SeoulBird

East River Wharf shared ownership may cost less than renting

Legal And General Affordable Homes’ scheme offers compelling alternative with deposits starting at £4,844 for a one-bedroom property

Image shows a collection of residential tower blocks that make up the Riverscape development next to the Thames in Royal Docks. East River Wharf's buildings are orange and at the centre
East River Wharf’s buildings are located at the centre of Riverscape close to Lyle Park

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

Rising rents are arguably one of the biggest pressures in the housing market right now.

According to a recent study by estate agency Stirling Ackroyd, tenants are currently paying an average of £1,966 a month for a one-bedroom property near Canary Wharf.

While wider inflation has fallen back to 2.3% and average two-year fixed mortgages have dropped back to less than 5% in May, with cheaper borrowing expected later in the year, rents are forecast to climb ever higher.

One study from Savills predicts more than 6% growth over 2024.

Increasingly, affordable housing providers are highlighting shared ownership properties as a less expensive alternative to renting.

Image shows living area with a wooden floor at East River Wharf
A show home interior at East River Wharf

case study: East River Wharf

Take Legal And General Affordable Homes’ East River Wharf scheme, for example.

Its properties form part of Riverscape – essentially an extension of Ballymore and Oxley’s Royal Wharf development on the banks of the Thames at Silvertown. 

Located roughly 15 minutes from Canary Wharf itself via the DLR and Jubilee line, these one, two and three-bedroom homes are set in a wealth of green space close to Lyle Park in a freshly regenerated part of Docklands.

Neighbouring Royal Wharf boasts a wealth of amenities including a pub, restaurants, shops and health services. 

Residents will enjoy access to a health club with a gym, pool, spa and fitness studio as well as a 16th floor sky lounge with views over the Thames to Greenwich and Canary Wharf.

The apartments at East River Wharf include private balconies, open-plan design and fully fitted kitchens with integrated Siemens appliances.

But, alongside the quality of the finish and the facilities, the key attraction lies in escaping the grind and uncertainty of the rental market.

A deposit of £4,844 could be enough to secure a one-bedroom home at the scheme – 5% of a 25% share worth £96,875.

Monthly costs are expected to be about £1,465.

By purchasing a portion of the property, a buyer can essentially secure a £387,500 apartment with no threat of eviction.

They also enjoy all the freedoms to enjoy living in the space they might expect if it was owned outright. 

In contrast to renting, purchasers of shared ownership homes are not subject to landlord inspections or controls on how they decorate their space, for example. 

Image shows a show home kitchen at the development
Properties come with fully fitted kitchens

capital appreciation

They also own an asset that, in the case of East River Wharf, is highly likely to appreciate.

The area has already undergone extensive regeneration, but there’s much more in the pipeline for Royal Docks.

Major infrastructure and housing investments are in the pipeline over the coming years with homes, businesses and facilities set to be built locally.

Already an attractive area to live in, these developments are likely to bring fresh demand as buyers look east for high quality homes to purchase in the future. 

Royal Wharf is already well served by the DLR and bus routes as well as a dedicated pier for Uber Boat By Thames Clippers services, which run all the way to Putney along the river. 

Image shows the Greenwich Peninsula and Canary Wharf skylines at sunset as seen from Riverscape's residents' lounge
The view from the communal residents’ lounge at Riverscape

secure a property

A spokesperson for Legal And General Affordable Homes said: “The amenities at East River Wharf are best in class, with a state-of-the-art residents’ gym, pool and spa. 

“Plus, concierge services and 24-hour security ensure our residents always feel at home. 

“There is also a primary school located on the development, which is perfect for growing families.

“Whatever your stage in life, East River Wharf is a modern and secure place to call home with shared ownership.”

Under the shared ownership scheme, buyers purchase part of a property.

They pay a deposit and arrange a mortgage to cover the cost.

They then pay a reduced rent on the rest of the property and the appropriate service charge.

Purchasers need not be first-time buyers but cannot own another property.

