East London's finest: Learning the lessons from the latest in the food scene

By Daniel Woolfson

- Last updated on GMT

East London's finest: Learning the lessons from the latest in the food scene

Related tags: Jj food service, Fast food, Food

PubFood's study tour, sponsored by JJ Food Service and Lavazza, hit the mean streets of East London to check out the latest trends in the UK's food scene.

24-hour party people

Polo Bar, near Liverpool Street Station, London


Philip Inzani’s three-storey café is one of the capital’s few round-the-clock food outlets. A 24/7 Great British Café, it operates with a 24-hour licence, offering the same menu day and night, with modern twists on traditional British cafe faré.

Inzani said the venue’s proximity to Liverpool Street station — one of London’s busiest transport hubs — meant he could tap into a diverse customer base, with bankers and city workers providing a large amount of breakfast and lunch revenue, while clubbers and people on nights out accounted mainly for night-time trading.

Inzani — previously commercial director at Pontis Group who opened the café three years ago — said that he chose the 24-hour cafe format in order to offer a point of difference in the area.

He said that finding staff able to work less desirable late-night shifts was the biggest issue he faced, while major benefits included being one of the only operators in the
area able to cash in on early morning breakfasts.

Inzani, who has a team of 10, focuses marketing around entertainment events that are on at nearby venues, encouraging people to call in for a 3am burger or 4am chicken in a basket.The eatery offers delivery to nearby offices and online ordering and links its offer to seasonal events such as St Patrick’s Day, when Irish breakfasts and Guinness sausages were featured and Easter when dishes such as scrambled emu eggs and ostrich egg omelettes have been offered to add interest.

Operating all night also necessitates hiring security — the safety of staff being the number one priority.

About 35% of sales are breakfast, which is a big seller during the night, and burgers.

Sample dishes include: grilled bacon sandwiches — customers choose from a variety of breads and fillings including bacon & avocado and bacon & maple syrup; Cheddar Gorge Welsh rarebit on seeded granary bloomer (£6.50); FLT — fish finger, tomato, tartar sauce and lettuce on bloomer (£5.80).

Perc up profits

Polo Bar’s coffee is a three-bean special blend espresso, which is serve in branded Polo bar cups and available to drink-in or take away.

Inzani says: “We are selling lots of coffees — about 40kg per week. Our best-sellers are lattes, followed by cappuccinos and flat whites.

“We use Lavazza first and foremost due to the high quality and consistency of the product — I’ve used it with previous companies for 20 years.”

He adds: “There are lots of new coffee suppliers in the market now from all over the world. My view, having tested others, is that Lavazza is a solid brand recognised by customers as high quality and correctly priced.”

Best sellers

  • Spicy eggs Benedict with chorizo and guacamole (£6.50).
  • Banoffee pancakes (£6.80).
  • Bubble and squeak and bacon (£9).

You cannot be cereal?

Cereal Killer Café, Brick Lane, Shoreditch


Founded by Irish twins Alan and Gary Keery, this kitsch café offers 120 different types of cereal sourced from around the world, including the USA, France, New Zealand and South Africa.

Gary Keery explained: “The inspiration came from the stuff we grew up with and all the ’80s and ’90s TV shows — we wanted customers to be able to relive it.” He said they had recently applied for intellectual property rights to the concept.

Customers can choose from 30 milks to add to their cereal and 20 toppings including sweets, fresh fruit, nuts and dried fruit.

The menu also features Pop-Tarts and cakes made using cereal including Lucky Charms cheesecake and Coco Pops brownies and also cereal cocktails such the Chocopottomus; with Coco Pops and Krave, a Kinder Happy Hippo and chocolate milk.

Keery, said half of trade at the café, which opens from 7am to 10pm, came from tourists, with the other half coming from locals and repeat customers. Ironically, breakfast is the quietest period.

Bowled over with success

The café sells about 400 to 500 bowls of cereal per day and also features a YouTube channel on its website featuring an interview with the twins and cereal adverts.

The Keery brothers explained that they had initially applied for bank loans to start their business but been rejected due to concerns about its eccentric concept and potential longevity. Instead they had obtained funding from Virgin Startup as well as a crowdfunding campaign, and the café is flourishing, with plans to expand
to other sites.

The interior of the café is filled with ’80s nostalgia. Small TV screens play episodes of He-Man while the shelves and walls are adorned with posters, action figures and pop culture and cereal memorabilia, largely sourced on eBay.

A successful promotional event that Cereal Killer Café put on included a 3D printing evening, which saw customers having their faces scanned and turned into rubber pencil toppers and semi-regular live comedy nights.

The Cereal Killer also has a loyalty app that allows repeat customers to collect points every time they visit and in due course exchange collected points for prizes.

On the menu

  • Peanut butter jelly time; Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter, Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips and strawberry milk (£4.70).
  • Mint choc chipster cocktail; Chocapic, Weetos and mint Aero.
  • Unicorn poop; Ricicles, Party Rings, Fluff, marshmallows, Hundreds and Thousands with semi-skimmed milk (£4.80).
  • Bowloccino; Nesquik, Coco Pops, Flake, shot of espresso, milk and a Café Curl.

