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Canary Wharf: Is this the best food to eat at restaurants in Canary Wharf?

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

Tomahawk steak at Roka in Canada Square’s Park Pavilion

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

Gone are the days of underwhelming Pizza Express lunches.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find our more about the Season Of Culinary Discovery here

FROSTY DAYS AND SIZZLING DISHES

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

Roast Fillet Of Sea Trout, £28

Boisdale

Cabot Place

boisdale.co.uk

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

White Chocolate Cheesecake, £6.50

Blacklock

Frobisher Passage (under the DLR)

theblacklock.com

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

Baked Halloumi Fondue, £11.90

The Lebanese Table

MMy Wood Wharf, Wood Wharf

mercatometropolitano.com

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

Christmas Feast, from £45

Pedler

One Canada Square

pedlercanarywharf.com

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

Steaks, from £62 (part of set menu)

Hawksmoor

Water Street

thehawksmoor.com

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

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

The Ivy In The Park

Canada Square

ivycollection.com

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

Cornish Monkfish, £29 

Fish Game

Water Street

fishgamerestaurant.co.uk

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

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

Six By Nico

Chancellor Passage

sixbynico.co.uk

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

FROM FARM TO FORK

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

Arroz Negro, £19

Iberica

North Colonnade

ibericarestaurants.com

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

Burnt Aubergine Borek, £19

Mallow

Water Street

mallowlondon.com

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

Feasting Menu, £55

Caravan

Reuters Plaza

caravanandco.com

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

Pork Belly + Sprouts, £13

Humble Grape

Mackenzie Walk

humblegrape.co.uk

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

Black Truffle Pizza, £35

Cafe Brera

Cabot Square

cafebrera.com

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

Panettone + Rum And Raisin Gelato, £7.50

Emilia’s Crafted Pasta

George Street

emiliaspasta.com

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

Christmas Menu, £25.95

Zizzi

Cabot Place (Atrium Kitchen)

zizzi.co.uk

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

Nduja Mediterranean Pizza, £17.50

Gallio

Cabot Place (Atrium Kitchen)

gallio.uk

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

Pappardelle Con Ragu D’Agnello, £20

Obica

West Wintergarden

obica.com

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

WHEN EAST MEETS WEST

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

Tomahawk Steak, £130

Roka

Park Pavilion, Canada Square

rokarestaurant.com

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

Karol Bagh Butter Chicken, £14.50

Chai Ki

Crossrail Place

chai-ki.com

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

Turkey Raan Bun, £13.90

Dishoom

Water Street, Wood Wharf

dishoom.com

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

Kimchi Noodle Mac And Cheese, £4.95

Seoul Bird

Jubilee Place

seoul-bird.co.uk

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

Spicy King Prawn Curry, £13.95

Pho

Jubilee Place

phocafe.co.uk

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

Spicy Veggie Ramen, £15

Ippudo

Crossrail Walk

ippudo.co.uk

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

Kake, £4.95

Marugame Udon

Atrium Kitchen, Cabot Place

marugame.co.uk

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

NORTH, SOUTH OR CENTRAL

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

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

Rebel Without A Claus, £12.95

Patty & Bun

Park Drive, Wood Wharf

pattyandbun.co.uk

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

Bar.B.Q Taste-O-Rama, £10 (inc drink)

Big Easy

Crossrail Place

bigeasy.co.uk

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

Feast Menu, £85

Gaucho

Canary Riverside

gauchorestaurants.com

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

Steak Bowl, £9.25

Chipotle

Jubilee Place

chipotle.co.uk

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

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

Wahaca

Park Pavilion, Canada Square

wahaca.co.uk

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

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

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

Festive Feast Menu, £49

Feels Like June

Water Street, Wood Wharf

feelslikejune.com

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

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

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How Oysteria is serving up fresh seafood beside South Dock

Co-founder Jamie Topkaya on opening a restaurant with award-winning head chef Tacim Yetis

Jamie Topkaya of Oysteria

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Seafood in Canary Wharf often plays second fiddle.

With the possible exception of sushi and black cod at Roka and Nova Soctian lobster at Big Easy, few venues spring to mind as places to find dishes with fish and crustaceans as the main ingredient.

This might be a bit of a disservice to Boisdale, although despite the smoked salmon and shellfish platters it’s always seemed a restaurant that’s more turf than surf at heart.

Those who enjoy eating the fruits of the sea can rejoice, however, because the estate now has two places that put them front and centre.

There’s Fish Game, recently opened on Wood Wharf, with former head chef at The Gun Matt Colk overseeing its charcoal grills.

And then there’s Oysteria, which popped up next to the  Canary Wharf end of South Quay Bridge earlier this year.

Oysteria’s interior features sea foam green upholstery and bubble lights

While Fish Game has found talent in a cook formerly working at a Blackwall venue, Oysteria represents a wholesale move for a family well-known on the Isle Of Dogs.