Owners can choose to increase the portion of the apartment that’s theirs until they own the whole property, in a process commonly known as “staircasing”.

Equally, buyers are free to sell their share either through the affordable housing provider or independently, if they decide to move home.

Image shows a show home bedroom at East River Wharf
Properties at East River Wharf start at £96,875 for a 25% share

key details: East River Wharf

East River Wharf is located at the Riverscape development beside Royal Wharf.

The closest transport link is West Silvertown DLR station on nearby North Woolwich Road.

Prices for a one-bed start at £96,875 for a 25% share.

Call 020 587 2474 for more details.

Find out more about the scheme here

Read more: How The Body People brings movement to East Wick And Sweetwater

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

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

Property: How Ballymore is continuing to transform Royal Docks and east London

New homes at Riverscape’s The Pearsall building launch as Brian De’ath gives us insight into the firm’s extensive array of future schemes

The Pearsall building at Ballymore’s Riverscape scheme has launched

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

Brian De’ath looks at home.

We’re sat in front of the frankly huge, gold-framed plate glass windows in a show apartment in The Pearsall building at Ballymore’s Riverscape scheme.

The effect of this expansive, considered glazing is to portion up the apartment’s views over the Thames of east and south-east London into gilt-edged postcards of a vibrant, ever-changing city and skyline.

It’s a part of the capital Brian’s career in property has deeply intertwined with.

Working for the likes of Berkeley Group, Mount Anvil and Canary Wharf Group, he’s helped countless buyers find new homes here, at developments up and down the river. 

It would be fair to say while those developers have built the structures that have transformed Docklands, his job has been to convince house hunters to live in them, helping to create the emerging communities which have replaced industrial decline. 

He joined Ballymore a little over seven months ago as managing director of sales and marketing and is relishing the opportunity to work on its existing schemes and a rich pipeline. 

Ballymore managing director of sales and marketing, Brian De’ath

“Our industry is very small – people bump into each other all the time – so I got to know my predecessor, Jenny Steen, over the years and I’d always got on tremendously well with her and had great respect for Ballymore as a company,” said Brian.

“For me it was good timing that a position arose at a company I really wanted to work for.

“Looking at what Ballymore has done over the years, I’d been impressed with its level of integrity in terms of acquiring a site and taking the soul of the area into account.

“I think it’s in the company’s DNA to say: ‘We’re going to treat each individual project in its own right and on its own merits’, rather than taking a model and replicating it.

“Instead, the company asks what each development needs and what it can do to enhance the local area.

“I remember being blown away on my first visit to Embassy Gardens in Nine Elms – it was just so good.

“Ballymore was one of the first developers there and for the company to take that leap of faith and imagination was tremendously exciting.”

The Pearsall features large windows with views across the Thames

Simply put, the developer has built a sizeable portion of the east London we see around us today. 

In partnership with EcoWorld it’s delivered Wardian – just over the dock from Canary Wharf on the Isle Of Dogs – and London City Island at Leamouth, which included a new home for the English National Ballet and a vital bridge over the River Lea, linking the area to Canning Town station.

The latter has since been effectively extended as a campus, with Ballymore’s Goodluck Hope project filling a patch of land between the Thames and the smaller river with warehouse-style buildings and townhouses.

Going back a bit further, there’s Providence Tower and New Providence Wharf, Pan Peninsula, Millennium Harbour, Baltimore Wharf, Dundee Wharf and 21 Wapping Lane.

On the Isle Of Dogs, schemes at Cuba Street and Mill Harbour remain in the pipeline.  

While the company’s impact has already been profound on the shape of housing close to Canary Wharf, it’s also been transformational for the regeneration of Royal Docks. 

Working with Oxley, it’s Royal Wharf scheme has seen a town of more than 3,000 homes built beside the water close to the Thames Barrier. 

The Pearsall features open-plan apartments

The partners are currently building Riverscape – a development of more than 750 homes on a strip of land leading up to the river between Royal Wharf and the 100-year-old Lyle Park. 

