Located in the area between Stoke Newington and Islington, Primeur is the first restaurant venture from Gingell and Cometto-Lingenheim. The idea for the venue was inspired by French grocery shops of the same name, and the community atmosphere that can be found within them.
Cometto-Lingenheim and Gingell have extensive experience in the business, and met when they were working at Wright Brothers as Operations Manager and Executive Chef respectively. Gingell talked to BigHospitality about their plans for the venture and how long the pair has wanted to open their own place.
He said: “We’ve been talking about doing this for years now and it’s a good chance for us to use everything we’ve learnt in the industry. It’s an opportunity to cook the food we want to cook, serve the wine we want to serve and do it in our own way. It’s partially ambition and the rest is about wanting to create something that’s ours.”
Site with a history
The restaurant site on Petherton Road was previously a garage since the 1930s, and before that operated as a greengrocer. Gingell and Cometto-Lingenheim have renovated the site to add an open kitchen and communal dining space to seat 40, as well as a private dining room downstairs for 14 guests. The restaurant has large sliding doors and floorboards that have been reclaimed from a mill.
“One of the reasons we chose this site is because of the feeling we get from it,” said Gingell. “It’s got these lovely huge sliding doors so in the summer you can part them all the way back and the outside can be the inside. It’ll be a lovely light space for brunch, and for dinner we can shut the doors and make it more intimate.
“We really had the chance to make the space our own too, I mean it had these beautiful doors that have been there for goodness knows how long, and beyond that it was essentially a box with a basement. So it’s been a challenge and we’ve done a lot of work to it, but that’s fine. Obviously we were careful to preserve the nature of the building itself because the last thing we wanted to do was strip out all the character.
The pair have kept the old ‘Barnes motors’ sign above the doors of the venue, wanting to keep a link to the site’s history.
“A taxi driver stopped outside the other day and told us that his grandfather, Mr Barnes, used to own the garage,” said Gingell. “We’ve decided to keep the sign because it’s such a beautiful old thing. So now we’re like Primeur at Barnes Motors! The taxi driver told us the site was a greengrocer before his grandfather had it, which ties in with the name we’ve chosen, Primeur, like the French greengrocer.”
As Primeur’s chef, Gingell intends to offer ‘honest’ cooking, utilising suppliers that he has come to know from years’ worth of experience in the industry. The menu will be seasonal and change daily and is not restricted to French dishes.
Gingell said: “I’ll phone up the suppliers and ask what they have for me that’s good, then we’ll cook something really delicious from that, so the menu will change all the time.
“We’ll do some classic French things like floating islands and madeleines, some beef and snails, but we’ll do other things too. It’s going to be a mixture of foods; we don’t want to pigeonhole it with an origin. We just try and buy the best produce and cook it as well as we can.
“Some people are really lucky and their grandmothers are great cooks. I want the restaurant to be like a visit to your grandmother’s house for a great dinner, that’s my dream. And that’s quite ambitious, if we can achieve that I’m going to be really happy.”
Examples of dishes that could be on the daily blackboard menu at Primeur include chopped liver with egg, cuttlefish with bacon and parsley, and pork belly with spring onions and Korean chilli paste. The restaurant will also serve brunch with dishes on offer including fried duck egg with brown shrimp and sea beet, ricotta pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, and smoked haddock and crab omelette.
Primeur will source wines from small suppliers, and Cometto-Lingenheim will choose a selection of 8 to 10 different wines to complement Gingell’s menu on any given day.
When asked what will make Primeur stand out, Gingell said: “Honest cooking and good wine with nice people. I also think that the restaurant itself is quite beautiful, and we’ll try and make the food great value.
“Essentially its two guys trying to make a restaurant as nice as we possibly can and as long as we get to have a little fun on the way and our guests do too then we’re happy.”
Primeur is located at 116 Petherton Road and opens 16 May.