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Canary Wharf: Pergola On The Wharf opens its doors at Crossrail Place Roof Garden

New venue by Incipio Group will reflect its lush surroundings with plenty of greenery all around

Incipio Group’s Rory Graham at Crossrail Place Roof Garden – image Matt Grayson

“Unfortunately it’s a building site at the moment, so we can’t go inside yet,” said Incipio Group’s head of creative development, Rory Graham. It was less than two weeks before Pergola On The Wharf opened and we’d met to chat about the venue that will see the vast unit at the eastern edge of Crossrail Place Roof Garden transformed following the demise of the company that ran Giant Robot.

Rory’s calm exterior hid what must have been a feverish level of activity in the run-up to its launch on Friday, May 28.

“The best way to describe this venue is what we leant on for its design – the roof garden it sits beside,” said Rory. “It’s an incredible pocket of calm in the middle of the metropolis that is Canary Wharf and we wanted to continue that look and feel throughout Pergola. 

“We’ve created a 12ft by 8ft flower wall planted entrance, a whole foliage ceiling and made a bar out of trees. It all plays into our airy, green, crisp style.

“The venue’s 10,000sq ft with two bars, one big open theatre kitchen and private dining space. Then we’ve got a 200-capacity wrap-around terrace looking over the Wharf – we’re incredibly lucky to get this location. In total we have capacity for 700 people.”

An artist’s impression of Pergola’s interior

Pergola started life under railway arches in Goldhawk Road, Shepherd’s Bush, gaining its name from the popularity of bookings to sit under the tiny outdoor structure its founders had built.

“We launched in White City in 2016, and on the back of that we opened Pergola Paddington and then we had Pergola On The Roof, which was the original concept – this is the fourth venue within that brand,” said Rory.

“It’s informal, good fun, accessible and there for everyone, whether a large group or a couple coming for dinner and drinks. It might be the after-work crowd, which we’re obviously keen to engage with in Canary Wharf.

Another artist’s impression of Pergola’s interior

“People can expect relaxed DJs, good music and good food. In terms of the food, our executive chef Nick Wyborn, who trained at the Langham Hotel, and recently came over from Mac And Wild, has used land, sea and earth as the narrative for the menu.

“All the dishes relate to that, as does our drinks menu, which has fresh beers, cocktails and coffees during the day and there’s a low and no alcohol section as well.

“On weekdays we’re open from noon-11pm and earlier for brunch at the weekends as well as later into the night.

“We’ll be serving everything from really good burgers to brilliant sharers, small plates and dishes that are great for quick lunches.” 

And a final artist’s impression of Pergola’s interior

Opening in Canary Wharf was an easy decision for Incipio, with a healthy local market and the prospect of Crossrail trains starting to arrive into the building in the not too distant future.

Rory said: “First and foremost, you only have to look at the other operators here to realise how serious an area this is now.

“You’ve got The Alchemist, The Ivy In The Park, an Everyman Cinema and Darwin And Wallace’s No 35 Mackenzie Walk, so it was a very attractive place to come to.

“Not only that, but it’s starting to see a lot of weekend traffic as well, which we’re keen to tap into. Alongside that, the venue and the location are incredible.

“If you marry all that up together, it really was an opportunity we couldn’t turn down. We’re very fortunate to get this unit and very excited to be here.

“As restrictions have eased, the response from the public has been incredible across the group. In our first four weeks we’ve had more than half a million bookings for the summer at our venues, which is really exciting.

“We’ve had great success in west London and we know a lot of our customers live in east London so this is us bringing one of our sites to them.”

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Canary Wharf: GoBoat launches Wood Wharf branch of its boat hire business

An image showing a GoBoat in Canary Wharf

How GoBoat is set to hire out craft for a  tranquil cruise among the Wharf’s towers

An image showing GoBoat co-owner Grant Sweeney
GoBoat co-owner Grant Sweeney – image by Illyas Ayub

In addition to being the first day when hospitality venues can welcome guests back inside, May 17, 2021, is the date a new attraction is about to set sail in Canary Wharf.

A quartet of low-slung sleek grey GoBoats has already arrived in West India South Dock in preparation for the launch, which will see the company renting the craft from a base at Wood Wharf.

Inspired by an enjoyable time on the water during a stag-do in Denmark, co-owners Grant Sweeney and Julian Wootton gave up decade-long careers in management consultancy to start their own business from scratch.

