About Time You Met: Lucy Pedder and Natasha Cooke, Founders of LupinsBy Alicia Grimshaw
Lucy Pedder and Natasha Cooke are behind Lupins restaurant in Flat Iron Square, London. Having worked alongside each other in a range of different kitchens, the ladies decided to embark on their own restaurant journey – and opened Lupins last year. We sat down with the duo to discuss the inspiration behind the menu, standing out and future plans:
Talk to us about the Lupins journey – how did the idea first come about?
We were working together for a few years in other people’s kitchens. The food was always great but, when you work for other people, you always have to fit into their vision. Over the years we travelled and ate out A LOT and realised that our vision of how we’d want our restaurant to be had really aligned. We had separately been in California and loved the mix of flavours and beachy vibe. We wanted to use British ingredients at the heart and just play around with techniques and flavours.
The industry isn’t great for women either. We knew that if we ever wanted to get married or have a family then we’d be best off doing our own thing and making sure we look after each other and our staff.
How did you ladies first meet?
In the kitchen at Medlar, Chelsea. Tash was working there as Junior Sous and I came in for work experience. We got told off for chatting too much that first night. It was obviously love at first sight!
What’s been the hardest part of opening Lupins?
It’s very all consuming. Ultimately we have to make every decision so there’s never really a moment to switch off. Our staff are awesome, but we’re responsible at the end of the day. Of course we knew it would be full on, but nothing quite prepares you for that intensity; never being able to see friends or family because your restaurant is like a needy baby that won’t let you out of its sight. But like a needy baby, totally worth it!
What place or person has influenced your cooking styles the most?
For us, the wonderful fresh ingredients and blend of cultures in California just really embodied the exact style we’d been trying to articulate for a while. As for people, it’s definitely our peers that have the most impact. Young chefs, working now, who experiment and create beautiful food in cool spaces. We love food and restaurants that feel alive and interesting.
There’s always new restaurants opening in London – how hard is it to stand out?
It’s hard. You just need to be true to yourself and truly believe in what you’re doing. Sometimes we panic if we have a quiet couple of days, but we have faith in what we’re putting out there and people coming back time and again. It’s the regulars that really keep our business booming. I suppose you just have to really care, and know what you’re trying to achieve.
You both were behind pop-up, The Cooking Collective – how did the experience of running a pop-up help with opening a permanent site?
We managed to run a successful business for nearly two years before opening. That gave us a huge amount of confidence and knowledge. We made lots of mistakes but they weren’t usually public. It also allowed us to experiment with lots of different food.
What’s your favourite dish on the menu?
Oxtail and bone marrow taco. It’s a new one and we love it because when we first came up with the concept of Lupins we were really on the Californian vibe. This is the first time we’ve felt that we are established enough for the customers to trust two British girls to do a Mexican classic!
How do you switch off in the capital?
London Bridge is such a cool area and in the middle of the day there’s nothing better than walking down by the river if you get a break between lunch and dinner services. Sometimes I borrow my friends dog! Or go to the Tate Modern. Other than that we pretty much spend all of our spare cash on eating out. Or getting drunk.
What would you say to people who are looking to crack the restaurant world?
Make sure you get as much experience as possible first! Follow your passion and be true to yourself. It will take over your whole life, so it’s important that what you’re doing feels natural and genuine. The customers feel this from you and it will make the final product so much better. Also, naivety helped a lot. If we’d known how much work it was really going to be I wonder if we would’ve been brave enough to do it…
What’s the 2018 plans for Lupins?
We’re looking at developing the Lupins concept a bit further. We want to start doing ticketed events on Monday evenings (when we’re usually shut) with collaborations, pop-ups and wine dinners.
Favourite place in London for a coffee is:
Gentleman’s Barrista on Union Street, opposite our work is great. There’s a lovely vibe; good people and good coffee and a great secret terrace upstairs in the summer.
For more info on Lupins, visit their website here. 66 Union Street, London, SE1 1TD