Salt Yard Group co-founder Simon Mullins, behind restaurants including Dehesa, Opera Tavern and Ember Yard, talks to Katherine Price about the group's latest London restaurant, Veneta, in St James's Market, which is inspired by Venetian cuisine
What is different about Veneta and what gap do you think it fills in London's restaurant scene?
Veneta is a take on the culinary heritage of Venice. We've tapped into and taken inspiration from Venice's incredible history, which hasn't been done to this extent before in London.
We strive to create unique and distinct, cool, cosy interiors - and as Veneta is inspired by Venice, we decided to really go for it on the decor. We had to create a bit of a wow factor, while also keeping the look very much in our style.
What has the reception been like so far?
We invited our database ahead of opening the booking lines up to the public, and within a few hours we had over 2,000 covers booked, which was just phenomenal. So far the feedback has been great.
Did you make any changes or discoveries?
The one thing I keep discovering is that no matter how much time you spend on planning a space, it never quite works exactly as you've planned until it's full of people. As we want to accommodate as many guests as possible during a launch, we find the soft opening period is pressure testing at its most extreme. Then we regroup, reorganise and make the necessary tweaks.
Have any dishes or aspects of the restaurant gone down particularly well?
The raw bar and the pastas. For the two-week window they were available, we shipped in some moeche [Venetian lagoon soft shell crabs], which we served in sliders - they went down a storm. All our pasta is hand-made and a particular favourite is the bigoli - a classic Venetian pasta we make with a special imported bronze press.
Tell us about the wine list
It focuses purely on the important Northern Italian regions: Veneto, Friuli, Alto Adige, Piedmont, Valle d'Aosta and Liguria - all producing some of Italy's most exciting wines. We want to offer an unusual and exciting journey of discovery for customers who are perhaps not familiar with these regions.
What was it that attracted you to St James's Market?
The vision the Crown estate has for the area is something we became interested in several years ago. There will be a total transformation of the area south of Piccadilly along Regent Street and it's exciting to be part of that.
Also, the history of St James's market is interesting - being a market that supplied the needs of the local palaces. The architecture of the building we are in is also unique.
What's exciting is that the group of operators that are opening in St James's Market are all high calibre and non-high street - this is refreshing and will create a great new dining hub/destination. It will also boast possibly the largest alfresco dining terrace in the West End. What's not to like?