Far be it from me to argue with the Times… but does this mean I am destined to be?!
Every aspect of our foray into the coffee and cocktail scene seems to be a bit of a endorphin o’ plenty thrill. Reminiscing on past exploits and jollies into the catering world, there were never such rewarding times. Long hours working for “the man/woman” were arduous on often riddled with tedium, cuts and oven burns. The key factor here is that #theimperialdurbar is ours and so when I chop my finger off in the future in a horrendous cocktail garnishing incident it should be ok as I the digit was lost for a good cause…. probably…. having my own business will still rock it like it’s going out of fashion.
Today has been a consumable day. I have tried to contract consumption to get in the right state of mind. Sales reps of the largest companies we could source, namely tristar, bunzl and jags, have been turning up to Heathcote manor (tooting) in vehicles so crammed with packaging and products that even the most stalwart of hoarders would be put to shame.
Now, one must understand that these chaps are there to help but at the same time they are salesman, and a salesman’s job is to sell, compliment and get excited about your idea in order to get you to purchase as much as you possibly can for your venue. You must now understand that indulgence was definitely sesame streets word of the day…
That being said, these businessmen do come up with some cracking suggestions for a wild variety packaging products. Though I had to draw the line at the plying of monogrammed wet wipes and beard snoods.
Who’d have thought a paper bag could be so exciting (no not in a weird Frank Bough way). The old ticker definitely picks up a beat or two picturing your own logo on a bag or cup…. If you get the inclination to start up a business I would recommend it as a highly entertaining afternoon!
There was the word and the word was… Well we didn’t know, to be honest there are yet undiscovered Pygmy, ape-man tribes in the amazon who had more grasp of a business concept than we had. We were flying by the seat of our pants and those pants were a pair of gold thong budgie smugglers.
Nonetheless we both wanted to try to work together even if it meant that arguments meant one of us might end up throttling the other in Nandos (the affordable Scott’s restaurant). We wanted to try to make something fun, quirky and unique that didn’t try too hard.
The bar we found was in Tooting Bec, quite a site for sourcing a curry and in my humble opinion (having lived in Pakistan and India for a number of years) I think it tops Brick Lane hands down on the Indian culinary fun front. So it occurred to us, that it would be best to create something that might compliment the local area and not contradict it by standing out like a sore thumb. Coffees, teas, cocktails and beers all indian in a venue that could be appealing to the local community as a cafe during the day and full of the fun of a cocktail bar in the evening. The look of the place might be a bit of melange of the fun of Dishoom or Gymkhana meeting the East India Trading Company and Victorian England with perhaps a soupcon of Flashman thrown in. Only time will tell if we can some how visualise this in the design. But in any case it is going to be good deal of fun sourcing and putting together the venue.
I’d say we are both very different and yet very similar in a variety of ways though we would both hope, and I’m sure various folk would concur, that one of our few redeeming qualities is that we don’t exactly take ourselves too seriously.
Reflecting on this, I feel that this trait may possibly be a strength in this industry. Having meandered around many bars and clubs under the guise of “research” wearing my suitably unfashionable “Gucci tramp summer line” (as coined by Alastair) I concluded that there may be a tendency for an entrepreneurial bar owner to disappear down the rabbit hole of one’s own ideas and tastes believing them to be brilliant then finding out you may have actually managed to wedge your now somewhat enlarged cranium up your own bum. If nothing else we have two heads and in my casual wear I apparently look like a bum so those mechanics just won’t work. Am sure there is a pun there somewhere…
But this waffling must stop. If I would be honest and believed Alastair to be out of ear shot, I would say he is the more experienced on the bar front of the two of us. As a student he took on a hospitality course at Brookes University, before spending a decent spell in the army attempting to avoid being shot (by the enemy and his own men). Just before the end of his commission he managed to win a place in the Team GB rowing squad and ended up rowing at the Beijing Olympics (In the picture above I am in the water swimming/controlled drowning out to him after he won a silver medal). I was writing a blog about his exploits for the BBC whilst there, and not just on an Olympic jolly in the East.
But I digress, he went on to become the marketing Manager of a cracking Texan BBQ chain called Bodeans (perhaps you know it and have contracted a case of the meat sweats). After becoming more meat than man he went on to a role as the Operations Manager at the shoreditch bar group (Cargo and the Kings Head are their most noted venues I believe).
As for me, well i am a jack of all trades and master of none. Amongst many jobs I have had a bit of a background in catering and general food shenanigans (thinking about this I probably should be more rotund, with perhaps a larger supply of more voluminous trousers in my wardrobe). I spent my early years working as a chef in various catering companies.
At other points in the car crash of my cv I was a journalist working for many folk (including BBC GoodFood, and even TimeOut for a brief spell). During this time I had the pleasure of spending some time with Heston Blumenthal whilst he did a piece for GoodFood. He is whole process is quite, quite amazing. I must confess I purloined his techniques for my own ends to develop my own mac’n’cheese recipe, which I then went on to sell to a restaurant chain (I plan on leaving a treasure map to this on my death with clues each more dastardly and ingenious than the last). It goes down very well with the extended family which, lets face it, are the folk who matter to me the most and perhaps the harshest critics.
My latest exploits involved a stint in the Benito’s Hat Mexican chain. Ben, one of the owners is an old friend who was kind enough to help run a few of his restaurants. If nothing else, I at least took away a bit of spanish with apparently a “hilarious” accent. I was a wonderful time, though hard at times, but I appreciate it a great deal