The Topkayas – father Mustafa and his children Jamie and Felicity – ran Italian spot Capeesh on the ground floor of Pan Peninsula next to South Quay DLR for seven years.

Having identified a vacant unit in Canary Wharf during the pandemic, they’ve now crossed the dock with Oysteria the core focus, having recently sold Capeesh as a going concern.

Jamie, who is spearheading the new venue, said: “We’d seen this place as a completely vacant unit but initially we weren’t going to take it on.

“Then we saw a gap in the market.

“Oysteria was really a good opportunity that came out of Covid.

“We spoke with Canary Wharf Group and they did a survey, which found there was a lack of seafood restaurants in the area and that they would really like to change that.

“We knew from running Capeesh that people locally really like their seafood – we’d been there a while and we thought it was time to jump over the water and onto the estate. 

“I’ve always been a fan of oysters and we’ve managed to find an award-winning head chef to make the magic happen in the kitchen.”

Oysteria head chef Tacim Yetis

Before guests taste anything however, it’s worth taking note of a few things.

Astonishingly, Oysteria is the first restaurant in the Wharf’s history to face out over West India South Dock.

This strip of quay boasts a chunky colonnade to the rear of Bank Street, gets the sun pretty much all day and benefits from views down the dock. 

Oysteria has tables right beside, sheltered from above, as well as a glass all-weather seating area for when things inevitably get a bit chillier.

Inside, the restaurant boasts minimal decor aimed at subtly recalling the deep.

“We’ve tried to remind diners of the sea,” said Jamie.

“There’s wooden cladding that’s similar to the deck of a boat, lighting like bubbles in the water and a light green colour scheme.

“It’s a bit like the restaurant under the sea. 

Prawn risotto at Oysteria

“Outside, of course, guests can enjoy seafood right next to the water and we have heaters for colder weather.

“At Oysteria, people will find a good atmosphere, good food and good service – we’re very focused on looking after our customers.

“We want to put a smile on everyone’s faces.”

Key to that will be the food. The menu is about 70% seafood with burgers and steaks available for those who prefer land-based flavours. 

The dishes are mainly Italian with influences from other parts of the Mediterranean – all overseen by head chef Tacim Yetis.

Named best chef in the UK at the 2022 Kebab Awards, he mostly does his talking on the plate, but did let slip that his personal recommendations were for the tuna with pistachio, salad and soy sauce, the monkfish with saffron gel, crusted polenta and spinach or pan-fried scallops with wild mushrooms, celeriac puree and salmon roe.

“On the drinks side, we are focusing on cocktails, including some that come with an oyster,” said Jamie.

“We have a Gin Martini and a Bloody Oysteria, which both come with one – the former features an oyster liqueur.

Fresh oysters – what else – at Oysteria

“The latter is a Bloody Mary-style drink, which goes perfectly with the shellfish thanks to the Tabasco sauce.

“We source much of our seafood from Billingsgate, which is only a stone’s throw from us, with some oysters coming from Jersey and Poole as well.

“It’s been an amazing learning process, discovering how to tell if they are fresh by tapping them, 

“We serve them very fresh and there’s nothing better.

“If I was personally ordering a meal, I’d always start with a dozen and then follow it with the tuna.

“With the Italian influence, we offer a lot of pasta and risotto dishes too and those are always tempting. 

“Then we have a fantastic pistachio tiramisu for dessert, which is perfect with a Limoncello.

“We’ve been getting busier and busier as we’ve built it up – taking on a unit that was just an empty shell at the beginning and turning it into a restaurant.

“We’re planning to introduce a two-for-one cocktail offer soon as well as a happy hour.”

  • In the meantime, Wharfers looking for a deal can get lunch for £11.90 for a main pasta or risotto and a soft drink or £14.90 with a house wine or beer on weekdays from noon-3pm.

“We pride ourselves on delivering quick service,” said Jamie.

“At lunchtime we know people want to be able to sit down, eat and leave within 30 minutes and this is already proving popular.”

Oysteria has tables by the water and also in a weatherproof section outside its premises

Read More: Why there’s only weeks left to see Punchdrunk’s The Burnt city

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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

Read more: How artist Mark Taylor is capturing Canary Wharf and Docklands

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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 Blacklock wants its bills to give diners a positive shock on price

Brand is set to open its fifth restaurant at Frobisher Passage overlooking North Dock on May 15, 2023

Dishes are served communally a Blacklock on mismatched crockery

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“When you go to a great restaurant, it can be very expensive,” said Gordon Ker, founder of Blacklock, a small chain of four chophouses that’s set to open its fifth in Canary Wharf this month.

“But we want to give our guests a positive shock when the bill arrives. We want them to be asking: ‘Is that right? What’s been missed off? When can we do this again?’.”

Check Blacklock’s menu and it’s serving up skinny chops for a fiver each, steaks for £18 or less and a burger for £12 with sides on offer for £4 a go.

