Salt Yard Group co-founder Simon Mullins and wife Isabel Almeida Da Silva are opening a new Portuguese concept called Volta do Mar in London’s Covent Garden.
Loosely translating as ‘return from the sea’, Volta do Mar will explore the regional cuisines of Portugal and the dishes born of its trading past with countries such as Angola, Goa, Mozambique, Brazil and Macau. The 120-cover site, which used to be a Strada restaurant, is due to open at the beginning of November.
Speaking to The Caterer, Mullins said: “My wife is Portuguese and we’ve always wanted to open a restaurant together, and we’ve always thought how sad it is that Portugal has not been properly represented in London.”
Da Silva has worked front of house for Corbin & King, Drake & Morgan and Flemings Mayfair, as well as a hospitality, food and beverage consultant at the Bush Theatre in London; while Mullins sold the Salt Yard Group of four restaurant to Urban Pubs & Bars last year.
Portuguese chef George Tannock will take the helm as head chef, having previously worked in London as events and development chef at Sexy Fish and head chef at Treves & Hyde restaurant and the Chelsea Arts Club.
A frequently changing menu of sharing and large plates will include dishes such as smoked ham hock feijoada, a traditional bean-based stew; Iberico pork vindalho; Macanese arroz marisco, a seafood rice served tableside from a Cataplana; pão com chouriço, smoked chorizo served in a naan.
“We want to keep the dishes simple,” said Mullins. “We want the menu to be an exciting journey of discovery, but not too unfamiliar that it’s difficult to understand. And the menu’s going to change because there’s so much that we can be showing.”
For lighter lunches or evening snacks, a selection of charcuterie and cheeses from Lisbon-based supplier Manteigaria will be available.
"Why aren’t these great Portuguese products available over here?" said Mullins. "We want to champion that, whether it’s amazing charcuterie or cheese. There’s so much to celebrate, discover and showcase with this idea."
The site will also be open for breakfast throughout the week and operate as a pastelaria, with an in-house baker making pastel de nata; bola de berlim, a type of Portuguese doughnut; and pão.
The wine list has been assembled by the couple to showcase Portuguese wines. Port and Madeira wines will also be available, including from Madeira Vintners, which has an all-female team, and much of the wine list will be available by the glass or carafe, with many priced under £30 per bottle.
A spirits list will echo the global influences found in the food, including Cap Grogue, a sugar cane-based spirit from Cape Verdé; gin from Angola; and Cashu from Mozambique. There will also be cocktails such as a pumpkin margaritas and sol de orange, made from Goan feni, orange and lemonade.
The first-floor wooden panelled Georgian dining room has been designed to look like the house of an eccentric merchant with curiosities on display, with a wooden bar on the ground floor and a downstairs private dining room. The restaurant is being funded by Mullins as well as a small group of investors, friends and family.
When asked whether the concept would be expanded, Mullins said: “My instinct tells me that there are spin-offs from this idea that will work really well, but we are keeping those ideas under our hats at the moment. We’ve got two or three other ideas… but for now we’re focusing on this.”
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