SMALL TALK

Jack Lewens and Matthew Young on new restaurant Ellory

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Jack Lewens and Matthew Young
Jack Lewens and Matthew Young

Related tags: Wine

The experienced back and front-of-house duo will open their restaurant Ellory at Hackney’s Netil House later this month. Young received rave reviews for his cooking at Mayfields (also in Hackney) and Lewens has worked in the restaurant industry for 20 years as a wine buyer and sommelier. 

Ellory is an unusual name for a restaurant...

Matthew Young:​ Yes. We racked our brains for a name that meant something to us or had some relevance to what we wanted to achieve but we couldn’t think of anything. Ellory is an unusual girl’s name that’s lovely to say. It has a beautiful fluidity to it. It’s also a name that’s never been connected with another restaurant or brand so we can make it our own.

How did the deal with Netil House come about?

Jack Lewens​: I think we were quite lucky. We’d just started looking in the area and an agent put us in touch with the people who manage the building. It’s a large creative hub in London Fields that’s home to around 100 small businesses. They were in the process of converting the ground-floor nightclub into a restaurant. There were a few other people interested but I guess our proposal was the best and most suited to the area. 

So what sort of place are you planning?

MY:​ We just want to open a nice restaurant. Nothing whacky. We’ve both worked for other people in the industry and now want to create a place that attracts a nice crowd. 

Is the cooking going to be similar to Mayfields?

MY:​ Yes. It will be simple and led by what’s available at the market. Top-quality ingredients cooked well and perhaps a little bit of playfulness too (Young’s CV includes The Anchor & Hope and Dock Kitchen, both in London). I went to art college and started cooking relatively late on in life at the age of 30, but before I entered the kitchen, I worked at Neal’s Yard Dairy so I’ve been in contact with great producers for some time.

What’s the menu format?

MY:​ We’ll offer à la carte alongside a set menu with around five dishes taken from the à la carte, which we think would make a good meal. The set menu will cost around £40 and each dish will cost between £6 and £14. We have to be affordable in this bit of town or it won’t work. The à la carte will be free form and made up of plates that are somewhere between starters and mains in size, but we want to avoid the term ‘small plates’ because that’s been done to death.

And what about the wine?

JL:​ We’ll certainly be a wine-focused restaurant but we’re not going to do anything dramatically different. It will be a small list of between 50 and 60 wines and it will be very personal to me.

How so?

JL:​It will be big on small producers, many of which I know personally because I travel a lot. It will be dominated by the Old World and there will be a focus on Italian and French wines, which are the two countries I know best (Lewens was head sommelier at The River Café for five years). Food and wine matching will be very important, but I want it to be bespoke to each diner rather than a set pairing because I find that can be a bit formal and forced.

Can we expect an emphasis on natural wine?

JL:​ I gravitate towards natural wines but I prefer not to focus on ideology. The mark of a good wine is the people who make it. Some great winemakers produce natural wines, other great winemakers don’t. I don’t really care either way. There’s a lot of chatter about natural wine in London at the moment and much of it comes from people who don’t know much about the wider wine world, so we’d rather not be
associated with that particular label.

What will the interior be like?

MY​: It’s a 48-seater restaurant. The space we’ve been given is pretty much a blank canvas. The look we’re going for is fairly stripped back but not excessively so. It’s so modern-looking that we’re going to spend some money adding in things that have a more worn look to give it a bit of character. We have tables made from sand-blasted pottery boards, a brass bar with a marble top and beautiful lighting made by a local company called Areti.

Related topics: People, Restaurants, Small Talk, Venues

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