That’s in contrast to, say, Manhattan Grill – just over the waters of West India North Dock – where sides are £6, steaks start at £32 and a burger is £17.

It’s not like-for-like, of course. One is a restaurant in a five-star hotel serving American beef, while the other takes its inspiration from the workaday chop houses of old.

I suspect, however, that Gordon would be willing to pit the Cornish, grass-fed meats Blacklock serves against anything imported from across the pond.

It’s also his brand’s approach to the produce that, in part, explains the lower prices.

Blacklock founder Gordon Ker

“We’re certainly not buying cheap meat, it’s expensive stuff that we serve,” he said.

“But we try and be sensible about how we source and utilise the animals. 

“The first thing to say is we buy the whole animal, and we use as much of it as we can.

“That way there’s no waste for the farmer so we get a better price.

“A steakhouse might buy prime cuts, but then the farmer has to shift the rest of the meat. 

“Supply and demand means if everyone wants the same cuts, then the price for those goes up further.

“We get a fixed price for the whole animal, which is cheaper, and then we get inventive with the menu – selling cuts people might not be familiar with. 

“For example, we sell a sixth rib eye, which is a little further down from the prime ribs – but that’s £18 in contrast to a typical rib eye for £30.

“Then we do a starter – Pig’s Head On Toast, where we cook down the whole head and then pull the meat apart, braise it, spice it, and serve it on bread with gravy.

The Canary Wharf branch will feature a brand new bar menu

“Our message on sustainability is also that people should be eating better meat less often.

“Our meat comes from Philip Warren in Cornwall and is regeneratively farmed to help improve the soil.

“The animals live a comparatively long and happy life and the farmers aim to keep out of things as much as possible.

“There are no antibiotics or growth additives or negative things like that.

“Our margin on food is less than what standard restaurant economics tell you to make it.

“But that’s part of our commitment to providing exceptional value for money.”

Gordon is not a man afraid to go his own way.

After studying law at UCL, he embarked on a career as a solicitor and found himself an associate at London-based firm Olswang, dealing with hospitality and leisure firms.

But despite the regular income and reliable prospects, he found the law unfulfilling and started formulating plans to escape it. 

Having got to know Hawksmoor founders, Will Beckett and Huw Gott, as clients, when private equity firm Graphite Capital bought a majority stake in their business, he told them he intended to launch his own restaurant.

Describing it as “a terrible idea” they did their best to discourage him.

Diners are encouraged to share dishes, much like they would do at home

They said I had a stable job, that running restaurants was really hard and wondered why I would want to do it given I knew nothing about it,” said Gordon.

“That made a lot of sense at the time, but I was persistent and I think they took pity on me.”

So, when Gordon quit his job, he went first to work at Hawksmoor for 10 months to learn how a restaurant worked while simultaneously scouring the capital for a suitable space to try out his ideas.

While Will and Huw helped him out with some early investors and remain shareholders in Blacklock today, it took Gordon a while to find a landlord willing to take a punt on a business with no track record. 

Nevertheless, against the odds, Gordon opened his first site in a Soho basement formerly used as a brothel.

He and his team overcame water leaks and a lack of both gas and electricity to launch the first restaurant “as cheaply as possible”.

Having grown from those early days to locations in the City, Shoreditch and Covent Garden, the brand retains a charming bootstrap ethos.

Cutlery, with the exception of the knives, is second hand, as is the crockery.

The aim is to create a familial atmosphere, with food doled out at the table – a haven of comfort, not ceremony.

Blacklock’s Canary Wharf branch is located in Frobisher Passage and is expected to open on May 15, 2023, – although reservations are already being taken.

It’s located in a space under the DLR tracks that once served as the estate’s security and pass issue office.

Inside, it’s a cosy space with frosted windows that seems deliberately conceived as a refuge.

There are glossy dark walls, wry signage and plenty of dark wood furniture. 

The glasses, plates, spoons and forks are all second hand at Blacklock, as is much of the furniture

“It’s important for us to be in buildings that have character,” said Gordon.

“We want to transport people to a place that’s full of heritage but also very relaxed, vintage with a natural feel. 

“Everything’s reclaimed – the tables, the chairs, all the wood, the crockery, the forks, the spoons and the glassware. It all has that special, nostalgic feel.

“With the trains going overhead it has a speakeasy, New York vibe – people can enjoy the gentle, comforting rumble.

“We want it to be the kind of place where you come for lunch which, after a few Old Fashioneds, becomes dinner.”

The Canary Wharf branch will also feature a bar menu.

Blacklocks typically offer cocktails from £7.50 and alcohol-free mixed drinks from £4.

Staffing is perhaps the final piece of the jigsaw at Blacklock, with Hawksmoor’s reputation as a great place to work clearly finding resonance in Gordon’s approach to running his own restaurants. 

“The first thing I say to people at their induction is that most restaurants will tell you to put the customers first – to make them happy,” he said.

“Of course they are important, but they are number two in our business because it’s our people who are important. 

