What attracted you to Coal Drops Yard?
I thought it was a beautiful space and loved the look of the plans. I’m a 50 year old cook but I’m young at heart. I like the fact that it was once Bagley’s nightclub. I wanted to be part of it.
Tell us about Vermuteria...
It’s very different from anything I’ve done before: an all-day cafe and bar with a focus on vermouth. We’re serving great food that's partly indpsired by the country's the produce vermouth - namely Italy, France and Spain - but it’s not a restaurant. We’re very limited on power; there’s no gas and we have the same amount of electricity to play with as a two bedroom house. We have one oven and two little induction hobs, so we need to be clever. But if P. Franco - which is one of my favourites - can do it, so can we. It’s partly inspired by a place in Girona called La Fábrica Girona, which is run by a former pro cyclist called Christian Meier.
I’ve been a keen cyclist for many years and I’m now well connected with the cycling world (Demetre works with Rapha Cycling Club on bespoke menus for special events). These days I’m a MAMIL (Middle Aged Man In Lycra) for sure. When I’m not cooking at Wild Honey or with the kids I’m on my bike. I don’t commute though, I’ve been knocked off too many times. Cycling and great food and drink go hand in hand, it’s part of the culture. Some cycling companies make coffee machines too and iconic food and drink brands used to sponsor all the major competitions. We will have memorabilia on the walls, including a bicycle frame from legendary frame builder Dario Pegoretti, who very sadly died earlier this year, and we will serve special menus during the Grand Tours.
What’s on the regular menu?
The menu is focused on charcuterie, cheese, salads and sandwiches. Dishes include wild mushrooms and snails on toast, pork cheek croquettes with pickled cucumber and nduja mayonnaise; and pissaladière. The food is a mix of British and European. We will do quite a few sweets including rum baba, cannelé, kouign amann, various sweet tarts and Paris brest. The latter is named after a bike race and resembles a bicycle wheel.
I’m a big vermouth drinker. I also like amaros and of course negronis. We have an extensive collection of vermouth including vintage bottles and contemporary artisanal crafted vermouths from all over Europe. I’m very specific about negronis. At Vermuteria they are served with one ice cube to limit dilution and one bit of zest. There won’t be any orange slices, it’s not a fruit salad. We are also serving great coffee. It’s very affordable: our espresso is just £1. I’ve always been a great believer in giving people value. I source cleverly and then seek to pass on that saving, rather than pocket it. That approach will get you bums on seats.
Will you be making your own?
Yes. I’ve already experimented with a batch at Wild Honey and it went down well. We fortify wine with neutral spirit, add herbs and other aromatics and then put it in a barrel. When we come up with a set recipe I plan to retail it.