Just launched at the scheme is The Pearsall building.

Located right on the water, it houses 137 apartments – with one, two and three-beds available – and is due for completion in the summer.

“It’s in a super spot with views across Lyle Park and down the Thames to Canary Wharf,” said Brian.

“You’ve got 100-year-old trees in front of you, with the park celebrating its centenary in 2024 and then there’s the river itself – imagine the sun setting behind the towers on the skyline with the water in front. It’s a great spot and we’re delighted with it.

“Historically if you’d asked me how close I’d want a building to be to the Thames, I’d have always said right next to it.

“But while working for Canary Wharf Group and selling homes at South Bank Place, which has Jubilee Gardens in front of it and then the river beyond, I learnt that having the contrast between the green space and the water can be incredibly special.

Properties feature built-in storage in the main bedrooms

“I get that same feeling at The Pearsall. I think it offers unrivalled value at its price point.

“The quality of the architecture and the interior design has absolutely not been seen in this location before.”

The properties feature open-plan design, big windows, built-in wardrobes, walk-in showers and high quality timber flooring. 

Part of the attraction for buyers will also be the prospect of moving to a neighbourhood that’s well established, albeit one with significant regeneration to come. 

This should mean improved access to nearby Pontoon Dock DLR, a new bridge across Royal Victoria Dock for better access to the Elizabeth Line and an expansive swathe of development by Lendlease as its transforms the land around Millennium Mills. 

But right now residents who move into Riverscape will benefit from Royal Wharf’s extensive offering.

That includes a 25m swimming pool, hydrotherapy pool, sauna, jacuzzi and a gym in its Clubhouse, on-site security and a wealth of established businesses including a nursery, cafes, restaurants, a GP, a dentist and The Windjammer pub.

Residents can enjoy views over Lyle Park to Canary Wharf

There are also regular farmers’ markets and community events to look forward to.

However, to consider The Pearsall even at this level of isolation would be to do a disservice to the area and its future.

One of the key things buyers must consider when making a purchase is how likely an area is to be attractive in the coming decades. 

The Pearsall sits at the apex of a scheme that slots neatly into a vibrant community.

This is located in Royal Docks, London’s only enterprise zone, which is currently enjoying billions of pounds of inward investment as public bodies and private companies work to regenerate land abandoned by industry. 

So those making a purchase now are likely to benefit further from such mammoth milestones as the opening of the nearby Silvertown Tunnel, the expansion of Excel and a wealth of future development.

Ballymore itself has two more substantial schemes in the pipeline – one on the other side of Lyle Park at Knights Road and another further east at UNEX-Thames Road, on the other side of Thames Barrier Park.

“To buyers now, we’re not saying you have to be pioneers at all, but part of the attraction of buying here is to be part of the journey that’s coming,” said Brian.

Glazing at The Pearsall portions up the London skyline into gilt-edged postcards

“Ballymore has the fourth largest pipeline of any developer in London and that’s incredible for a privately managed business.

“Knights Road will have around 1,250 homes, although the numbers may change as it goes through the planning process. 

“It’s got a lovely scale to it and, for me, it feels like placing the next piece in a jigsaw puzzle. 

“The east of Lyle Park will be fully developed and accessible to residents and the new scheme will join on to that – ultimately the whole area will be read as one. 

“When you walk around Mayfair or Belgravia, nobody thinks about which buildings were created as part of which schemes – people experience them as single places and that will happen here too.

“We’re also very lucky to have the UNEX site, which will be about 1,400 homes with some very interesting designs coming, including some for light industrial use.

That means an opportunity for great architecture and businesses – a small brewery, perhaps – mixing in with the apartments. 

“We’ll be creating large parks as part of these schemes too and opening up the river.

“We want to work with local stakeholders to do this because we see the value in it for residents and visitors.

“When you look at Ballymore’s investment, there’s no-one doing more in this part of London – it’s something we take incredibly seriously.”

