About Time: You Met, Nima Safei, Owner of Forty Dean StreetBy Alicia Grimshaw
Forty Dean Street is a small, family run restaurant dedicated to producing authentic Italian cuisine in the heart of London. This Soho mainstay offers purse-friendly food served by the most helpful team in the capital. We chatted to owner Nima Safei about his favourite haunts, running a business and the meaning behind his nickname, The Duchess of Soho:
When did Forty Dean Street open and what is the history of the restaurant?
I bought the lease for 40 Dean Street in March 2010 after completing my Masters at Birmingham Uni. The original idea was to open a fabulous gay bar called Queens, and the plan was to name each table after our fabulous monarchy. My table was going to be Elizabeth, obviously! We then decided against the idea and Allen (my friend helping me) went on to become a doctor and I decided to put my knowledge of food to good use.
The restaurant then opened in November 2010 and we had the best six years ever before, unfortunately, the restaurant burnt down. I remember going to Joe and the Juice on the 19th December 2016 to get a smoothie. I came back to see all of my staff running out of the restaurant and the entire place up in flames. It was the worst day of my life.
Thanks to the support of my friends, family, incredible customers and my landlord, 40 Dean Street re-opened its doors in November 2017. Since then we have had to completely rebuild our loyal following and it’s been a difficult but amazing journey. Honestly, I cannot even imagine what I would do without this restaurant.
What’s it like running Forty Dean Street?
You have to love it, otherwise it’s impossible. The majority of our customers are regular customers that I love to see on a weekly basis. With the new faces that I don’t know, I like to think that this is my stage and I’m on show every night of the week.
Over the years, I have met so many people thanks to 40 Dean Street. It has become my home. No literally, I live in a wonderful flat upstairs.
Who curated the menu and what are your most popular dishes?
The menu has been created by myself and with the help of my amazing chefs. We’ve spent years changing the menu and update the dishes weekly to ensure people are always getting something new and fresh. The most popular dish is the homemade lobster ravioli, which has been on the menu since day dot.
Forty Dean Street could possibly be the best people watching restaurant in Soho, who is the best person you have ever seen walking past?
So many! I mean I can talk about royals, actors, comedians. A lot which have come in here as well. One of the funniest was Brad Pitt ordering a take away. We do not do take away, but come on, it’s Brad! We even delivered it on a china plate.
You live above the restaurant, how is it living in Soho and where would you recommend visiting?
If you don’t know Soho you have to go to the Box… I can’t tell you why, but you have to go.
I’ve heard that you’re the unofficial Duchess of Soho, how did you get this title?
The title was given to me by the amazing staff at The Groucho Club. Not entirely sure why, but I do go there a lot…
What person or place has inspired your menu the most?
My mother, she was my inspiration for everything.
What is your favourite restaurant in London and why?
I have a lot, however, Lulu’s Restaurant has to be my personal favourite. It is absolutely incredible!
You have a huge amount of regular customers coming back to Forty Dean Street. How do you keep people coming back?
I try and become friends with everyone that walks through the doors. The most important thing to me is having fun and making sure everyone in here is having a good time.
40 Dean St, Soho, London W1D 4PX
For more information on Forty Dean Street, see here.