Shoreditch food market

At Yalla Yalla, a Lebanese street food pop-up at Shoreditch food market, offering a range of dishes such as halloumi cheese wraps, lamb shawarma and a selection of meze.

Yalla’s Marek Witkowski said one of the benefits of operating in a covered outdoor space was that, at night, he and his team could transform the seating area into a makeshift shisha bar, where locals and those who wish to take a break from their night out could rest, socialise and take advantage of the food on offer.

Yalla Yalla also has two other London restaurants and is looking to expand further. At the pop-up, a bicycle with the company logo on it is used to market the offer.

Next door to Yalla Yalla is Constancia Argentine Grill, which offers dishes including Prime Argentine steak sandwich; Choripan; chorizo sandwich and black pudding.

On the menu

  • Kibbe lahme; deep-fried lamb and cracked wheat parcels filled with confit onions, minced meat and roasted pine nuts (£4.50).
  • Samboussek Jibné: pastry filled with feta, halloumi cheese and fresh mint (£4.50).
  • Soujoc: charcoal-grilled Lebanese sausage with salad, tomato and pickled cucumber (£4.75).

Pop-up potential

The Hat and Tun, Farringdon


The ETM Group site plays host to various street food pop-up residencies for its evening offer, with grilled cheese sandwich maestros Morty and Bob’s among them.

The pub delivers its own lunchtime food menu of pub classics. But hosts regular pop-ups, with soft shell crab and lobster roll vendors Crabbie Shack the next one to take up residency in May.

Victoria Hassett, ETM Groups marketing coordinator, said: “The benefits of pop-ups include driving footfall, creating interest and atmosphere and harnessing the power of social media and delivering PR value.”

She adds: “It’s always important to stay relevant; street food traders are at the cutting edge of the food scene at the moment. They are pioneers of exciting food trends and carry huge clout in the digital arena but lack the financial resources to move into bricks and mortar."

Winning team

​By joining forces we are offering these flourishing businesses a solid location to base themselves and a ready-made clientele. In turn, we are opening our venue up to a
whole new audience."

She added: “It’s very important to build a strong relationship with the street traders you are working with, to ensure that both parties fully understand one another and
additionally to ensure the fusing of the two operations is well managed to deliver the appropriate standards and customer experience of both business.”

The Hat & Tun drove sales of Bloody Marys during the Morty and Bobs pop-up, considered by many to be a great accompaniment to grilled cheese sandwiches.

Founder Charlie Phillips said: “We started selling grilled cheese at a couple of markets and quickly realised there was a market for our product,” adding that they were
stunned to be selling from 60 to 100 sandwiches a day.

He said engaging with their customers in person and online was essential to building awareness of a business like theirs. Phillips said: “Social media is fundamental — we really try and talk to customers.”

Morty and Bobs

Phillips added: “At the very least pubs need an area for prepping and serving unless you’re popping up in the pub garden — any street food trader should be used to setting up on a bit of tarmac or grass and bringing as much as is needed.

“One of the main benefits of popping up in a pub is that you can be open for a much longer period of time and build a reputation — people will come to you because they know the pub well and as long as your food is good. Also a lot of street food is perfect for drinking with and obviously pubs are ideal for this.

“We’ve received a tremendous amount of interest thanks to the Hat & Tun residency — one thing that’s great about doing gigs like this is that if the pub has a decent publicity campaign you essentially get free PR, well worth paying the rent to be there.

“The best thing to do — and I know how cheesy this sounds — is just to be yourself and keep up a constant conversation with customers. I think the nice characters do stand out a lot more and get more work and business.”

On the menu

  • Straight up; three-cheese blend, M&B cheese sauce and onion mix (£5).
  • Mushroom and truffle; cheese, mushroom and truffle oil (£6).
  • Ham hock grilled cheese (£7).

Upping the game

Jugged Hare, Moorgate


ETM site the Jugged Hare features a menu focused on game and high-quality meat, which is often butchered and aged at the premises.

Head chef Steve Englefield said: “We try and focus on locally sourced and specialist producers to get the best products. We use Lake District farmers for specially
bred cattle, and game supplies come from estates up in Yorkshire. We also have Dexter cows from Dorset about once every three months.

“We’re famous for our game — last year we had James Lyon-Shaw (ETM Group’s executive chef) out on the first hunt of the season by about 6am. The first birds shot were down here by 6.30pm, ready for service at our first game night of the year.”

The Jugged Hare also offers a selection of feasting menus featuring dishes such as 12-hour braised shoulder of Herdwick mutton with lamb sweetbreads, whole roast garlic and mashed potato and whole roast suckling pig with boulangére potatoes and sage gravy.

Premium bar snacks

A range of exciting bar snacks are also on offer including Blackface haggis croquettes with whisky apple sauce; venison Scotch eggs with Cumberland sauce, sprouting broccoli with anchovy and basil vinaigrette and breaded cod collar with tartar sauce.