“For us, opening new locations is about building careers for people so they can take that next step.

“That creates the opportunity for people to grow within the company and gives people purpose. It’s about culture.

“I passionately think people do great things when they are motivated and invested.

“That’s what we are seeking to create.”

Read more: How WaterAid uses dragon boats to raise money

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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 Atis aims to nourish and satisfy with its salad bowls

Co-founder Eleanor Warder talks inspiration and sustainability as the brand opens in Canada Place

The Nourisher salad bowl from Atis in Canary Wharf

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Canary Wharf has, as far as I know, only one takeaway brand that draws part of its identity from ancient mythology.

Atis takes its name from the Phrygian god of vegetation – a deity whose death and resurrection echoes the plants and trees that die in winter only to rise again in spring and whose cult spread from what is now Turkey through Greece to ancient Rome.

The branch the company recently opened in Canary Wharf is its fourth location but there are two more in the pipeline.

Evidence perhaps that its founders – husband and wife team Eleanor Warder and Phil Honer – would like to see the brand spread as widely as worship of its mythic namesake did in ancient times.

That, of course, will ultimately be down to the appeal of what it sells – bowls of salad with an approach inspired by time spent overseas.

“We lived in America for a bit before we launched the business in 2019,” said Eleanor. “Phil was doing an MBA there and I joined him. 

“We’d always wanted to do something in food.

“Phil had worked in financial services in London after university and always felt there was something lacking – a place offering simple, fast, healthy, delicious food.

“They say America is always a step ahead and they have companies like Sweetgreen there which are huge – all over the west and east coasts.

“We went there and to similar places a lot when we were living in Boston – we drew inspiration from them.

“So we came back to the UK in the summer of 2018 and spent a year developing the concept.

“It was particularly difficult in the beginning – when we were unknown – and finding our first location took about a year, but we opened in Old Street in September 2019 before going on to launch sites in Belgravia and Notting Hill.

“We want to grow and expand. I’m not sure we’ll ever be the next Pret, although that would be fantastic.

“For us it’s about quality, brand and experience – so we have to keep that in mind as our company gets bigger.”

Atis is located in Canada Place’s Crossrail Walk

Atis does things a bit differently. About half of the unit it has taken in Canada Place’s Crossrail Walk – between Waitrose and the Elizabeth Line station – is filled with staff preparing and cooking the ingredients it serves.

On the other side, a production line stands ready to put together its core range of seasonal salad bowls ranging in price from £6.50-£9.60 for a regular or £7.50-£10.70 for a large.

There’s also an option for customers to build their own for £6.90 or £7.70.

Hot and cold premium ingredients are extra. The aim is to offer Wharfers filling, satisfying products that deliver on flavour – something Eleanor knows all about.

“We have worked with a really brilliant, creative chef to develop core bowls that are really interesting,” she said.

“When people walk in, they see the line is predominantly fresh produce.

“The colour is really important for us – and the taste – so people get the full experience of the food they are buying.

“We’re trying to create a balance between being innovative and giving people what they want. For example, people really love tomatoes, so we do them straight, rather than doctoring them.

“But then we have a section – our hot protein element – where we take things up another level cooking ingredients using lots of spices and marinades.

“This is our main selling point.

“You can have a bowl at Atis that is fully vegan or vegetarian

but people can also add our blackened chicken, for example. 

“We toyed with the idea of being completely plant-based, but we decided against it because our ethos is that we shouldn’t cut out food groups. 

“The idea is that people can have meat one day and choose not to on another – they have that flexibility.

“The most important thing is that whether it’s regular or large, our bowls leave people feeling satisfied and nourished.

“There’s this old idea that salads are potentially quite grim and won’t fill you up.

“We’re trying to change that so our customers feel what they are getting is satisfying, good value for the price and high on flavour.

“My background is in the wine trade, originally in a startup importing and selling to small independent restaurants in London before I moved into hospitality and became a sommelier.

“With Atis, my focus is very much on the food we serve, developing the menu and the marketing.

Atis co-founder Eleanor Warder

“Personally, I flip between ordering the core bowls, and then building my own. 

“The latter is very popular, especially on our online platforms, which shows you that people do want control and flexibility over what they eat.”

While Atis probably has Eleanor’s joint honours degree in classics to thank for its name, its presence in Canary Wharf has more to do with Phil.

“Canary Wharf was already on our minds when we started the business,” said Eleanor. 

“Phil was very keen and had identified it as a place that would be really good, and I think he was completely right.

“He had worked here, knew that there would be a demand for us and that there were other operators doing really well on the estate.

“The real appeal for us is that our customers are a balance between commercial and residential, and the vertical density of population on the estate is really great for our business.”

In addition to nourishment, sustainability is at the core of Atis’ operation.

Eleanor said: “It’s an area that’s  increasingly important for us, as it should be, and it’s been a big learning curve – especially on the packaging front and it’s something customers expect.

