By the time you are reading this our fifth restaurant will be open. I know this because the website, along with our new blog, is going to launch at the same time as our new site at Farringdon. That will happen together with: an app, online ordering, kiosk ordering in store, SEVEN new salsas as part of Felipe’s Salsa Bar, a new pastry line and a completely new training system for our staff with decidedly religious leanings.
Felipe and I have not opened a restaurant without a certain amount of chaos but Graham’s (he comes to us after seven years as the operations director at Strada) introduction was supposed to smooth things out . . . . His experience has brought huge improvements to the way we do things but it has also made us aim higher, and for more things. That means that rather than making things easier it feels like we are maybe even more chaotic than previously. One week in to build we were told that the building did not have enough gas to support our cooking and these were the design decisions still outstanding:
- Material for the front of the counter
- Tables Chairs
- Where the kiosk till would go
- Type of seating for the window
- Shop front lighting
- Internal lighting
- Whether we would serve pizzas . . . that was never actually a consideration . . .Felipe hates pizza (no, I don’t understand that either)
The mystery of extraction is another constant. How can quotes for the same thing be £20k apart? So far – four restaurants has meant four different companies have arrived with mounds of stainless steel, silencers, filters, baffles (not a clue) and gas interlock systems at each one and at each one within a year we have had cause to do major work to fix some problem that the new person is incredulous was not done in the first place. Fingers crossed that restaurant #5 and extraction engineers #5 will get things right.
I love my job.
As we open our fifth restaurant just a couple of hundred metres away from my old job at the legal offices of Linklaters LLP I am reminded of my time there. A pretty significant part of the problem was that I never understood it and, what was clear from the reaction of my boss when I went in to give my notice was that, everybody else clearly knew that. So I got out before being shown the door which is a good thing. There are many things that are fantastic, and quite a few that are less so, about starting and running restaurants but there are few greater perks than menu development. It is like having your own personal chef on hand and not just any chef but one who I believe is probably the best Mexican chef working in England today.
Felipe gets creative, we sit around like great, fat cuckoos tasting it all, give some feedback, Felipe toddles off back to the kitchen and then we come back again a week later and do it all again. Deciding to bring on a 10-strong salsa bar has obviously meant a lot of recipe testing. We (the tasters deserve some credit) have come up with a fantastic list:
- Salsa De Pina (Roasted Pineapple and Habanero)
- Arandano-Chilli Salsa Dulce (Cranberry Sweet Chilli)
- Salsa Fresca (Fresh Chopped Salsa)
- Salsa De Cameron Seco (Dried Prawns and Chipotle)
- Salsa De Cacahuate (Peanut & Poblano)
- Kutchuo De Chipotle Y Ginger (Ginger Smoked Chipotle Ketchup)
- Salsa Verde (Tomatillo and Serano)
- Salsa Brava (roast Salsa Diabla)
The dried prawn will not be to everyone’s taste and the salsa diabla comes with a pretty severe health warning but my personal favourite is the Salsa de Pina. The depth of flavour that is given to the pineapple by roasting it combined with the powerful, sweet heat of the habanero is absolutely incredible and one that I can’t get enough of. The best part is, we have committed to regularly adding and removing salsas so that means plenty more recipe testing to come!