About Time You Met: Soren Jessen, Owner of 1 Lombard StreetBy Angelica Malin
In 1998 Soren Jessen walked into an old banking hall addressed 1 Lombard Street and immediately knew it should be a restaurant. Celebrating turning 20 this year, 1 Lombard Street has become a staple City eatery over the years, attracting both new and old diners. We chatted to Soren about 1 Lombard Street’s birthday celebrations, and his new Nordic inspired openings, Ekte and Borealis:
Having lived in London since 1989, what do you miss most about the food and drink offering in Demark?
I miss the fjord shrimps (Palaemon adspersus), a smaller shrimp that lives in the sea between Sweden and Denmark. You boil them with lots of dill and salt, then put them in a bowl in the middle of the table and everyone starts peeling. Eat them on rye or sourdough bread with a bit of lemon juice and black pepper. Heaven. Tastes best with a small shot of ice cold Aalborg snaps!
You worked in banking for 9 years, why the move from the banking world to restaurants?
So I could spend more time peeling prawns, rather than counting other people’s money. But seriously, I was Executive Director of Goldman Sachs; I loved the challenge of working in banking and I actually really like numbers, but the restaurant business is so much more real and connected with what matters to me – responsible farming, foraging, fishing, shooting, cooking, eating and then always spoiling people.
It’s 1 Lombard Street’s 20th Birthday this month (August), what was the food and drink offering like in the city 20 years ago when you opened?
Non-existent! We had the Balls Brothers Wine Bars and Corney and Barrow wine, Sweetings for lunch (only), and if you were willing to travel, Bleeding Hart in Clerkenwell, that was it. 1 Lombard Street was the first all-day large scale serious restaurant in the City. Everyone told me that we were going to fail because the City was a graveyard for people who had tried to develop an evening business. We didn’t just develop evenings, we also have 150 people for breakfast daily.
What has been your proudest moment since opening 1 Lombard Street?
It will be when we celebrate 20 years since opening this August with a strong team and a full restaurant.
How do you think restaurants like 1 Lombard Street have survived so long, when others come and go with the fashion?
Exactly, because it’s not fashionable. It’s about great service, great produce, simply prepared.
How do you continue to attract new and old diners?
By looking after my staff and management team – happy staff, happy customers and staying true to our values. “Don’t treat people the way you want to be treated. Treat people the way they want to be treated.”
What do you think of the food scene in London?
Incredibly exciting and wonderfully diverse. Because London is such a melting pot of cultures and tradition, you can find some of the best food in the world here.
What made you want to open Ekte and Borealis? And why did you choose to open a Nordic restaurant instead of another British Brasserie like 1 Lombard Street?
After nearly 30 years in London, the interest in Denmark and the Nordic countries has recently exploded. We have a great tradition for quality and simplicity with food, and beautiful design combined with a complex darkness in film and art. It’s a very exciting combination.
Having recently opened Ekte in the Bloomberg Arcade, what drove you to open Borealis, a restaurant offering a similar cuisine?
Opportunity. I have waited a long time to find the right place, and actually agreed with FORA Space (who operate the rest of the building) over a year ago to open Borealis. The opportunity to take the space for Ekte in Norman Foster’s incredible Bloomberg Arcade, actually only came late last autumn and I just couldn’t pass it up.
It’s been a busy year for you already, what’s next on the cards?
Another Ekte maybe? All the stars will have to be aligned and when the next great opportunity comes up, I really hope I will be ready to jump.
Where else do you like to eat out in London?
I love Margot Henderson’s little gem Rochelle Canteen!
Favourite restaurant in Denmark?
I am fortunate to have been to NOMA several times and it really is incredible. Palægade does a great lunch and I like Fiskebar for dinner, but a real treat is Falsled Kro, a good hour drive from Copenhagen, where you can actually stay the night.
For more information on 1 Lombard Street, visit the website here.