There are very few opportunities during the working day for Wharfites to voyage out into real life and the developers predicted this from the very beginning. As a result E14 is self-contained; there are many restaurants, many bars, many coffee stalls and many shops. Whether you’re after a sandwich, a full-on business lunch blowout, or a handsome pair of handmade brogues, Canary Wharf has somewhere that will take your money with a smile.
Since the great debacle of 2008, the bankers have been treading more carefully. Compliance and regulation are two words that have come to the forefront. From 2001 to 2013 the lead was taken by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), but no one is safe from rebranding and on 1st April 2013 the FSA changed one letter in its acronym and re-launched as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which, together with the Prudential Regulation Authority (part of the Bank of England), has a brief to keep us safe from bankers’ misdemeanours. As you’d infer, this is a very big responsibility and one that requires adequate manpower, which is why the FCA has 4,000 staff occupying a large and glossy building at number 25 the North Colonnade.
bartlett Mitchell (BM) has held the FCA contract for nine months and it is the largest in its portfolio, requiring 63 catering staff. When BM took over the contract it was agreed that after the handover in the autumn there would be no major changes to the concept during the first three months and that thereafter it would be a matter of evolution rather than revolution.
The dining area is split into two main areas, which are sited at opposite sides of the building. On one side is the Deli and on the other the Eat Street E14, which is somewhat larger and has a more complicated offer. The Deli has a great feel to it. Breakfast thrives, and so do coffee and cake and simple made to order sandwiches. There’s a busy grab and go. Everything looks fresh and looks good. Homemade sausage rolls, scotch eggs, deli sandwiches, a couple of soups – it’s hard to pin down the BM style, but it’s certainly unfussy. As you walk past one particular station there is a large pan full of plump and sizzling pork sausages. They are destined to meet up with some bread doorsteps and make a very decent sausage sandwich. Danny Baker, eat your heart out.
It is always hard to measure success, but since BM took over sales are up and the team are pulling together. Scott Lane, the head chef at FCA, is keen to keep the fresh feel of the place and puts together a bewildering set of options. In the main restaurant dishes rotate on a daily basis; there’s soup, baked potatoes, a ‘Modern Classic’, such as Thai fishcakes, and a vegetarian option like Freekah stuffed aubergine. The breads are baked on site, which means fresh from the oven, such as Spring onion, fennel, roast garlic and olive bread. Then there’s the ‘Global Market’ section where you’ll come across a dish like BBQ jerk chicken; a sushi bar; hot sandwiches – fish fingers and tartare sauce; the wok bar; a great looking salad bar; made to order omelettes. Lane is very keen on his chefs taking ownership of the area they are working in, so the salad bar layout and refilling is the responsibility of whoever is working the station. Similarly, the chef working the grill bar has a degree of autonomy, with La plancha sea trout, crushed new potatoes and peas.
In the face of such an enormous and eclectic range of options, the feeling you are left with is one of profusion – which is presumably exactly what BM had in mind. The food is good and simple, portions are large and the prices are very reasonable. But the trump card for the hungry lunchers at the FCA is the streak of pragmatism that runs through the BM offer. Every Friday they set up a Fish and Chip Shop, offering a well-cooked piece of haddock (battered or crumbed) with great chips. There is also a bonus – a small portion of whisper crisp whitebait for those who want it. Come hell or high water, customers want fish and chips on a Friday – it’s a menu item that you only discontinue if you are keen on riots.
bartlett mitchell make a point of offering people a range of dishes that they want, making a good job of them and then adding a grace note before they are served – the whitebait alongside the fish and chips. No wonder roughly three-quarters of the FCA’s staff choose to eat in rather than venturing out into the Wharf.
bartlett mitchell has fostered a culture of informality; for example, there may be a freestanding table laden with freshly made doughnuts. Customers are encouraged to step up and try one, then make up a plateful with their choice of sauce – as in every walk of life at present the salt caramel gloop option seems to be the peoples’ choice!
Providing in-house dining for lunch and dinner is part of this contract and head chef Scott Lane’s menus compete with the best. The menu format comprises three starters, four mains and three desserts, so should you find yourself lunching with the financial boffins you could be easing your way through Sea trout, crisp samphire, radish, watercress, sorrel puree and red chard, followed by Seared duck, compressed rhubarb and pommes Maxim, before tucking into Rich chocolate brownie, milk chocolate mousse and poached pears.
This article appeared in B&I Catering July 2015