“What we have found is that parts of the UK don’t necessarily have the infrastructure to be able to deal with recycling in the right way and that’s quite shocking.

“People think they’re doing good – putting their waste in the correct bin, but there’s a whole  other side to it, which makes things challenging.

“Coming into Canary Wharf – which is right at the forefront of sustainability – we’ve learnt that everyone has to really concentrate on making sure what should be happening actually is.

“Obviously there is also the food itself. We are plant-powered and that’s a huge element when we’re talking about sustainability.

“The UK is a small country and we can’t get everything we use from these shores, but we do source whatever we can locally. 

“We also have seasonal focus – changing our menu four times a year to reflect what’s available and considering carefully what we can get from the UK.

“Right from the outset we’ve also been working with different partners, one of which is Too Good To Go, which helps to pass on food that would otherwise go to waste at a reduced cost.”

Atis is open in Canada Place from 11am-9pm Mon-Thurs and 11am-3pm Fri-Sun.

The Azteca Bowl topped with blackened chicken

HOW IT TASTES

Azteca Bowl, £14.10 (£10.70 large bowl + £3.40  blackened chicken)

Large really does mean large when ordering from Atis.

The Azteca isn’t quite a bottomless bowl, but by the time I’m done munching through the (optional) blackened chicken, there’s little doubt the brand’s mission to fill me up is a success.

This is more than just unctuous slices of well-cooked protein draped over some leaves, however.

There’s real depth to the Azteca, coming as it does with black eyed beans, charred corn, baby spinach, chopped romaine lettuce, something called “sustain yo’self avo smash”, picked red onions, Feta cheese and some crumbled tortilla chips all topped off with a lime and coriander dressing.

At a chunky 965 calories without the chicken, it’s a pretty serious pot of food but there’s a freshness to it that makes good on all Atis’ fine words. 

I’ve no idea what’s in the smash, but it’s delicious and comes together perfectly in a blend that’s balanced enough to let all the big ticket flavours have their space.

If the other salads are this good, Atis will rapidly find its place in the hearts of many Wharfers.

Read more: How Bread And Macaroon serves up treats in Wapping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Chapter One of Nauzer’s story here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KAVI’S MENU PICKS

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

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

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

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

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

Chilli Cheese Toast – £5.70

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

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

Double Bacon & Egg Naan Roll – £11.60

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

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How Kerb’s West India Quay operation has gone social

Street food business sets up not-for-profit to help traders start and grown their operations

Wandercrust founder Gavin Dunn is running Kerb Social Enterprise

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

Buy a meal from a street food trader at Kerb On The Quay and you will be doing much more than filling your stomach, from now on.

A year ago, Kerb made a radical change. 

After nine years of running markets across London that championed food startups – including the popular West India Quay spot – the business decided it needed to do more.

So it set up a not-for-profit social enterprise arm and hired Gavin Dunn, founder of pizza company Wandercrust and graduate of its own Inkerbator programme, to run it.

“I’ve always been really passionate about the ethos of Kerb – of breathing life and vitality into otherwise quiet areas of London and supporting a really diverse ecosystem of great foods from around the world,” said the 49-year-old, who is managing director of the company Kerb Social Enterprise.

“When I saw the job on LinkedIn, I felt pretty well placed to apply.”

Kerb already knew Gavin had experience with street food and his own consultancy in business development and HR, but its managers were impressed to find out he also had an extensive background with social enterprises and charities.

Gavin said it meant his experience perfectly matched the extremely niche role.

“There’s not that many food-based social enterprises so, not to blow my own trumpet, but I knew as soon as I saw the role it was quite nailed-on for me,” he said.

The first step in creating the new company ecosystem was “engaging” and, over the last 12 months, Gavin has worked to find more charity partners across four areas – youth unemployment, ex-offenders, refugee support and homelessness.

The aim is to discover hidden talent among the most disadvantaged communities in London to join its programmes and help diversify the street food scene.

“That early stage of the ecosystem is really important to me,” said Gavin.

“I went through the Inkerbator programme but was absolutely fortunate enough to have been able to afford my own pizza truck. 

 “I had a certain level of privilege to be able to set up Wandercrust while running my consultancy. 

“I’m well aware that early stage presents such a barrier to individuals in being able to pursue their dream of running their own food businesses.

“We’re reaching out to these charities to see how we can remove those barriers, work with them and offer support to get them onto our Inkerbator programme and trading at our markets.

Meatstop founder Benjamin Page began barbecuing aged 11. He now serves burgers, made from the finest ingredients and graduated from Kerb’s Inkerbator in October

“That’s where we are really plugged in to parts of London that we otherwise would have overlooked in the past.”

The new era, which dawned as Kerb began celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2022, relies heavily on its West India Quay market.

It restarted in March and is now where all Inkerbators must cut their teeth every Wednesday from 11.30am to 2.30pm.

Full Kerb members trade at the site every Thursday from 11.30am to 2.30pm.

