Two London restaurants relocate after Covid-19 closure

Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express and wild food specialist Native are set to open in different locations after closing in March, with the latter swapping the capital for an island off the Essex coast.

Back in late June, Khan, who has appeared on the Netflix series Chef’s Table, announced that her celebrated Soho restaurant Darjeeling Express would not reopen when restrictions were eased.

However she said that it would not be the end for the restaurant, and that she was searching for a larger site.

She told Eater London at the time that she had been struggling to accommodate the number of people wanting to dine at the site.

“It was getting too difficult doing 200 covers in a 55-seat restaurant. When I designed the restaurant, I never visualised we’d do these numbers,” she said.

Breaking the news last Friday (21 August), Bloomberg’s Richard Vines tweeted that Khan had found a new home for her venture on the site of a former Carluccio’s restaurant in Garrick Street.

Vines said the restaurant was scheduled to open in mid-October, with a deli section serving a daily menu inspired by childhood train journeys, while the restaurant will be open for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday, with three tasting menus on offer.

These include a biryani tasting menu (£95), a Calcutta to Darjeeling menu (£55) and a vegan tasting menu (£55).

Khan told The Caterer she was “absolutely thrilled” to be reopening, adding: “I think people need to be brave and unafraid to push and open sites and get in where maybe they felt they were excluded or not part of that exclusive club.

“You can do it and I think it is possible to try and think bigger and use this time to reflect creatively. I’m very excited, this is a moment and is going to be an incubator for the future of London’s restaurant businesses.”

Meanwhile, it was announced in July that piri piri specialist Casa do Frango would be adding a second floor to its eatery and would be moving into the downstairs site at its outpost in London Bridge, previously occupied by Native.

Native, the brainchild of head chef Ivan Tisdall-Downes and Imogen Davis, has officially announced it will be moving, relocating from London to Osea Island on the Essex coast.

The duo said the new site will continue to showcase their ‘closed-loop restaurant system’ while produce will be sourced from local suppliers.

According to a statement, dining times at Native will be dictated by the tide, with guests travelling to the island via a boat or a causeway, depending on the sea levels.

Diners will then be treated to snacks and aperitif drinks around a campfire on the beach, before sitting down to a tasting menu at the eatery which will be housed in a converted World War I torpedo store.

Due to open in October, the 30-cover restaurant will serve food evert evening from Thursday to Saturday and on Sunday for an early afternoon service. The team will also be offering a forage and feast series, which includes a 2-hour foraging tour of the island before dinner.

Dishes will include the likes of smoked local oysters and line-caught wild bass served with fennel and lavender. The wine list will feature organic, biodynamic and low-intervention wines available by the glass and bottle as well as a cocktail selection including a Negroni made with Osea Island vermouth and a Meadowsweet Sour.

Tisdall-Downes and Davis are also taking charge of the Native Oyster Shed, a seafood shack specializing in Blackwater and West Mersea oysters which will also be open from Thursday to Sunday. The shack will be run in partnership with English winery Nyetimber.

Davis said it had always been a “dream” to leave the city and open a restaurant by the sea. Tisdall-Downes added: “Our menu has always been a snap shot of what’s available in the fields, forest and coastlines that day – and we’re looking forward to developing our menu to reflect the wealth of produce that Osea island and the surrounding area has to offer.”

The tasting menu will be priced at £75 per person, with an optional wine pairing menu for an additional £55. The feast and forage experiences, which will be available in the new year, will cost £150 per head, and will include a 2 hour foraging session followed by a three-course lunch.

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