During the game season, a game bar snacks menu was on offer featuring wild boar head croquettes with apple caramel and game chips with gravy.

A variety of events take place at the site, including gourmet wine dinners, British beef evenings, game and Bordeaux nights and goat and fine wine tastings.

Breaking eggspectations

Bad Egg, City Point


Four-site operator Noble Inns’ executive chef Neil Rankin’s concept restaurant Bad Egg sits in a retail unit near Moorgate tube station.

Rankin, who is ex-Pitt Cue and Chez Bruce, said that by creating a diner rather than a pub concept he had been able to sidestep high demand for pub spaces in London
and utilise a retail unit.

The menu, which is served all through the day, incorporates Korean, Mexican, North African, Indian and US barbecue flavours — as well as a focus on eggs as an ingredient.

Rankin said: “We are doing diner food, but with our own twists. So we are doing ribs, but they are deep fried and we are doing American-inspired hashes but in a different way, with different dishes mixed together.”

Bad Egg opened three months ago and serves about 1,500 people per week. Lunches have brought in the highest amount of customers alongside the venue’s weekend “bottomless” brunches, when customers can pay £30 for limitless refills on Gochujang Bloody Marys, Prosecco or mimosas and a choice of three different dishes.

The food offer also includes breakfast and takeaway menus. All Bad Egg’s cooking is done in the restaurant’s small, open kitchen, with Rankin attributing the level of service achieved to the quality of his equipment, which includes induction ovens, and the precision and dedication of his small team of chefs.

Meating demands

Bag Egg gets its burgers from butcher Turner & George, which supplies Selfridges. While Charles Ashbridge supplies rare-breed meat from the Sutton Bank in North Yorkshire. Cheese in Rankin’s burgers is processed cheese, but all processing is done by the bar’s chefs.

Raclette and Red Leicester are Rankin’s go-to varieties. Bad Egg’s website features an Egg Beats section of the bar’s current music playlist.

Expansion could also be on the cards for Bad Egg; Noble Inns founder Simon Holroyd said the concept had the scope to grow beyond 10 sites.

On the menu

  • Cheeseburger hash (£8.50).
  • Pulled pork and kimchi hash; crispy potato, house made kimchi, spicy pulled pork, gochujang and a crispy egg (£8.50).

Delivering for pubs

PubFood’s study tour was sponsored by JJ Food Service and Lavazza.

Attendees sampled a range of JJ Food Service’s products at the event, prepared by chefs at the Jugged Hare in Moorgate, London.

The tasting featured tender lamb brochettes — grilled British, Red Tractor-approved, marinated lamb neck fillets; juicy minute steaks — made with fresh Aberdeen Angus strip loin; succulent pulled pork — slowroasted British, Red Tractorapproved shredded pork; Super Crisp chips — JJ’s own-label, gluten-free Chunky Cut Chips; and sweet bites, including fruity macaroons and gluten-free strawberry & rhubarb cheesecake.

Sue Guilfoyle, the company’s national accounts manager, says: “We believe we have a lot to offer Delivering for pubs pubs with our range of fresh, locally sourced meats and our new own-label, gluten-free Super Crisp Chips. We also have a range of fresh breads and bakery items, perfect for pub menus, from croissants at breakfast to brioche buns for a burger lunch and Artisan breads for rustic sandwiches. And don’t forget pudding — our desserts will add colour to any summer pub menu — you’ve got to try our fruity macaroons!”

National distribution JJ Food Service is an independent, family-owned foodservice specialist with eight branches across the UK, supplying all food industry sectors, including pubs and restaurants with fresh, chilled, ambient and frozen products, as well as packaging and cleaning materials. JJ recently added fresh meats to its range, with a number of locally sourced, Red Tractor-approved lines.

The business has a strong own-label line-up including the Super Crisp Chip range, available in Chunky Cut, Steak Cut, Julienne and 3/8, to help pubs and restaurants respond to the growing trend towards gluten-free foods.

Customers can shop online or via telesales for delivery or collection, with great deals for customers that click and collect. Coming soon is the JJ app and a new and improved website.

As much as 50% of sales come from orders placed online. Real Italian espresso Established in 1895, Lavazza is the leader in the Italian retail market and one of the world’s most prominent roasters.

Its entire history is marked by a series of insights, starting with the concept of blends, invented by Lavazza at the turn of the 20th century. Lavazza’s primary mission is to spread real Italian espresso around the world, taking pride in having a strong presence at international haute cuisine events and on the menus of the most exclusive restaurants in the world.

Alongside this, the company has become one of the world’s most unmistakable and unique brands portrayed through its global advertising campaigns with its famous calendars. JJ Food Service is the nominated foodservice supplier for the distribution of Lavazza coffee, which gives the business a unique point of difference compared with other foodservice specialists.

The company supplies a range of Lavazza coffee products including pods, fresh coffee beans, with caffeinated and decaffeinated options, together with Lavazza coffee cups and saucers at highly competitive prices.

For more information visit www.jjfoodservice.com or call Sue Guilfoyle on 07960 776991.

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