The pair have set up a new company, Harris, Rotheram & Co, and plan to bring fine-dining to East London by opening a pub, restaurant and hotel serving Michelin-quality food.
Harris and Rotheram have 30 years’ worth of experience between them, having worked in pubs and eateries across London including Michelin-starred restaurants such as Nobu and St. John Smithfield. They also ran the St. John Hotel together, gaining a Michelin star for the restaurant.
The two have been planning to start their own venture together for quite a while, as Harris explained to BigHospitality.
He said: “We’ve worked together for a long time and we’re very close friends. When St John’s hotel closed we ended up doing different things for a while but we’ve always had a plan of wanting to start something together ourselves.”
Demand in Hackney
The chefs discovered the Marksman pub on Hackney Road and plan to purchase it through EIS funding, adding a dining room and a few hotel rooms upstairs. Harris explained that they were interested in the area from the offset.
“We were looking at pubs as one of the options, and then this particular site came up in an area that we love,” he said. “We’ve both lived in Hackney for many years and seen the change and growth of the area. It’s got a fantastic weekend trade and strong residential market.
“Hackney has seen so much growth in the past few years with a strong emphasis on hospitality, it’s a cracking area and it makes sense to stay there. I’ve worked in the West End for the last 4 years and I have no real appetite for staying there, I think it will be more interesting to work here. The site itself is also very interesting; it presented itself in a way we couldn’t say no to.”
Harris and Rotheram plan to keep the downstairs pub at the Marksman the way it now, simply giving it a ‘bit of spit and polish’ but the upstairs will be renovated into a new dining room and a few bedrooms for guests. There is also work going on in the kitchen and large basement area downstairs, where they plan to have space to bake bread and cure their own meats.
Having worked in Michelin-starred restaurants before, Harris and Rotheram plan to bring the sort of cooking they did in those venues to the new restaurant. Food will be served both downstairs and upstairs, though the menus will be slightly different in the pub area and the dining area. They intend for the site to have a warm, informal feel thoughout, even though the food will be what is expected in a fine dining establishment.
Harris said: “It’s a British style menu that will change daily as it’s seasonal and produce-led. We’ll do British food using the producers and suppliers we’ve worked closely with over the last few years. We’ve been cooking at Michelin-star level for some time, so we’re not going to change that, though the atmosphere will be more casual.
“We might look at having tasting menus for the dining room upstairs, but we’ll start with a la carte. Downstairs will be more of a pub dining feel with a slightly altered menu, while upstairs you’ll be able to book tables.”
The chefs also intend for the business to have a retail side as the space downstairs allows for this. Harris intends to start by selling baked goods to customers, before later moving on to cured meats as well.
The funding plan
Harris and Rotheram will be acquiring the venue and setting it up using funding acquired through the EIS. Their target is to raise £2.5m and both of the chefs are investing £100K themselves, leaving the remainder to be raised through EIS Qualifying Shares, working with finance company Daedalus Partners LLP.
“We looked at a few different options for funding,” said Harris. “Obviously banks weren’t an option, we’re a new company so they wouldn’t lend to us. We’ve looked at other types of crowd funding too, but because it’s such a big raise, we’re looking at investment from High Net Worth individuals rather than getting lots of smaller shares. This way we can control it without having to give away too much of the company and it offers very good tax relief as well so there are lots of benefits. We started offering shares about a month ago and it’s going really well so far.”
The offer to subscribe for shares in Harris, Rotheram & Co. is open until June 30, and the plan is for the whole venue, including the new dining room and guest rooms, to be finished by October time, though the pub area will remain open throughout and unaffected by the renovations.