How I got here: Maria Tamander

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Maria Tamander owner The Cleveland Arms pub Paddington

Related tags: Pubs, London, Gastro pub

A former film executive, Swedish-born Maria Tamander took over upmarket Paddington pub The Cleveland Arms in 2014.

Why restaurants?
I think that a combination of being young, wanting to travel and financing my education through working in restaurants, hotels, and ships were a great way of figuring out the world. This inspired me and led me to start my own production company and now I am back in London running The Cleveland Arms.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
I’ve been given a lot of advice throughout my career, which I mainly kept in the back of my mind as ultimately I tend to go with my gut feeling. I find that nothing is easy and there is always a solution as long as you’re open-minded and curious.

What do you do in your spare time?
My second biggest passion has always been to rebuild my family farm in Estonia that was destroyed during the Russian occupation. We were very lucky to get it back after the independence of 1994. It’s an amazing seafront property which is totally self-sustainable and off the grid, based in Europe’s oldest nature reserve. We’re currently building a summer kitchen as well as planning an artist studio. Being able to rebuild it into a community for friends and family, is very much like rebuilding The Cleveland Arms.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your current one)?
If I’m not entertaining at the pub then I love big lunches or dinners at home. A great treat would be going out for dinner with my husband John at Scott’s, where I know the menu will always make me happy.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in restaurants?
On the side, I still work on small film productions, and I love seeing how quickly production companies work. With restaurants it can take years to see results, when building the business up from scratch.  

What motivates you?
Forming a creative community that inspires and connect people.

Where was your last holiday?
I love spending time in Estonia as there is always so much to do. The last holiday I took my girls on was to Cape Town, as I know there will always be amazing food and wine. This was the first time in four years where I felt I could leave the pub, knowing that it was left in good hands.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
Our dear friend Jon Spiteri, without his support, enthusiasm, positivity and happy clothes, I do not think I would have been able to battle through the way I have.

What keeps you up at night?
Thinking about my 15 and 20-year-old daughters and their futures in this mad world. I’m constantly wondering what I can do to make it better…

Worst business decision?
When I took my student loan and invested it into some very high risk shares and I lost it all. I think everything happens for a reason, you live and you learn.

Best business decision?
I would like to think all my decisions are great… my accountant might not agree with me, though.

What are you reading at the moment?
I was given a book called “Sailing to Freedom” by Veedam Wall by an Estonia Director after we met the other week at a lunch at the UK Estonian ambassadors residence. It’s telling the story of how 12 adults and four children, all Estonian refugees, had to flee an occupied homeland. It speaks of the terror of Soviet persecution and how it made their third journey to freedom in a 37 foot long single-masted sailing boat from Stockholm to Norfolk, VA. It is very close to my family story of fleeing in an open fishing boat across the Baltic in October 1944. They however were lucky and were allowed to stay in Sweden.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Do your homework, make sure you have worked and have knowledge in all areas. That is the only way you can make productive and constructive decisions. In the past I have worked KP, polished silver, bartender on a boat between Sweden and Denmark and waitressed at a Michelin star restaurant. 

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
Rates, rents and Brexit…margins are very tight running an independent public house in West London. 


1963​ Born in Stockholm 

Travelled and lived around the world where my father was based working for Scandinavian Airlines as Thailand, Africa, India and America.

Being dyslexic I barely managed to graduate high school at 18. Worked extra in restaurants since the age of 13, went to Paris to study French(life) at Sorbonne for a year. Did a few higher educational courses,worked and travelled. Later completed a Marketing Management degree at RMI Berghs in Stockholm and attended NYU Film School in New York. Have founded and managed several companies since 1993 including mod:film and current production company STOPP London. 

2014​ Founded The Cleveland Arms


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