Pivot is your first London restaurant, how did it come about?
Two years ago, I was working in London doing some consultancy work for Dominique Ansell Treehouse with my business partner and we said we should do something in London together. He then got the 3 Henrietta Street site and we decided we could do something there together.
At 30 covers it's quite small…
Yes, it’s a super small restaurant but for my first restaurant in London it’s ideal because I can really do something special there. We first saw the site from the outside last January and then in the February we went inside, and I then realised it would be small. I knew I’d have to build the kitchen inside the restaurant for there to be a kitchen so there would not be enough room for an a la a carte menu and it would either have to be a tasting menu or something super simple. In the end we decided that a tasting menu would be more reflective of my skills, but we also offer a shorter four-course menu using the tasting menu dishes.
How would you describe your cooking?
My food is definitely ingredient led. The main protein of my dishes is always the star of the show and then I dress them up with classic combinations of flavours we know work. We have dishes such as halibut and lobster with lobster bisque; and haggis and onion. Haggis is traditionally stuffed inside something, so why not a Roscoff onion? I’ve got a very modern approach to plating, but my flavours are quite classical; I’ll never do something weird and wacky that doesn’t work. The joy of eating should be in the simplicity if ingredients. I’ve taken influences from my childhood and travels around the world, like many chefs do.
The name Pivot seems very familiar now
Throughout the whole of lockdown, I kept hearing from the media and trade press about how when restaurants open back up, they will have to pivot their thinking and that they not going to be able to open up the same way they did when they closed, and this word pivot just kept coming up. To pivot is to change direction so we used that as the name of the restaurant because we change then menu every month. It sort of made sense. The only dish that won’t change is the mushroom on toast, which is technically the bread course.
You were doing consultancy in London before launching Pivot. How useful was that for the launch?
It was extremely useful; it gave me a chance to get to know the local suppliers and staff which I wouldn’t have had. I’d have been starting from nothing. Those are the two main takeaways from it. Then lockdown happened and it gave me an extended period to test out dishes. I was also doing consultancy for a few Middle Eastern brands, so I had work coming in during lockdown which was a privilege.
How different are London diners to those in Edinburgh?
It’s hard to tell. The kitchen at Pivot is very open, I see every single guest on the way in and out, so I get direct feedback. At every other restaurant I’ve ever opened people would have to physically come into the kitchen to say hello or I’d have to go into to the restaurant. Pivot is a restaurant like I’ve never opened before so it’s hard to say what the differences are. To me the customers seem the same.
What have been the biggest challenges opening in London?
Staffing is tough. I feel incredibly lucky that there’s four chefs and I’m fully staffed, but if one of them leaves we will feel the impact. My sous chef Emiliano looks after the restaurant when I’m in Edinburgh and the other two, Antonia and Constantina have worked for me for a year and half in the pop up in James Street [Greenaway did some cooking at the former The Gentlemen Baristas site.
You also operate Grazing by Mark Greenaway at the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh - The Caledonian. How will you divide your time between the two venues?
At the moment I’m in Edinburgh one week a month but after December once we’re established and I’m happy to leave I will do alternate weeks. My head chef at Grazing Duncan McKay has been with me for seven years and he’s incredible. I’m so very lucky to have a strong team behind me.
Will there be any synergies between Pivot and Grazing?
At the moment they are completely separate but, in the future, when I’m doing a menu at Grazing, I might think ‘we used to do this at Pivot so why don’t we do a version here or use it as inspiration for this snack or dessert?’ There’s no reason why not as long as it doesn’t affect the ethos of each restaurant. Grazing is very much a brasserie, it’s a 160-cover restaurant so my team need to be able to put food out for that number of people, which is not the same as at Pivot.
And you have Greenaway’s Pie & Mash business as well
I was looking at doing a few different sub brands after launching Pivot and Pie & Mash was one of them. It’s a brand that I don’t need to do much work with, the girls run the shop and the guys in the production kitchen make the pies. I’m there every day when I’m in London, sometimes for 10 minutes, sometimes for half an hour either in the production kitchen or the shop. It should never have happened first but because Pivot was delayed the lease came available on Villiers Street and it was a bit of a no brainer to take it on. We are selling pies Southampton football club and are also at Newbury racecourse and we did 7,000 pies for The Chelsea Flower Show. The wholesale side of it could be great but equally I can see one at every train station in the UK. Is that going to happen? Probably not, but I would like to open some more.
3 Henrietta St, London WC2E 8LU