So far this year it has produced 23 graduates, including The Yeast Brothers, who have now opened their own restaurant in Deptford.

The last cohort graduated in October, so the Wednesday market is paused for now, but will return in 2023 with a fresh set of traders for Wharfers to try.

“We take a lot of time and care to make sure the businesses that come through the programme have the best experience possible and we can rely on West India Quay for that,” said Gavin.

“Canary Wharf is the home of London’s markets, and street food markets are the original business incubators, where people shared ideas and practices.

“It’s really nice to have brought it back to Canary Wharf this year and long may it last. 

“We choose to do it there because of the crowd. The customers love it and recognise its value and you can feel it at an Inkerbator market.”

The Woolwich resident still remembers the buzz of trading there for the first time in 2016 with Wandercrust, which now trades in Greenwich.

“There’s nothing like it really,” said Gavin. “It’s excitement but you are anxious and you can still feel that at Inkerbator markets now.

“It means I know exactly how new businesses owners coming on to the programme feel.”

He also knows first hand the world of opportunities the programme can open up.

“One of the main benefits I found at Inkerbator was just this development of a network of like-minded creative, food-loving small businesses. It enables that collective spirit,” he said.

“It feels incredible for me to now be responsible for it and help rebuild it after the pandemic.”

Sadish Gurung, left, and Subash Gurung, both worked in IT before launching Nepalese food business Filili which serves up Momo bite-size dumplings, below. They graduated in October

Kerb, which also runs markets across London and a successful event catering arm with food service group Compass, shut down most of its activities over 2020 and 2021.

During that time it received 750 applications for Inkerbator.

Its team research and chat to each one, but also scout and approach businesses to invite, to ensure they are finding the best.

Those offered a place go through the coaching stage of the ecosystem, followed by six weeks of trading at West India Quay.

Once the incubating stage is complete and traders have graduated into full members, the accelerating stage kicks in.

Many go on to trade at the Thursday market at West India Quay and Kerb also offers regular networking events to its 100-plus members, some of whom have been with the business since its inception.

“It can be a lonely place, being a food business owner,” said Gavin. “So being part of a collective really helps to get everyone’s creative juices flowing.”

Becoming a social enterprise was a big change but Kerb was already working with charities such as Food Behind Bars to find potential members.

“We’ve worked with a guy called Marcus who had the idea of setting up a Caribbean pie and mash business,” said Gavin.

“I first met him in Brixton prison and now he’s working with us to gain work experience to help get him work in hospitality, but also to hopefully one day get onto our Inkerbator programme to set up his own street food business.”

It also works with The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN) and one of its founders is on Kerb’s advisory board. 

One of the most popular traders at the Quay is Oshpaz, which was set up by Uzbekistan refugee Muzaffar Sadykov after he was referred by TERN and completed Kerb’s Inkerbator programme in February 2019.

Transforming into a social enterprise means the company now has more money to invest in its work with these charities as there are no shareholders or dividends.

“If you buy a bowl of plov from Muzaffa, not only will the the money go straight to him, but any pitch fee he pays Kerb is reinvested back into supporting early stage food businesses to help them grow through the Inkerbator,” said Gavin.

Kerb partnered with both charities and new partner homeless charity The Connection at St Martin In The Fields, to launch its first big move for the new social enterprise in the summer.

It partnered with McCain for initiative Streets Ahead offering free workshops to 100 less advantaged people. 

“We’re already seeing individuals that The Connection has worked with referred to us and we’re supporting them either into work or talking about how they would go about setting up their own food businesses,” said Gavin.

Jan Manrique from RiceON.LDN serves Korean bulgogi and graduated from the Inkerbator in March

“We’re always looking for new partners and more support and we would like to do a lot more because there’s so much food talent out there and individuals that would love the opportunity to do it.

“But there are still a lot of barriers in the way, which we’re working really hard to remove.”

Gavin said next year was going to be a big one for Kerb.

“There’s loads of things in the pipeline that we’re excited about,” he said.

“Not least, working with all of the charities I’ve mentioned and removing those barriers to entry into food entrepreneurship for individuals who are just leaving prison or have refugee status. 

“It really does feel as though we’re in a unique position – we’ve got so much to offer.”

He added: “I’m passionate about supporting small, independent businesses and have yet to come across a business that is better at doing that than Kerb.

“It’s a privilege to be able to be the person doing this for Kerb. 

“It’s had such success over the first 10 years and I’m determined to make the next 10 years equally as successful and ground breaking.”

He hopes West India Quay will continue to embrace its new traders as they diversify and hopefully extend the number of days they trade there next year.

“We’ve had such amazing support from the customer base,” said Gavin. 

“It hasn’t been as busy this year because with hybrid working not everyone’s in the office all the time.

“But what we have seen is real support from people who want to make sure that we remain there.

“People tell us they plan their days in the office around market day and some people come over and order 30 different meals to take back and make it into an office event.

