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Canary Wharf: How Kricket and Soma are set to bring late night Indian flavours to E14

Restaurant and bar in Frobisher Passage will see the Soho success story move east with a 2am licence

Kricket co-founder Will Bowlby and Rik Campbell outside their Soho restaurant

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Kricket is set to try something different in Canary Wharf.

Over recent years, the estate’s restaurant and bar scene has flourished thanks to a torrent of new arrivals.

The likes of Dishoom, Hawksmoor, Mallow and Oysteria have built on the solid foundations laid by Amerigo Vespucci, Roka and Boisdale Of Canary Wharf to transform the estate into a compelling culinary destination.

However, even with a wealth of destinations to choose from, finding food after 10pm can be challenging.

While some venues are open until midnight and a few don’t close until 2am, they are the exception rather than the rule.

But Will Bowlby and Rik Campbell feel this corner of London is now right for a venue that cooks into the small hours.

“We’ve got a late licence on the site so we can open to 2am, which is great for our bar, Soma, but we’re also going to use that for our restaurant, Kricket, and do the full service until late, on the nights that demand it – Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” said Rik, who co-founded the business with university friend Will in Brixton.

“It’s a selling point and I think we can get a following going for it.”

Bhel puri at Kricket

Will, who works as the business’ executive chef, added: “We took a lot of our team over to Mumbai in January this year – many have been with us for five years or more – as we wanted to show them the city we were inspired by.

“There’s a lot of late-night eating there and we thought it would be great to recreate that vibe – Mumbai really is a 24-hour city, even if London isn’t.”

There’s something fitting, perhaps, in the arrival of a cutting-edge brand in Docklands that started life in a shipping container in Brixton.

Those metal oblongs were themselves a transformative force for shipping – their introduction one of the factors that left the docks obsolete, clearing the way for Canary Wharf to emerge.

“We started Kricket in 2015,” said Will, who went straight to work in a London kitchen after university in Newcastle, before moving over to India.

“I cooked the food and Rik served the customers.

“It was like a foray into the darkness – we didn’t really know what we were doing until we opened – then we learnt as we went along.

“From there, we opened in Soho in January 2016.”

A Junoon cocktail at the restaurant

Rik, for his part, had always wanted to work in hospitality but spent time at Deloitte in corporate finance before joining forces with Will.

Their Soho venture was a success and Kricket now operates three sites – a restaurant under railway arches in Brixton and another in White City.

“Having been in India, we wanted to showcase what we’d seen there,” said Will.

“When I was first over there, I was running a European restaurant – but I was always more interested in what I wasn’t cooking.

“In London at the time, there were high-end Indian fine dining establishments and curry houses with very little in between.

“It was about waiting for an opportunity and that was the container.”

Rik added: “We were young – in our mid-20s – and naiveté was bliss.

“We did 50 covers on our first night – mostly friends and family – but we had no kitchen porter and no bar.

“A lot of time we would get out of trouble because Will’s food is so good.

“We had a lot of fun, just focused on the food and service and worked really hard doing 90-100 hour weeks. 

“It was an important part of the journey, but you couldn’t pay me to go back there now.”

Pandhi pork curry

The buzz the duo created won them recognition and a shot at Soho, attracting a line of diners with an open kitchen and counter service.

“Eventually they took on the space next door, opening basement bar Soma at least partly to lucratively lubricate those waiting in the queue.

It’s this combination that will inform their forthcoming Canary Wharf branch – tentatively expected to open in July, 2024, at Frobisher Passage under the DLR.

“The site was in a very unassuming building, quite un-Canary Wharf, but Rik said we must go and see it,” said Will.

“It’s underneath the DLR, quite tucked away, opposite Blacklock

“Neither of us had been to Canary Wharf for about 10 years, and we’d assumed that it wasn’t really where we wanted to be.

“But when we went over there, we were really surprised by how much it had changed.

“It’s a full seven-day operation with an established community – lots of committed residents,  people visiting and staying locally.

“You can get to our Soho branch near Piccadilly Circus via the Elizabeth Line in less than half an hour.”

So what can people expect from the new venue when it opens its doors?

“Kricket is our interpretation of Indian food,” said Rik. “It’s such a varied cuisine – there’s so much to learn and to eat.

“Our menus are constantly changing and we showcase local ingredients in dishes that are designed to be shared, just as they are in India.”

Will added: “We’ve designed the restaurant so people can come on their own, as a couple or with eight or 10 people for a feast.

Mussels Goan chorio and other assorted dishes

“We have dishes from £2-£45 so it’s accessible.

“The most expensive one is really a big showcase of a plate.

“We’ve always had open kitchens, which is unusual for an Indian restaurant and it’s how we like to eat – up at the counter.

“Then there will be Soma, which will have a different feel and its own entrance.

“If Kricket is a bustling market-like place, then Soma is the quiet little sister – a little broody and underground.

“In Canary Wharf it will be India and beyond with a definite Japanese influence and elements from across Asia.

“Our Soho bar was formerly a Japanese gentleman’s club so we’ve taken inspiration from that in the classic style of the drinks. High quality and reasonably priced.”

While the last time Will and Rik ate together at Kricket they had the steak with garlic bread, when asked for guidance, Will was clear.

“Start with the tomato rasam pani puri (£2) and then have the bhel puri (£7.50),” he said.

“The first is an explosion in your mouth and the second has been on the menu since day one.” 

Anyone else salivating?

key details

Kricket and Soma are set to open in Canary Wharf’s Frobisher Passage in July, 2024.

Find more information about Kricket here

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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: 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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