Homes at Ballymore’s Goodluck Hope scheme at Leamouth are still available

ALSO AVAILABLE – Goodluck Hope

Ballymore is currently marketing properties at its Goodluck Hope development, a little further west along the Thames

“This has been a tremendously successful development by Ballymore,” said Brian.

“The scheme includes a wonderful mix of architecture with a mixture of townhouses, towers, low-rise buildings and a refurbished dry dock.

“There’s a grocery open there now and a bakery and cafe as well as all the amenities as London City Island. We currently have about 100 homes left at Goodluck Hope.”

A show home interior at Goodluck Hope

—–

key details

Apartments at The Pearsall start at £435,000 for a one-bedroom property. Completion is expected this summer.

Homes are also on sale at Ballymore’s Goodluck Hope scheme in Leamouth. Prices start at £425,000 for a studio. 

Find our more about Ballymore here

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

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

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

Royal Docks: How East River Wharf is offering an alternative for local tenants

Shared ownership properties from Legal And General Affordable Homes present a competitive proposition for residents renting in east London

The show home living space at East River Wharf

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

The rental market is on Jen Cobley’s mind.

Right now, for the head of sales at Legal And General Affordable Homes, it’s proving a fertile source of shared ownership buyers.

The company is currently delivering East River Wharf, part of Ballymore’s Riverscape scheme in Royal Docks and is finding its offering is attracting tenants under pressure from rising rents. 

“We launched the development in July and the sales rate has been really good – there’s a fantastic appetite for the scheme,” said Jen.

“The key reason for that is because the area is very popular with renters.

“What we’re seeing is that landlords have pushed prices up and that’s prompted people to look at alternatives.

“At East River Wharf some people will be moving into one-beds, having moved out of rented studios at Royal Wharf, for substantially less of a monthly outlay.

“That also means, of course, that they have got a foot on the ladder.

“It’s been a really positive start in a turbulent market.

“Shared ownership has been less affected by this as higher interest rates don’t have as great an effect because the portion of the property under mortgage is typically much smaller.

Legal And General Affordable Homes head of sales Jen Cobley

“The other thing about shared ownership is that people can think long-term.

“While interest rates may be shocking right now, if you’ve bought a 25% share, you will be in a better position financially than someone with a mortgage on 90% of a property.

“This means when interest rates stabilise, it will then be easier for people to staircase and buy a larger share of the property, right up to 100%.

“It’s also the deposit levels. While buying outright might be on some people’s agendas, when you think about what 5% or 10% of the full value of a property actually looks like, it is out of reach for most people.

“Shared ownership requires a much lower initial outlay. At East River Wharf, you are looking at a deposit of just under £5,000.

“Our one-bedroom homes start at £387,500, meaning a 5% deposit on a 25% share at £96,875 would be £4,843.

“That feels do-able for people. The mortgage market is currently very stable and there are lots of lenders offering 95% mortgages right now.

“On that one-bedroom apartment, you’d be looking at monthly outgoings of just over £1,500.

“I’ve spoken to a considerable number of people renting studio flats in the surrounding area for £1,800-£1,850 per month.”

All properties come with outdoor space

Legal And General has taken on four buildings at Riverscape, with apartments in two of them for sale on a shared ownership basis.

The others will be let to tenants on an affordable rent basis. 

One, two and three-bedroom apartments are available to buy at the scheme, which is essentially an extension of the Royal Wharf development on the Thames between West Silvertown and Pontoon Dock DLR stations.

The neighbourhood has its own pier served by the Uber Boat By Thames Clippers river bus and is within walking distance of the Elizabeth Line.

It will benefit significantly from a planned new bridge across Royal Victoria Dock, part of the ongoing regeneration of Silvertown, which will make this journey even easier, putting it within about 20 minutes of Canary Wharf.

Legal And General is set to host an open day at East River Wharf, from 10am-4pm on December 2, 2023, for anyone interested in buying a shared ownership property or who would like to know more about the scheme.

Jen said: “At our event we have a fantastic sales office and apartment to show people. We’re in the very fortunate position to be taking control of a lot of the units we’re selling quite soon.

