Arian Zandi knows a thing or two about opening successful restaurants in London. Alongside his brother, Alberto, the siblings are behind Kensington hotspot Zuaya, as well as their second outpost, Como Garden – an Italian tapas-style restaurant. We chatted to Arian about opening a restaurant during a pandemic, and his thoughts on London’s evolving food scene:

Tell us a bit about your background?

I’m originally from Spain, but came at a young age to London to progress my studies. My academic background is in business management and computer science.

Have you always wanted to work in the food and beverage sector?

As an entrepreneur I am inclined to have ventures in various industries, to diversify risk. Having said that, hospitality holds a special place in my heart. I am a fan of experiences, and the hospitality sector is an industry that in one way or another delivers experiences to the majority of the population.

Your restaurant Zuaya serves Latin American cuisine – what drew you to the flavours of South America?

I have had the opportunity to travel to several countries in South America, and I was impressed by the high variety of dishes, as well as the originality of them. In one dish you can have several textures, temperatures, and colours. I wanted to bring this unique experience to London’s food scene.

You opened your latest restaurant, Como Garden, in the middle of a pandemic whilst many others held back on plans. What made you go ahead with the opening? 

This pandemic has brought us many challenges, but I am a believer that with challenges, opportunities also arise. My team and I have been behind a particular site in London for a while now, which became available during the pandemic. Our plans are typically based on 10-15 years of trading (depending on the hospitality asset), and with this in mind, we decided to acquire the site and open an exciting new concept in central London.

What can we expect from Como Garden when things are back to normal? 

Como Garden offers a Lake Como scenery experience. In winter it turns into a cosy indoor garden, and in summer is a refreshing getaway from London. As soon as you step into Como Garden, you will be transported to Lake Como in Italy. Our glass walls are entirely openable, meaning that we can convert the restaurant into an outdoor garden during the summer period. This is quite unique in London, since very few restaurants in the city offer this experience. I am excited for our customers to enjoy this when we open.

Do you think lockdown/pandemic has changed people’s dining habits?  

Yes, I do. It has changed our mentality in many aspects of life, and that also includes hospitality. We have been unfortunately exposed to very high degrees of restrictions, limiting our freedom to levels we have never lived. This has made us value more the simple things that contributed to our freedom prior to the pandemic, like going out with friends and family to a restaurant.

What do you think of London’s food scene?

It’s great! One can get a lot of different cuisines within a few miles radius.

Any advice for people opening a restaurant in today’s world?

The hospitality industry is becoming more and more challenging over time. I would advise any new entrant to be innovative and try to deliver something different.

How do you keep a healthy work/life balance? 

I try to be very structured in my life. I work hard, and I work long, but I schedule time to enjoy other aspects of my life.

Do you plan on opening any further restaurants down the line? 

Yes, I do. We are working on an expansion roadmap in London, and other cities internationally.

For more information on Zuaya, see here

 35B Kensington High St, Kensington, London W8 5EB