Founded in 2017, GoBoat already has operations on the Regent’s Canal at Paddington and on the non-tidal Thames in Kingston. 

Grant said: “We’re an eco-friendly, self-drive boat hire business. Our boats are made from predominantly recycled materials and are powered by electric engines. We’re all about getting people onto the waterways of the UK and allowing them to have a fun time with their friends and family.

“Canary Wharf will be our third location and we’re super-excited about being here – we can’t wait to open and to get people onto these wonderful waters in Docklands.”

Initially the company will operate four boats, eventually rising to eight. GoBoats seat up to eight people and are available to explore the West India Docks and Blackwall Basin, with visitors booking either one, two or three hours for £89, £129 or £169 respectively.

“The experience is all about social interaction,” said Grant. “We view our boats as a platform to enjoy the city – it’s about giving our customers a different perspective on a part of London that they might already know but haven’t seen from the water.

“Each boat has a designated captain and they are responsible for steering. Customers go straight out on the water after a relatively short handover where they learn how to drive and steer.

“Typically our customers bring a picnic down. They are allowed to have a couple of alcoholic drinks, but no more than that and the captain remains sober.

“Essentially, it’s a fun, social experience and I think there’s a real demand for that now as we, hopefully, come out of the pandemic. Being outdoors, it’s quite a safe environment and it provides happy memories for our customers.

“I hope anyone who takes a journey with us feels relaxed. A number of studies have shown that being on the water is good for people’s mental health.

“We see it all the time – as soon as our customers get on the boat, there’s a different vibe – almost like a sigh of relief. 

“When boats pass each other, everyone waves. You wouldn’t do that on a footpath or in a car, but on the water it’s different.

Image shows two GoBoats sailing in Canary Wharf
GoBoats can take up to eight people with one acting as the designated captain

“Everything about our business has been designed to complement that, so the slow pace of life on the boat is deliberate, because we want people to be calm and relax and talk to one another. They’re limited to 4mph by design for a reason.

“It’s also why the boats have been designed with the picnic table in the centre, so that guests sit around the table opposite one another, and it encourages conversation, rather than looking forward and not talking to each other or using their phones.”

Sustainability was a key consideration when Grant and Julian set up the business and they’re always looking for ways to make their operation more environmentally friendly.

Grant said: “About 80% of each boat is made from recycled plastic bottles and the wood that is used for the picnic tables in the centre of the boats is from sustainable sources.

“The engines are electric, so there’s no environmental pollution and no noise pollution as they cruise over the water.

“We are a very environmentally friendly business and, in terms of the customer experience, the lack of noise from the engine encourages conversation.

“We are very proud of our green credentials and we want to carry that forward and try to improve that at every opportunity. We are currently looking at ways to reduce the amount of plastic that our customers leave on the boats, for example.”

That’s no small task considering the success of the business so far, which in four years has taken the owners somewhat by surprise.

“We didn’t anticipate that it would get so big, so quickly and become so popular,” said Grant.

“We estimate that we had about 100,000 customers last year across both of our sites. We’re really proud of our team for achieving that.

“We’re not sure how many we’ll get in Canary Wharf initially, but we think it will be a sizeable number.”

An image showing a GoBoat moored in Canary Wharf
Each GoBoat has a picnic table that sailors can use for their refreshments – image by Illyas Ayub

Elena Istode will be running things on the ground as GoBoat location manager for Canary Wharf.

She said: “I started in 2019 with the company as a crew member and then came back for a second season as a supervisor.

“Sailing a GoBoat is very safe, although we will recommend everyone wears a life jacket just in case as the water is deep and quite cold. Everything around here is very well managed, so there’s very little danger.

“We can’t wait to welcome our first customers and the most important thing is that we’ll be selling ice cream from Hackney gelato.”

 Other refreshments will also be available at GoBoat’s kiosk and the firm is currently on the hunt for more locally-based food and beverage partners to extend its offering to customers.

Grant added: “We’re really excited to be in this environment. We had conversations back in 2018 with Canary Wharf Group and, at every step of the way, we’ve had really positive support from them – it’s been a joy really.

“We feel the water in Docklands needs more animation and it has always been our ambition to come here. We think it’s such a stunning part of London’s waterways and it just seems so obvious to us to do this.

“The landscape here is unparalleled – it gives you that urban experience, which you don’t get at our other two sites. Each one of them is quite a different experience.” 

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