“We have one, two and three-bedroom apartments that people can see, unfurnished too and a team of sales consultants who would be delighted to meet with potential purchasers or anyone who just wants to know a little bit more about shared ownership. 

One, two and three-beds are available

“We’ll also have an independent financial advisor on hand, for anyone who would like to discuss accessing a mortgage.

“We really are ambassadors for the tenure rather than just our brand – we’re more than happy to have wider conversations about affordability and ways people can buy properties. 

“Shared ownership is not just for first-time buyers.

“If you have a property that’s sold, subject to contract we can take an application from you. 

“If you’ve previously owned a property and have left the market then we’re also an option for you.

“We see people coming to us in a wide variety of situations, whether they are looking to buy their first home, relocating after a divorce or dealing with a change in circumstances.

“It’s really open to all as long as you meet the eligibility criteria.”

Buyers at East River Wharf will get access to a wide range of facilities with the vast majority already up and running.

“In terms of the apartments at East River themselves, the quality is on a par with Ballymore. That’s a real key selling point for us. 

“Everything has outdoor space – either a balcony or a terrace and they are, of course, in a fantastic location.

“Buyers also get access to all the Royal Wharf facilities.

“There’s a real sense of community with the clubhouse.

“Something I’m really excited about is the Sky Lounge, which will be on the 16th floor of one of Riverscape’s buildings.

“It’s due to open next year and will be a business lounge with far-reaching views across to Greenwich and Canary Wharf – a place to meet neighbours and collaborate with guests.

“There’s also a concierge service that oversees the seamless running of the estate too.”

Find out more about East River Wharf here

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

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

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

Royal Docks: How Royal Wharf Clinic offers a medical approach to aesthetic procedures

Founder Dr Shaan Mahmood on how a holistic approach to clients can yield desired results

Royal Wharf Clinic founder Dr Shaan Mahmood

Subscribe to our Wharf Whispers newsletter here

“I‘m aware that there aesthetic clinics where people are in it to make money, but I’m involved in this field because I want to improve people’s mental and medical health,” said Dr Shaan Mahmood.

The founder of Royal Wharf Clinic created the business  – based in Cunningham Avenue near Pontoon Dock DLR station – with two clear aims in mind.

“I’d noticed that, because of things like social media, people are much more concerned about their image than they used to be,” he said.

“I wanted to offer individuals a holistic approach to aesthetic issues but also with their wider health.

“The idea was born out of frustration at not being able to provide the care for people that I wanted through my role as an NHS doctor working in a hospital.”

Initially Dr Shaan spent time pursuing medical research, gaining a masters from the University Of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School before realising he preferred interacting with patients on a more personal level.

“I remain very interested in the science of medicine, but I like to have human contact as well,” he said.

“I prefer speaking to people to get information from them.

“There’s a lot of data inside our heads that can’t be measured, so you have to talk to people to access it. 

“That’s why I moved on to doing hospital work, graduated and then, eight months later, the Covid pandemic arrived which was very tough to start with.

“Normally, as a junior doctor, you are assured that your senior colleagues are there for you and that your job is to absorb the experience and the protocols rather than to make serious decisions.

“In the pandemic, many of the older doctors were shielding and so the juniors had to step up.

“That experience accelerated my development as a doctor because it taught me to quickly clarify my thought processes, made me better as a worker and a member of a team and showed me that regardless of how you feel, the work needs to be done – so you crack on and do it.

“It was a really tough period and the burn-out rate among colleagues was high – but it resulted in me becoming a far better doctor than I might otherwise have become in that time.

“However, it also highlighted a lot of problems in the system. I love the NHS – having healthcare that is free at the point of delivery is very important and that’s why I continue to work for it.

“But what I didn’t enjoy was saying to patients that they would get an outpatients’ appointment in two weeks and then getting a call from them two months later when that hadn’t even been scheduled.

“I found I couldn’t guarantee what I was saying to people.