 “Kerb’s remit has always been to breathe life into spaces, to bring some colour, diversity and flavour to an area that might otherwise be less vibrant. 

“I really think we’ve done that at West India Quay but also in the wider Canary Wharf area. You see so many more small food businesses there now and I like to think Kerb played a small part.”

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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: Why Feels Like June is all about the warmth of welcome

Restaurant and bar at recently opened Tribe hotel wants to draw residents and workers to Wood Wharf

Feels Like June is located in Wood Wharf
Feels Like June is located in Wood Wharf

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It wasn’t so very long ago that there wasn’t really much to visit Wood Wharf for. Those days of promissory hoardings are long gone.

MMy Wood Wharf is finding its feet, complete with a basement jazz club, Emilia’s Crafted Pasta is well established as a place for generous bowls and Hawksmoor continues to be a lunchtime hit, ably assisted by arguably one of the best bars on the Wharf – The Lowback – beneath.

But those are just for starters. Patty&Bun, a chain so hip all its melons are twisted, is serving decent drippy burgers on Park Drive and recently launched hotel Tribe has opened its doors as the first place for visitors to stay actually on the Canary Wharf estate. 

Its bar and restaurant, which also acts as a workspace, is the optimistically named Feels Like June – a moniker that is entirely appropriate for a heatwave but that might be more a reach in, say, January.

For restaurant manager, Juan Esquivel, the name is more about the warmth of welcome his team and the hotel aim to extend to visitors and guests.

“First of all, we are casual – you won’t find us in suits,” he said.

“We want people to feel like they are on holiday when they come here and we don’t want people staying with us at Tribe in their rooms, we want them here.

“The social hub is the lobby and there’s a salad bar and a grab-and-go coffee shop.

Feels Like June manager Juan Esquivel
Feels Like June manager Juan Esquivel

“But Feels Like June also works as a standalone restaurant. It’s inspired by California both in what we serve, but also by the state’s summer vibe.

“I think the designers have done a really good job – you won’t find a normal linear restaurant here.

“It’s more relaxed, like a lounge, so people can sit with a drink and a book or do some work on a laptop.

“We want this place to be for everybody – an approachable product with great service – a place where Wood Wharf’s residents can meet holidaymakers, Canary Wharf workers and the hotel’s guests.

“The name isn’t about the weather, it’s about the warmth we bring to our guests. The seasons may change, but here you will get that same summery feel – always welcoming.”

Originally from Argentina, Juan has worked in Mexico, Spain and London, most recently for six months at Gaucho.

“I’ve always worked for luxury brands and, for me, coming here was about asking why we can’t bring that level of service and product to a wider audience,” he said.

“Tribe is part of Ennismore (which recently merged with hospitality giant Accor), and we are really proud to be the first hotel on the Canary Wharf estate.

“As a brand it’s a new concept and this is the first in the UK – the flagship for all of the openings around the world.”

Open all day with options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, food and drink-wise, Feels Like June promises diners dishes that prioritise health and natural ingredients.

“Personally I love the sea bass, which comes with herb butter and lemon curd,” said Juan. “It’s very tasty and the steaks are good as well.

“All of our desserts are gluten-free and we do things like a banana split because that’s something fun to share – we have a lot of families at the weekend so it works for kids as well.

Food at Feels Like June
Food at Feels Like June

“We also have a caramelised pineapple dish with mango sorbet, which is very summery and has rum in it so there are lots of tropical flavours.

“At the bar we are looking to have lots of low alcohol versions of drinks – our versions of classics.

“For example, guests can have our Minimal Colada, a version of a Pina Colada that’s clarified and more summery with coconut rum, banana, pineapple, coconut water and salt.

“The idea is you can have a drink with lunch and be fine to do some work.”

Guests can expect to pay around £13 for a cocktail, while small plates cost between £8 and £17. Main dishes range from £14 to £25 and salads are about £12. 

“We’re open for breakfast and we will have a lot of guests from the hotel, but we also have an a la carte menu for our other customers,” said Juan.

“We’ve also just introduced a brunch menu, which we think is going to be very popular at the weekend.

“Feels Like June really brings a different kind of space to Canary Wharf where everyone can find something to enjoy.

“We already have regulars and I really like our staff to engage with our customers and to have conversations with them. 

“In turn I think the people who are living here are very happy that more things are opening. Here we want people to always feel that they are welcome.”

The bar at Feels Like June
The bar at Feels Like June

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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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Deptford: How The Yeast Brothers blend youth and experience in their business

Pizza restaurant at Artworks Creekside uses secret blend of flour and time to create signature dough

Rafael Pinto and Ale De Menezes are The Yeast Brothers
Rafael Pinto and Ale De Menezes are The Yeast Brothers – image Matt Grayson

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

They say you are what you eat. Well, layers of Deptford life are folded into the pizza at The Yeast Brothers.

Firstly, the sourdough base is made by catching the wild yeast in the air around the Artworks Creekside and fermenting each ball of dough for 48 hours.

