Lydia talks to Tim Steel - co-founder of Kitty Fisher's - on starting up a restaurant, the importance of location and the Mayfair touch.
Work in Mayfair for long enough and you start to notice which local businesses thrive and which don’t – Mayfair being one of the most competitive couple of square miles on earth.
But competitiveness didn’t put off Tim Steel, co-founder of the delectable Kitty Fisher’s on Shepherd Market – a minutes walk from our offices on Berkeley Square – when I caught up with him last week to learn a little more about this local hotspot everyone’s talking about. He began with the idea…
“We kind of just started with an idea 10 years ago at a drunken evening up near Northumberland and then 9 more years of drunken evenings talking about it and suddenly it actually happened.
“The building became available and I noticed it on the market. This really is the most brilliant area for restaurants and nightlife. It’s got a real history to it as well: a dodgy history, a good history and a grand history all wrapped up into one. But my goodness we worked so hard, I can’t tell you.”
Auspicious beginnings... Nonetheless it’s a pretty unique place, it’s unlike anything else at all.
“I think the food reflects that, and the atmosphere – you can meet Thomas the chef, we’ve given him free reign rather than dictated what to serve. Initially we gave him some ideas of what we wanted but actually then we just ended up letting him do everything. He’s an actor, and bloody good at what he does, a very talented young man.”
So a unique selling point, combined with an irresistible location?
“We knew we’d do well here, that’s why we started in Mayfair: if you can’t run a good restaurant here you’re doing something profoundly wrong because there’s so much passing trade: over half our trade at lunch time, if not all, are business people – but I had no idea it would be such a hotspot. We’re booked up for supper until September, and we’re booked up for lunch for about three weeks…
Wowza. So how relevant is it that it’s in this particular area, with this particular history? Could you tell us a bit about the name?
“I think that it’s very relevant. Well Kitty Fisher obviously lived in this square and applied her trade in this square [Shepherds Market]. We’re right in the heart of the West End you know. I don’t think it’s necessarily the name, the name’s nice and catchy and it’s got a bit of the history of the area."
I never really made that connection with the name. Did you choose the place because of the name or…?
“We realized whilst researching the area that she lived here, and we liked the name, it’s such an nice old nursery rhyme ‘Lucy locket lost her pocket… Kitty Fisher found it’. Kitty Fisher found her little dream here and we brought it alive, tried to at least. (Check out our Bio of Kitty here for our first in a series of “Local Legends”…)
Social Media, has that played any part in your success so far? It’s quite a big part of what we do especially since our rebrand – do you use it alot?
“My partners are really keen on it and it really works well for us. I know Twitter certainly works well, the kitchen really enjoy it; they get a lot of feedback from other foodies and well know restaurateurs and they use it to sing each others’ praises, sharing ideas, staff, produce – all sorts of things.”
A lot of our thing is about community as we have all these different businesses connected through us. There are quite a lot of independent restaurants just in Shepherds Market – is there a community amongst you all?
“Absolutely, we all get on really well. Which is surprising. And actually because there’s a lot of trade around here and we’re all doing something slightly different at slightly different prices. We lend each other things, I get on with everyone – everything you see here is from small suppliers. So for example the fish we get from a fishing boat guy and his son. He does the fishing and his son drives it up everyday, delivers it to a couple of other very famous restaurants and ourselves: fresh everyday.
What would be your ideal location for another restaurant? Stay in London or…
“Yeah stay in London. A good business clientele and a good reputation are essential: what’s most important is the right site. Incidentally, this place used to be a bakery, and before that it was a jewellers –in the cellar we found three huge safes.”
Check out Kitty Fisher’s for a unique and delicious experience. However it is worth getting your name on the list early, as it is fast becoming the most popular haunt in West London.