freedom to go and see Uli Schiefelbein – the Krafty Braumeister for a beer.

“He’s completely eccentric and totally awesome in every way and is great to talk to.”

As for the future, Will intends to create a business model called Squid, designed to work with landlords to generate value from under utilised space.

In the meantime, Wapping Docklands Market will be open Fridays (3pm-10pm), Saturdays and Sundays (10am-5pm) throughout December, before taking a break until January 19.

Read more: Discover Jake’s shirts, handmade in Royal Docks

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Canary Wharf: How Hawksmoor’s team work tirelessly to refine its offering

Wood Wharf opening along with The Lowback bar is first hospitality venue in estate’s emerging area

Hawksmoor group executive chef Matt Brown
Hawksmoor group executive chef Matt Brown – image Matt Grayson

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Not many restaurant group flagship venues are actually floating.

But Hawksmoor’s Wood Wharf establishment, permanently moored off Water Street, sits on a specially-built pontoon above the cold, dark fathoms of what’s left of the eastern end of West India Middle Dock. 

It’s the first in a clutch of new venues – something of a beachhead that will see Wharfers drawn in ever greater numbers over Montgomery Bridge.

And they’ll be in for a panoply of riches if Emilia’s Crafted Pasta, The London Project and MMy Wood Wharf turn out to be of similar quality.

Hawksmoor may have leapfrogged them all, becoming the first hospitality venue to open its doors in the emerging community, but the speed of its arrival hasn’t been to its detriment.

Its 160-seat restaurant on the top deck is all deep leather banquette seating, gold, glass and warm lighting. It’s filled with different, comforting textures offset by polished wood – all the glamour of an Art Deco ocean liner.

Head downstairs and 120-seat bar The Lowback continues the theme, its bottle display recalling the slick glamour of an illuminated 1940s jukebox.

It’s not just about the sleek interior, though. Like cutting into an exquisite steak and seeing the glowing red of perfectly cooked meat, the quality goes all the way through.

The restaurant at Hawksmoor's Wood Wharf establishment
The restaurant at Hawksmoor’s Wood Wharf establishment

Cookery

Matt Brown is group executive chef for Hawksmoor and boasts a CV that includes some of London’s best restaurants, including extensive periods working with Marco Pierre White.

He said: “I always wanted to cook. I’m from Chesterfield and I moved to London when I was 16, got an apprenticeship at The Ritz and did that for about four years.  After that I was reading about this guy – Marco – in the newspaper, so I went to work for him for about 20 years. Then I was head chef at Le Tante Claire for Pierre Koffmann for two years.

“But I’ve always wanted to challenge myself. Some of my cheffy friends saw taking the job at Hawksmoor in 2015 as a step down – cooking in a steakhouse – but not at all.

“What we try to do at Hawksmoor is no different from what one, two, or three Michelin-starred restaurants are trying to do. The amount of effort we put into sourcing ingredients and cooking them in the correct way is unbelievable.

“The lengths we go to to get the ultimate chip, for example, are incredible and we do that in all our restaurants – that’s a different ballgame to doing it in one kitchen.

Steaks served at Hawksmoor
Steaks served at Hawksmoor

“Firstly we take great care   selecting the potatoes – if you start with rubbish you’re never going to get a good chip – and then we have a three-day process. We blanch them first in boiling salt water, then chop them up and they go on trays to let the steam out.

“Then they go in the fridge overnight. You have to get as much water out as possible. Then we fry them at 140ºC on the second day and put them back in the fridge.  Then we serve them on the third day, frying them in beef dripping at 180ºC.

“While 80-90% of the menu is set in stone, we’re always trying to do things better, to create more interesting side dishes.

“We work with about 500 farms in the UK – all small producers – where you can select all grass-fed cuts. The menu is cool starters and steakhouse classics, but we want to be about more than just steak, we want to be a great restaurant as well.

“That means having a drinks list, a wine list and food that are all amazing. For me, it ticks all the boxes. You can come here and have what I think is the best steak and chips anywhere. My favourite is probably the rib-eye. It’s flavoursome and has just the right amount of unctuousness – tender, but not too tender.”

Matt’s connection to Canary Wharf dates back two decades to when he met local resident Lisa, who he subsequently married, but the local dining scene was pretty limited then.

“It’s not like it used to be – when I came here a few weeks ago, it was for the first time in 18 or 19 years,” he said. “Initially we were a bit dubious when we first thought about Hawksmoor on a boat – it’s not really what we do.

“But then I saw the restaurant and it’s amazing – what a great venue for anyone to come to.”

The Lowback Bar at Hawksmoor Wood Wharf
The Lowback Bar at Hawksmoor Wood Wharf

Bartending

That spirit of inclusion (pun intended) continues downstairs in The Lowback. Conceived as a venue in its own right, manager Joe Worthington is in command and wants Wharfers to see it as a favoured hangout whether they’re living or working locally.

“Hawksmoor is The Lowback’s big brother so you’re going to get that guaranteed quality, really great food. But the focus down here is on drinks.

“The atmosphere and the service will be just like any Hawksmoor but the lights will be lower and the music a little louder.

“We want it to be a hub for the Wharf. Whether you live or work here we want it to be your local, whether it’s for a cocktail or a pint of Guinness.

“We’ve got a great Martini list and one good thing is that a lot of prep for our drinks is done early – they’re designed so they can be put together in 30 seconds.

“That means we’ll be aiming to deliver drinks to the table in under five minutes for parties of two or three – a little longer if there are more guests.

“In spring the terraces will be open – there’s a further 30 seats on tables out there, bathed in sunlight.

“I imagine that, when people look out of their residential towers or their office blocks, they’re going to see that terrace outside and fancy having a Martini by the water.

“Inside we’ve got this beautiful 10-metre bar with a plethora of drinks on offer.

Manager of The Lowback Joe Worthington
Manager of The Lowback Joe Worthington – image Matt Grayson

“If you want a whisky on the rocks, a pint, a cocktail, we’re at your beck and call. The best place to sit will be at the bar where you can watch your drink being made. You’ll get your own designated bartender and they’ll be happy to talk you through the menu.

“What’s at the forefront of our minds is ensuring we deliver drinks and food with great service.

“We hope that when people come down here we’ll create regulars. The theatre of making drinks will still be there but we want to serve people quickly.

“Nobody comes to a place to stand at the bar for seven minutes. The prices we charge are the industry standard, but what sets Hawksmoor apart isn’t how cheap or expensive we are, it’s the people we employ – the atmosphere and the culture those staff create.

“Before I joined the team, I’d been coming to Hawksmoor for about 10 years and the thing I loved about it was that the bars felt independent while still being encased in the restaurant.

“The Lowback is a stand-alone brand and it’s somewhere that enables us to say yes to people whether that’s accommodating large bookings or two people who just want a quiet drink.”

Read more: Gallio opens Mediterranean restaurant at Canary Wharf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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