bright idea: This Bright Field

If you take a stroll down Mare Street in east London, and you happen upon a massive yellow door with a massive piece of art by the graffiti artist Stik on it, then look across the road and you’ll find one of London’s newest restaurants. This Bright Field was born after a party in a florists went really well (as all restaurants should really) and is already finding itself at the top of lists getting full star ratings and basically winning. Josh Jones had a chat with a slightly dazed Phil Granell, manager of This Bright Field.

Hey Phil, how’s it going? How early do you have to get up/late do you go to bed when you run a successful restaurant?
Bed. It’s a bit of a distant memory when you’re running a restaurant. Matt our head chef spent the first month of our opening without a single day off. We open from 7am, so early mornings are pretty normal round here. Add to that closing up at around midnight and there’s not much room for a good night’s sleep. Luckily we’ve got a great team to cover all the unsociable hours. In short, if you want an easy relationship with the missus, restaurants might not be the place!

This Bright Field is relatively new, but making great waves around the eatery people of London. What’s your secret formula?
We entered the game as relative newcomers. There is no secret formula really, we just stick to our guns. The best produce we can find is paramount, as is good friendly service and a knack for making customers feel good. Luckily our chefs are astonishingly good at what they do, and that makes life a whole lot easier.

How did This Bright Field come about?
Well, it’s a bit of a story to be honest. I used to to live in a block of flats in Holloway and as a violinist I’d be happily practising away most of the time. One day there was a knock at the door and a smiling Turkish man was there asking me to teach his son to play the violin. I ended up getting to know this lovely family of florists and becoming good friends. Six years and many a violin lesson later, Suman and Emel had taken over a café on Cambridge Heath Road where they sold flowers and I held a pop-up dinner with my company Parlour Tricks. We based the whole evening around flowers and spring. It was an amazing night and got us all thinking, so we put our heads together and decided to go for it. And here we are.

Why did you name the restaurant after William Taylor’s novel?
Wow. This has been one of the most beautiful aspects of the whole project. I came across William’s book when I was researching literature about the area. His book is all about his time as a young novice priest in the East End and the name just called out to me. Amazingly, he walked into the restaurant shortly after we opened and gave us a signed copy. I couldn’t believe it! And it turns out we went to the same school when we were kids! He’s now a vicar in Standford Hill and we’re looking into doing some community-based events in the autumn. A truly inspiring chap, and a great book.

What’s your favourite dish on the menu right now?
Tough one because Matt Casey, our chef, is seriously good. When we were looking for a chef we interviewed so many people, but Matt had this enthusiasm and confidence and totally understood what we were looking for. His obsession with providence and sourcing makes for amazing food, with bags of flavour and an understated perfection to it. I’d have to say Brixham pollack with Norfolk samphire and crayfish butter has been a favorite with staff and customers, but his mind-boggling haggis sausage roll with tomato sauce is a close second. And then there’s the duck ham that he makes, and…

Is it hard not to pile on pounds when you run a restaurant? Do you have to run to and from work?
Erm, not really. To be honest it’s a bit like running a marathon most of the time, so we stay pretty lean. Sometimes we manage to snack on an olive or two.

Do you ever yearn for beans on toast?
In my younger days I’d happily go to bed with a can of cold beans and a spoon for company after a hard night. does that count?

Photos: Tom Medwell

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