“That’s what Royal Wharf Clinic is about. When I say to people who come here that we can do something, then we can.

“If someone has an issue that we can’t address ourselves, then we will know someone who can help.”

Royal Wharf Clinic is located on Cunningham Avenue

On the face of it, Royal Wharf Clinic is divided into two areas of service – medical and aesthetic.

But as we talk, it becomes obvious Dr Shaan sees them as feeding into a single mission – how to help someone feel better, both physically and mentally. 

To that end the clinic is fully equipped with a variety of consultation and treatment rooms and is currently constructing an on-site lab to bring wait times for test results down to a minimum. 

“On the medical side, we do a lot of investigations that are primarily preventative,” said Dr Shaan.

“We offer blood tests, scans and consultations about nutrition and lifestyle – such as sleep, work and stress levels – and we try to pinpoint what a person’s goals are in life for their health and wellbeing.

“It’s not up to me to decide what will make someone better. It’s for me to ask what that is and then create a strategy to help people get there.

“A client might want to feel more energetic, for example, to reduce their stress levels, lose weight or gain some muscle. 

“Of course, we can treat people if there is a medical problem or refer them to a specialist if necessary, but I’m a big proponent of preventative blood work to identify any deficiencies in the body.

“We have created a number of bespoke tests to address common complaints – tiredness for example.

“Our test will screen for certain conditions and 95% of time it’s likely to be one of those that is responsible. 

“Another is iron deficiency – a person’s levels will be low three or four months before they develop anaemia but they may feel fine.

“If we identify that early then we can improve a person’s levels to head off any problems.

“My job is really to keep people out of hospital – to be their guardian angel. People can tell me what they want and we’ll give them advice on how to get there.”

Dr Shaan’s approach when it comes to aesthetic treatments is similar, following Royal Wharf Clinic’s tagline of “beauty carefully considered”.

The clinic’s Styku scanning room plus Emsculpt Neo

“The background knowledge I have from doing complex surgery contributes to the level of service we are able to offer clients,” he said.

“Overall there’s an emphasis on a more natural look in the field of aesthetics now.

“For example, many people prefer skin boosters rather than changing the shape of the body.

“People’s reasons for seeking aesthetic treatments are deeply personal but they always stem from a perception that there’s a problem to be fixed.

“There are two types of aesthetic treatment – preventative, such as washing and moisturising, and reactive where we’re trying to correct something.

“We will never look at a client and tell them what we think they should have done. It’s always up to the client to tell us what they think the problem is.

“For example, they might think they dislike the size of their nose or certain skin blemishes.

“Then I will make an assessment because some people suffer from dysmorphia and see a completely different person when they look in the mirror.

“As a doctor, it is my responsibility to look after their health so I’m not obliged to agree with a client’s assessment if treatment is unnecessary or might be detrimental to their health. 

“This is something we take very seriously – because of social media we’re constantly exposed to images of others and can easily make unfavourable comparisons, which is more to do with a person’s mental health than their physical appearance.

“However, there are, of course, genuine deficiencies such as scarring, dry skin or areas damaged by acne that are causing misery and that we can get sorted.

“Then there are anti-ageing treatments. You can’t stop Father Time, but you can definitely slow him down.”

In addition to the medical services it offers, Royal Wharf Clinic boasts an extensive range of options to improve the appearance of or remove the likes of warts and verrucas, body hair, visible blood vessels and scars.

It also offers Emsculpt Neo treatments to help eliminate stubborn fat deposits.

You can find out more about Royal Wharf Clinic via this link

A treatment room at the clinic complete with 3Juve Laser

Read More: How Leo Weisz Therapy offers rapid, in-depth help

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our Wharf Whispers newsletter here

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

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

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

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

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

BY LAURA ENFIELD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But it was really upsetting shutting the café. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Hudson’s interior – image Matt Grayson

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

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

- Laura Enfield is a regular contributor to Wharf Life, writing about a wide range of subjects across Docklands and east London 
Subscribe To Wharf Life