Is this your first pub project?
Yes. I did have the wet-led One Sixty American smokehouse brand in 2015-16, but we sold both of those about 18 months ago as I thought the smokehouse thing had come to an end. My business partner Tony [Bennett] and I always wanted to do a pub but never found the right site. The Devereux is a really characterful building that we thought would be fantastic to bring back to life. It’s hidden away in a pedestrian area close to Temple Tube station and is made up of around nine 1920s-looking booths, with glass, dark wood and some freestanding high stool spots around a centrally located bar.
What about the food and drink offer?
We’re not putting together a fancy pants wine list yet, just opening with some crowd-pleasing favourites, but we do eventually plan on having a good high-end selection. There’s not going to be a substantial food offer. The kitchen is on hold due to some problems with the extraction, but we are looking at doing some nice patés, terrines, cheeses and breads down the line.
You also opened Cook Love at Dinerama in February. Why the move into street food?
Asimakis Chaniotis [now executive chef at Pied à Terre] has Cook and Love tattooed on his fingers, which I thought could be a cool brand. We were going to rebrand Blandford Street [L’Autre Pied] and change the name and concept [to Cook Love] in summer 2017, but then Simon Rogan wanted to buy the site [to relaunch Roganic] so we shelved the plans and took the money. I still had an itch about Cook Love, and thought opening in Dinerama could be a way to get our name in front of a newer, younger audience, as sometimes Pied à Terre’s crowd can be a little older.
Tell us about the menu...
We’re keeping it short, with dishes including pork in brioche; cacio e pepe, and scallop with seaweed butter. We are looking at doing a traditionally Greek weekend special, playing on Chaniotis’ Greek heritage. He’s taken complete ownership of it, they’re his dishes and it’s his brand. So far people are liking it, we’re giving out business cards and have got a big neon Cook Love sign and a Pied à Terre sign under the counter. We’re trying to explain that we have a restaurant of 27 years with amazing produce, and we’re bringing that to a street food brand. The whole thing could be looked at as a huge advert for the restaurant, but it does need to be a standalone business.
What's next for Cook Love?
We’re cooking at our first festival at Down Hall hotel in Hertfordshire when Jools Holland plays in June. Ideally we would like to roll Cook Love out and get it in front of more people, so we’re hoping to get into other London Union sites. There’s also lots of market hall opportunities now, so we could look at more permanent sites in that area. I’m not pushing for bricks and mortar. A lot of people go to these markets to find the backing, but I’m not interested. I want to see if this works and gets the traction. If it doesn’t we’ll move on to the next big idea.
What's next for Pied à Terre?
We’ve got the lease on the basement site next door and were hoping to join the two buildings, but it looked like too big a project so we’re keeping it as a rather expensive storage unit for now. One thing working well for us is our kitchen experience, where people come in and spend the morning with the chef. We’ve been thinking of turning the first floor into a small cookery school, where we could have four to six people come in on a daily basis to do masterclasses with the chef. We had thought about doing a small restaurant up there but ran into extraction issues. There’s a part of me that wants to do a chef’s table on the first floor but it might be too difficult.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
We have a really cool idea for a one-Michelin-starred restaurant concept that can slot into a nice hotel, but we’re looking for a site for it. I’m staying away from bricks and mortar restaurants unless the Government fixes the business rates issue. It really is onerous to take on property at the moment.
Was it a conscious decision to move away from traditional restaurants to pubs, street food and possibly hotels?
It’s where my interest is. At one stage I was involved with five restaurants, but I’m in my mid-50s now and I don’t feel like I have the bandwidth any more. I’m finding new things more interesting.
This is a web version of an article that first appeared in the April issue of Restaurant magazine, the leading title for the UK's restaurant industry. For more features, comment, interviews and in-depth analysis of the restaurant sector subscribe to Restaurant magazine here.