What: A British seafood restaurant located on the former Villagio site in London’s Hammersmith that was born out of lockdown.
Who: Faber is the brainchild of Anthony Pender, founder of pub group Yummy Collection, and colleague Matt Ward. The pair began delivering seafood and fish during lockdown, later converting The Victoria, which is also part of the Yummy Collection, into a seafood-focused pub before striking out with their first standalone restaurant.
The food: Faber is a predominantly British seafood restaurant that draws inspiration and ingredients from the British shoreline. The menu has a strong seafood focus with dishes that include Coombeshead Farm sourdough and butter; grilled cod cheek skewer with tartar sauce; chalkstream trout tartare, soya, keta caviar, nori; crab on toast; plaice with cafe de Paris butter; breaded gurnard with apple ketchup; and BBQ wild sea bass with crown prince squash, purple sprouting broccoli; with a few non-fish options thrown in for good measure - onglet, watercress and anchovy cream; slow roasted pork belly, pink fir potatoes; and stuffed cabbage, leek, celeriac, Corra Lin cheese. In addition to its a la carte offer is a worker’s lunch menu that is a smaller selection of dishes picked for their price and suitability. Suppliers have been put front and centre with Faber selling day boat fish alongside a range of small and sustainably-focused suppliers that are labelled on a canvas of the British Isles that hangs in the dining room. Suppliers include Portland Shellfish, C&A Thomason’s in Shetland that supplies rope-grown mussels, Wales-based seaweed and shellfish farm Câr-y-Môr; and Preston-based Bryan’s Salads. Pricing is competitive, with half a dozen oysters for £18 and the cod’s skewers £5 and a number of dishes at the £12-£17 mark.
To drink: You won’t find any New World wine on Faber’s menu, with the restaurant opting to source from closer to home, including the UK, for its wines, that are divided into coastal and inland categories. Where possible drinks have been sourced from the UK, including a Burning Barn spiced rum from Essex and a Hoolie Manx white rum from the Isle of Man, and Black Cow vodka from Dorset.
The vibe: Pender and Ward have opted for a bright, neutral interior with a light herringbone wooden floor, chandelier lighting, and floor to ceiling mirrors to ensure Faber is as much of a lunchtime venue as an evening destination. The overall feel is chic and quietly classy while retaining a more neighbourhood, everyday appeal. The space holds around 50 covers, with a few seats available at the bar.
And another thing: The restaurant’s name is inspired by Zeus faber, the Latin/Greek named for the fish John Dory. Faber is also the Latin word for Smith - the most common English surname - which Pender says sits well with his aim of being as accessible to all as possible.
206 Hammersmith Road, London, W6 7DH
Opening a group of seafood restaurants in London isn’t going to be plain sailing, but Faber has a good chance of things going swimmingly, writes Stefan Chomka.
Founders Anthony Pender and Matt Ward as well as Paul Pavli, non-executive direction at Yummy Collection, have made no secret of their ambitions for Faber to expand across London in the coming years. Their Hammersmith site is a good blueprint for the concept, which will aim to target non-central London locations chosen for having a strong lunchtime trade and footfall as well as a demographic looking for something a step up from the usual high street restaurant chain. Locations being considered include Queen’s Park, West Hampstead and Balham, with the aim for Faber to grow to between eight and 10 sites in the coming years.
It’s a bold vision considering the current climate but Faber’s approach speaks of one of scalability. Its price point is competitive, especially for a seafood restaurant, and its commitment to its suppliers and creating long-term relationships indicate that the founders are in this for the long term. The restaurant also has a premium feel - Pender says he is slightly concerned that the fit out is too premium for the prices it is charging - which gives it good curb appeal in a crowded restaurant market. As its menu shows, Faber is offering something different in a sector crying out for new ideas.
That’s not to say Faber won’t have it challenges. Creating a group of seafood-focused restaurants is not for the faint-hearted, which is why only a few groups on the south coast have made a fist of it - most notably Rockfish and Rick Stein. It is worth noting that both these groups have a standalone flagship seafood restaurant, in Stein’s case his famous Padston spot The Seafood Restaurant and in the case of Rockfish founders Mitch Tonks and Matt Prowse Dartmouth restaurant The Seahorse, on which they have built a reputation for cooking seafood at a very high level. Rockfish has stuck to coastal towns for its roll out as has Stein, who does also have restaurants in two more urban locations in Winchester in Hampshire and Marlborough in Wiltshire. In London, seafood specialist Wright Brothers has contracted its estate since the pandemic, a sign that running seafood restaurants can lead to more oysters than pearls.
The duo have the advantage in that they know the Faber concept works in other parts of London; east London pub The Victoria was the location for Faber’s incarnation and the appetite for its fish-focused menu is still large. Site selection will be key, but if they get it right Faber could well occupy a rare uncontested segment in the capital’s dining scene. And what a catch that would be.