About Time You Met: Isaac Tooby and Neil Watson, Founders of WILDFLOWERBy Angelica Malin
WILDFLOWER is another opening adding to Peckham’s burgeoning food scene. Housed in new creative hub, Peckham Levels, WILDFLOWER is an informal vegetarian and vegan canteen dishing up plant-powered grub from noon till night. We caught up with Isaac Tooby and Neil Watson, the guys behind WILDFLOWER to chat starting a business, and what we can all expect from the new menu:
Hey chaps! Can you tell us a little bit about WILDFLOWER?
WILDFLOWER is our new restaurant. It serves highly crafted vegetarian and vegan food throughout the day and night and shares the space with its sister business Ghost Notes, a music venue and bar focused around South London’s incredible music community.
Why did you decide to open in Peckham Levels?
We’ve lived and worked in Peckham for a decade and can remember when Frank’s was little more than a couple of trestle tables and a bunch of friends getting drunk. Watching it grow over the past few years has been incredible, so when the people behind the Peckham Levels project asked us to get involved we knew we wanted to be a part of the car park’s future.
What can people expect from WILDFLOWER’s menu?
We’ll be serving food from morning until night so the offering will change accordingly, but throughout, the emphasis will always be on really stunning ingredient-led dishes. During the day the menu will cater for everyone; whether it’s workers after a healthy and affordable lunch option or friends sitting down for something more substantial. The evening menu will take things up a level, with a fine dining experience in an informal and innovative space.
What’s the inspiration behind the restaurant?
Our history in hospitality served as the initial inspiration, as we knew we could create something really special with our combined skills. The idea to go plant based was more recent, and came from our own approach to what we eat. Ethical decision making has always been a massive part of our business, so the move to go meat-free was a natural extension.
How long did it take for the initial idea to become a reality?
We started actively looking for interesting spaces in 2010, so quite a while. The idea evolved over the years, but at its core its always been our dream to combine our love for incredible food, informal hospitality and really exciting music. With WILDFLOWER and Ghost Notes we really think we’ve realised this… finally!
You’re launching a new evening service – tell us more about the dishes on the menu:
As with everything else that comes out of the kitchen, the evening menu will change on a daily basis and vary according to the time of season. Influences will come from across Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and European cuisines, but above anything they’ll all benefit from the passion and palate of our head chef, Joseph Ryan. He’s been involved with some of our favourite restaurants and is a really good pal, so we’re delighted to have the chance to build WILDFLOWER together.
What advice would you give anyone who’s looking to open a restaurant?
Work really hard, pay attention to everything, build the strongest team you can with people you trust, and keep a really clear idea of what you think makes a great dining experience.
What do you think of the vegan food scene in London?
Excellent food is excellent food, and in a lot of ways any ethical decisions are just part of the process of putting it on a plate. Just because an offering is vegan, should that distinguish it from the rest of all the amazing eating this city has to offer. That said, it’s really inspiring to see so many diners, chefs and restaurateurs all making a conscious effort to change the way we eat, both for the good of ourselves and the planet.
Why do you think veganism has become so popular?
The movement towards more ethical and sustainable food chains over the past decade has had a deep and lasting impact on the way people think about what they’re eating – and this has heightened our awareness of how we each impact the environment.
Where’s your favourite place for a vegan dinner in London?
The fact that pretty much any restaurant of note in the capital will have at least a couple of vegan options speaks volumes of the change in eating habits, it also makes this a really hard question to answer! In terms of a strictly vegan only offer Bonnington Café has been doing it for the longest by far, and it’s a really unique experience.
Favourite place for coffee in London?
It’s a toss up between our two nearest neighbours in Peckham: Rosie’s Café and Petitou.
Visit WILDFLOWER’s website here. Peckham Levels, 95A Rye Lane, London SE15 4ST