Cateys 2018: Newcomer Award – Smoke & Salt

06 July 2018 by
Cateys 2018: Newcomer Award – Smoke & Salt

Sponsored by William Grant & Sons

If the BBC's Million Pound Menu is putting pop-ups in the spotlight, it's Singaporean chef Hawker Chan winning a Michelin star in 2017 for his soya sauce chicken rice that shows there's a sophisticated side to street food. It's a path trodden by some familiar names too, with the likes of Pizza Pilgims, Bao and Patty & Bun all cutting their teeth as pop-up concepts.

This year's Newcomer Catey winner, Smoke & Salt - based out of the Pop Brixton shipping container formerly inhabited by Kricket before it moved to a permanent Soho site - is the next name to watch. It's the first restaurant of Remi Williams and Aaron Webster, who met while cooking at the Shed in Notting Hill. It opened in June 2017 with the use of a government start-up loan and the support of friends and family.

The restaurant is part of the Pop Brixton community of restaurants, retailers, artists and social enterprises, based in a 40ft shipping container with a footprint of less than 300 sq ft. The pair opened the site with a two-weeks fit-out time and on a budget of less than £40,000.

Williams, Webster and their restaurant manager, the only other full-time employee, are ever-present for their eight services per week. They even had to shut for the night to collect their Catey award.

Smoke & Salt's "modern dining/ancient techniques" small plates concept, which aims to offer interesting and innovative fine dining in a casual and affordable manner, has drawn rave reviews. In her first column for The Sunday Times, Marina O'Loughlin praised its "properly exciting" cooking and "nu-British" blend of local ingredients with world flavours and modern techniques, from smoking and salting to pickling, fermenting and brining. "What issues from their minuscule kitchen is little short of bravura," she wrote.

Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph's Keith Miller said the "buccaneers of brine" sit squarely on-trend: "A bit Scandi, a bit Korean, a bit barbecue-y, with the use of preserved ingredients alongside fresh ones lending consistence and rhythm to what might otherwise descend into cross-cultural chaos."

The Cateys judges were equally impressed, blown away by "two guys with no money behind them, having a go in a shipping container, with a small team, living and breathing it every day". Few would be surprised if they were to pop-up in a shiny new permanent venue in the West End any time soon.

What the judges said

"Two guys cooking great food in a storage container captures the spirit of this award."

Robin Hutson

"The spirit of entrepreneurial enterprise. A great example of how to start a low-cost, relatively lavish business to prove a concept. I look forward to seeing where they go next."

Jane Sunley

"An outstanding example of entrepreneurship, innovation, bravery and nicely in tune with today's trends and direction. An inspirational winner."

Richard Ball

"Great to see that hard work still pays off. These guys do everything from the washing up to cooking exceptional food."

William Baxter

The shortlist

Michael Caines Lympstone Manor, Lympstone, Devon

Mark Birchall Moor Hall, near Ormskirk, Lancashire

Alan and Angela Harper Palé Hall, Bala, Gwynedd

Aaron Webster and Remi Williams Smoke & Salt, London

The judges

Pascal Aussignac Chef-patron, Club Gascon, London

Richard Ball Managing director, Calcot Hotels

William Baxter Chairman, Hospitality Action

John Calton Chef-patron, the Staith House, North Shields

Robin Hutson Chairman and chief executive, Lime Wood Group and Home Grown Hotels

Jane Sunley Chief executive, Purple Cubed

Bill Toner Chief executive, CH&Co

John Williams Executive chef, the Ritz, London

Get The Caterer every week on your smartphone, tablet, or even in good old-fashioned hard copy (or all three!).

Continue reading

You need to be a premium member to view this. Subscribe from just 99p per week.

Already subscribed?

The Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email

Start the working day with The Caterer’s free breakfast briefing email

Sign Up and manage your preferences below

Check mark icon
Thank you

You have successfully signed up for the Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email and will hear from us soon!

Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.


Ad Blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an adblocker and – although we support freedom of choice – we would like to ask you to enable ads on our site. They are an important revenue source which supports free access of our website's content, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

trade tracker pixel tracking