Features, Food, Launches

Ever wanted to start your own restaurant?

Eight up-and-coming names at Soho House just got the chance to create a pop-up in the Mandolin Shoreditch space. Here’s what happened

As with any restaurant launch, there was a fair bit of buzz on the first night of House Eight. Part of it was the chatter of hungry members and guests wanting to be fed after a sunny day in Shoreditch House, but mainly it was the nervous excitement of the eight people who had been given the biggest challenge of their career so far: to create a popup restaurant in just two weeks.

Nominated by the head chefs and general managers of our different London sites, most of the team had not worked together before. They were called up or tapped on the shoulder by Gus Haughton, who is co-ordinating the talent academy project as part of Food 2017. He told them that they’d been spotted as excelling in their kitchen or front of house jobs and asked if they’d like to try setting up a place of their own in the Mandolin rooftop space at Shoreditch.

And so it was that Bruna Lien, chef de partie at Electric House, Maxim Fadeev, a sous chef at Shoreditch House, Nicola Deiddas, head waiter at Cecconi’s, bartender Pietro Lucchese from Dean Street Townhouse and sous chef Samuel Chillau, floor manager Agnes Trevillion and waitress Clover Sykes from 76 Dean Street became the House Eight. Most of them had never worked together before, but they thrashed out a plan over dinner at East London grill restaurant Berber and Q.

With very little brief the chefs immediately began coming up with ideas for dishes, starting from the idea of cooking over fire. The front of house team worked on set-up, table design and names (trying out a few options before hitting upon House Eight, because there are eight of them). Pietro created two signature cocktails, Clover chose the wine and Agnes organised the uniforms (a white T-shirt with Soho Academy on the back, plus dark grey apron) and music.

Martin Kuczmarski and Tom Collins gave feedback on the team’s grill menu and ideas, and came along to help out on the day, bringing “big hitters” Joe Eva, Tom Kerr, James South and Vanessa Xuereb to offer support as the doors opened at 6pm. The Eight had spent the day setting up in the space, tasting dishes, wine and cocktails and discussing how the evening might go. After a team briefing from Gus they were ready to go, and the restaurant quickly filled up.

Dishes like forbidden rice with smoked grey mullet and bottarga, charred whole butternut squash with gnocchi and a Campari granita with burnt blood orange went down well after a busy spring day in the House. If there were any glitches, no one seemed to notice (it could have been the cocktails – a spring sour and a bay city roller, a surprisingly smooth drink made with Remy Martin, cherry liqueur, lemon juice and home-made bayleaf syrup, and garnished with maraschino cherries).

Despite a busy first night the team were ready to do it all again the next night. A few tweaks were made, including reorganising the kitchen to make it more efficient and letting members in for drinks only – many went on to stay for dinner, with the total on the second night reaching more than 100 covers.

The arrangement had been that the eight would take a 50% cut of any profits; with octopus and short rib beef on the menu, it won’t have made them rich but the experience was invaluable. “I’m really happy with how it went overall,” says Gus. “It couldn’t have gone better as a first attempt!”

If you missed out on a table, we’ll be doing it all again with a new team at Soho Farmhouse in June – details to follow.

The House Eight team at their Shoreditch House popup

The House Eight team at their Shoreditch House popup

See a video of the event here.

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