“The dough is the main thing,” said co-founder Rafael Pinto, 25. “We don’t like to talk about what goes into ours – it’s secret – but we mix different types of flour so it is very light and crispy at the same time.

“It’s all about the fermentation. If you leave it to over-ferment it’s not going to be nice and we have to control the temperature and hydration overnight. It’s a science.”

The next layer is their background. Bermondsey resident Rafael and co-founder Ale De Menezes, 43, both hail from São Paulo in Brazil, but left their homeland’s traditions behind to mix Italian style with their own modern take, which includes vegetables from Deptford and chorizo from Spain.

“Pizza is a very big thing in Brazil,” said Rafael. “They say it’s the best in the world. The Italians would disagree with that, I’m sure.

“It’s a different style because they don’t use a long fermentation like the Italians. They make the dough in the morning for that night. 

“Here, the long dough is very important to us. We like to be patient and let it grow by itself and don’t try to push it.

“It makes it easier to digest because you use less yeast but, of course, without the yeast we would be nothing.”

Hence The Yeast Brothers. Except they’re not actually related. Not by blood anyway.

Ale has been friends with Rafael’s father since they were teenagers in Brazil and it was he who introduced the youngster to pizza making in Deptford.

Ale creates a base
Ale creates a base – image Matt Grayson

“When my dad knew I was coming to London, he contacted Ale to help me,” said Rafael.

“Ale used to work in TV production in Brazil and made pizzas but it wasn’t his main job. 

“A few years back he went to live in Australia and started working in a kitchen making pizza. When he came to London, he kept doing it.”

When Rafael arrived in London, fresh from culinary school in Brazil, Ale helped him settle in and get a job at Wandercrust at The Duke pub in Deptford.

It was here that the ingredients of The Yeast Brothers began slowly fermenting.

“Ale was the master who taught me everything I know about pizza and we sort of became brothers for life,” said Rafael.

The duo worked at Wandercrust until April 2021 when the business moved to Greenwich, building on their shared love of pizza and dreaming of their own operation.

The Brazilian duo offer a range of flavours
The Brazilian duo offer a range of flavours – image Matt Grayson

It was lockdown that gave them the push to roll out their own dough.

“During the pandemic, it was just us in the kitchen not talking to anyone but the drivers, so it gave us time to talk and come up with the concept and choose our identity,” said Rafael.

“Ale’s the most hard-working guy I know, so I knew he would be the best partner for me.

“I feel like the pandemic helped because otherwise, it would have taken a lot longer.”

Money to make the dream a reality was tight, but then the team from Deptford Bus approached them with “the perfect opportunity” – a space and some equipment to get them started.

They traded there until December last year but once again were left stranded when the business closed.

Again, Deptford came to the rescue when the team from Artworks approached them with a space.

Hopefully now settled for a while, they are concentrating on developing their menu which offers up classic pizza flavours and some surprises.

Ready for the oven
Ready for the oven – image Matt Grayson

“We used to do Neapolitan pizza, which is popular in London, but we thought we could do something different,” said Rafael.

“People who make it tend to follow the traditional techniques but we use a different flour and folding method and try to expand our ingredients – charcuterie from Spain, cheeses from France and not just Italian products.

“For us to actually have an impact we had to have the classics, because that’s what people look for.

“So we use tomato and mozzarella from Italy, but we try to mix it up as well. We do a pizza with Montgomery Cheddar from England and chorizo from Spain.”

His favourite is the burrata and nduja pizza and they also offer four vegan options – a truffle pizza  and a weekly special.

“I feel like eventually we’re gonna get rid of some of the classics and try to have more unique flavours,” said Rafael.

It’s a very competitive market and there are so many different styles as well. You have the cheap pizzas, the Domino’s, and the more artisanal ones.

Served up, the finished pizza
Served up, the finished pizza – image Matt Grayson

“I feel like we are in the high end of pizzas now in terms of quality and prices.”

They are also adding another layer to the business with a van featuring a wood-fired oven.

The duo have just used it for a stint at West India Quay as part of the Kerb Incubator programme and will now be heading to the street market at the Gherkin in the City.

Rafael said he couldn’t see the business leaving Deptford though – they love the neighbourhood so much and are enjoying experimenting with how they do things there.

Their wives take turns to help out in the restaurant at weekends and they have been adapting their hours and menu as they go along based on what customers want.

“We’re still figuring out when is best to be here but enjoying it all,” said Rafael.

“I don’t remember once having an argument with Ale – we are pretty chill.

“We know how to respect one another, that everyone has their moments and how to give one another space.”

So how does this bubbling, almost-finished business compare to their Deptford pizza past?

“It’s just us in the kitchen like it was before, but it’s great, because here the customers can see the pizzas being made and we get to see them eating it,” said Rafael.

“That’s what we’re here for – to see their faces when they enjoy the food.”

Pizzas at The Yeast Brothers – image Matt Grayson

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