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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shutters’ second site SuperNatural – image Matt Grayson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: How Hawksmoor constantly refines its offering

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Deptford: Why seafood restaurant Sharkbait ‘N’ Swim is a dream come true

Chef Steve McClarty is one to watch under the yellow brick arches of Deptford Market Yard

Steve McClarty, owner of Sharkbait 'N' Swim
Steve McClarty, owner of Sharkbait ‘N’ Swim – image Matt Grayson

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Steve McClarty – remember that name. Growing up in Croydon, he left school with no GCSEs. A turbulent home life led to him becoming homeless at 17.

A diet of McDonald’s and Subway left him craving nourishment. Living in hostels, he started to cook for friends and fellow residents. 

“At 19 I was at a stage in my life where I decided to move out of London for a bit to get my head in gear and sort my life out,” he said.

“So I moved to Margate on my own – left all my mates behind. It was either a shared house in Croydon for £500 a month or a one-bed flat overlooking the sea with a balcony for £350. 

“But I also knew Thanet College was just down the road in Broadstairs and it was really good for catering. I spent two years studying to be a chef and really found my calling.

“My passion for food came into its own – I found there was something I was good at, that I loved doing and that I wanted to pursue as a career.

“I was fully immersed in it, obsessed – winning distinctions and getting loads of opportunities.

“Then I went into my first restaurant and that’s where the real learning started.”

Steve cooking in Sharkbait’s kitchen – image Matt Grayson

Steve said he found a sense of comradeship he’d never experienced before working in kitchens and winning promotion to the level of sous chef. 

Having gained extensive experience in seafood, cooking in Michelin-starred establishments, he applied for and was cast in BBC2’s The Chefs’ Brigade, travelling across Europe under the guidance of chef Jason Atherton.

“It all happened very quickly, from Italy to Norway, Spain and then the final in Paris. 

“At the end of it all, Jason gave me this bible of all of his recipes, congratulated me on the telly and offered me a job at his flagship restaurant, Pollen Street Social in Mayfair. But I knew I always wanted to do what I’m doing now and so I decided to decline it. 

“Instead I got a job as an events chef at Google, which was a completely different style of cooking. I was running the operation between five buildings – making sure all the produce and chefs were in the right place. 

“There was a lot of logistics involved and I really enjoyed seeing a different side of the industry.”

Prawns cooking ready to join mussels and orzo
Prawns cooking ready to join mussels and orzo – image Matt Grayson

It would also prove invaluable experience for the realisation of his long-term dream – to open his own restaurant.

A brick arch in Deptford Market Yard is where we pick the story up, with a sandwich board outside, a lobster pot resting casually against it and a pink and blue neon sign that wouldn’t look out of place in 1980s Las Vegas.

Sharkbait ‘N’ Swim first launched over lockdown. It went a little something like this: 

Restrictions arrive and Steve’s girlfriend Maria Leach joins him in a shared house in Brixton. The couple decide to escape by buying a narrowboat named Roz to live on. They dislike the name and plan to rechristen her Damp Squirrel at the earliest opportunity.

On the day she sets sail, Steve proposes. Now engaged, the couple sail around southern England, still both working from home for Google and eventually pitch up in Guildford. 

The restaurant's punch neon sign
The restaurant’s punch neon sign – image Matt Grayson

Once there, Steve opens up the duck-feeding hatch and starts selling seafood orzo to passers-by with Maria taking payments via a card reader in the bow of their boat. Following this success, Steve secures a pop-up in Lewisham and storms Model Market.

“Four weeks ago we got the keys to this space at Deptford Market Yard and we’ve done a complete kit-out in three weeks,” said Steve. “We’ve just opened and we’ve been sold out every night.

“Sharkbait ‘N’ Swim is my baby. This is my dream, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. It’s an intimate, small sharing plates restaurant serving fresh oysters, really fresh seafood, some vegan options and a couple of meat options too – something for everyone.

“I wanted an environment where people could sit together, share the food and get talking about it. There are four of us – me, another chef and we’ve just taken on an extra person front of house.

“Maria is the operations manager/absolute legend. She’s been so supportive of my dream and she sees my vision – I’ve got big plans, to make a name for myself here and then expand to multiple sites.”

A selection of Steve's small plates, costing up to £9.50
A selection of Steve’s small plates, costing up to £9.50 – image Matt Grayson

I could try to convey Steve’s passion for the food he creates and cooks in print, but printed words could never do it justice.

He fizzes with excitement as he runs through lists of ingredients, foraging trips and inspiration – driven, focused, inventive. 

Fortunately Sharkbait ‘N’ Swim has an open kitchen so he can interact with diners while making plates of smoked salmon croquetas, skate wing with cod roe in a caper beurre blanc or Goan curry mussels with a fresh naan bread puffed up on the barbecue. 

Deeply rooted in sustainability, the name of his restaurant reflects his view that nobody should be eating an apex predator (or tuna), accompanied by the ripples in the water his and Maria’s home makes as it moves around.

“I want to take people on a journey to all the places I’ve been and cooked in – I want to put my personality on the plate,” said Steve. “This is a fun, sociable restaurant serving sick food, mate.”

That says it all. Having sampled some of Steve’s menu, I’ll be back for the rest and, frankly, just to have his vegan vanilla poached pear with a chocolate mousse made from tofu and maple syrup again. Go now.

Sharkbait's vegan vanilla poached pear with chocolate mousse
Sharkbait’s vegan vanilla poached pear with chocolate mousse – image Matt Grayson

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