Simon Whiteside is the co-founder of fish and chip restaurants Hook in Camden and Bia Mara, which now operates in Brussels and Antwerp. He has recently launched Roe at Pop Brixton in London, a sustainable seafood restaurant focusing on produce from the British and Irish coast. He discusses going it alone without investors and his plans for a bricks and mortar site with Katherine Price
Why did you decide to open your first solo restaurant at Pop Brixton?
We’re local to Brixton and have always loved Pop, so it felt like the perfect place to start Roe. Pop really encourages and supports self-funded start-ups, so it felt like the perfect fit for us.
Why did you decide to do it without investors?
Having been involved in projects before that were investor-led, I strongly felt that this was very limiting creatively. I felt that my hands were tied in many aspects of the business. My wife Cairene and I decided it was time to take the risk and go it alone.
Why did you decide to focus on sustainable seafood?
Sustainable seafood felt like a natural continuation of what I had been doing with Bia Mara and Hook, but Roe has allowed me to take it up a notch and get back to my roots in higher-end dining.
The sustainability side of things is something I feel very passionately about and we are lucky to work with some amazing suppliers who share these values, including Foodchain, Kernowsashimi, and the Sustainable Spirit Company.
Are you still involved in Hook?
I’m not currently involved in Hook – it’s changed a lot from the concept I started originally. Working six double shifts a week at the moment doesn’t leave time for much else anyway!
How has business been since the launch?
We have had a great start to the year; however, we did find December a difficult month. We had a lot to compete with in the run-up to Christmas. We hope that news about the restaurant has started to get out a bit now, and word of mouth is what we value the most – we really want to be a destination for people and to build up a regular customer base. We offered a set sharing menu for two for January that sold really well. At £25 a head, it’s not too hard on the wallet at this time of year.
Are drinks a big part of the restaurant’s offering too?
We have a great wine list with some really nice sustainable and biodynamic options and this seems to be what people are mainly going for at the moment.
What are your plans for Roe?
We have big plans and would love a bricks and mortar site. At the moment we’re focusing on building an amazing team, developing our offering, and working on some exciting new additions to the menu, including our seafood charcuterie board. And we’re definitely looking forward to summer in Pop!