Ramsay Protegee Hartnett Plans Restaurant in East London

Angela Hartnett, who trained under Gordon Ramsay before becoming one of the U.K.’s leading chefs, plans to open an informal establishment in east London.

Merchant’s Tavern, which is scheduled to open in September, is on the site of Canteloupe, which was one of the first restaurants in Shoreditch. It will seat 80 in the dining room and another 50 in the bar, offering a modern European menu.

The project is a collaboration with Neil Borthwick, who will head the kitchen, and the co-founders of Canteen, Dominic Lake and Patrick Clayton-Malone. Hartnett, 44, says Merchant’s Tavern will provide opportunities for young chefs, just as Ramsay did in opening restaurants around London.

“It’s doing what Gordon did in a way, investing in the next generation,” Hartnett said in an interview. “Everyone knocks Gordon these days, but he empowered me and Marcus (Wareing) and Jason (Atherton). It’s about helping London evolve.”

Hartnett holds a Michelin star at her London restaurant Murano and this year opened Hartnett Holder & Co. at Lime Wood Hotel, in the New Forest, outside London. She previously worked at Angela Hartnett at the Connaught and at the York & Albany.

She said that her partners in Merchant’s Tavern are old friends and that they had long been looking for a site. The food will be uncomplicated and the aim is for it to become a neighborhood venue as well as a destination for diners.

Honest Food

“It’s not going to be lots of jellies and foam: It will be the honest, heartfelt kind of food you want to eat,” she said. “Everyone wants to slag off fine dining but a good restaurant is about great food and great service, somewhere you want to go back. It’s not about tablecloths and all that.

“You can have very good food in east London. A lot of the big art and design people have moved out of Soho, and the media and the fashion people. We all live there.”

Her partners opened Canteen, an unfussy venue serving British food, in Spitalfields market, east London, in 2007. There are now three other branches.

Dishes at Merchant’s Tavern may include starters such as autumn vegetable salad with buckwheat emulsion and speck Trentino; roast partridge with baked celeriac and hazelnut pesto; and mains such as loin of venison with lardo di colonnata, braised red cabbage and poached quince, and roast stone bass with scorched onions, sauteed artichokes and chive creme fraiche.

Ramsay’s proteges are making their mark in London these days. Atherton is most prominent. In addition to holding a Michelin star at Pollen Street Social, he has recently opened two more restaurants in London -- Little Social and Social Eating house -- and plans two more in coming months. He also has opened establishments in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Tower 42

His next London projects are taking over the Gary Rhodes restaurant in Tower 42 in the City financial district and a collaboration with the entrepreneur Ian Schrager at Edition, a new hotel on Berners Street owned by Marriott International Inc.

Marcus Wareing has Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, the Gilbert Scott in London and Aalto, in Birmingham. Mark Sargeant opened Rocksalt, Folkestone, in 2012, and in April was placed in charge of food at the Great Northern Hotel, in London. The hotel’s 90-guest restaurant is Plum + Spilt Milk.

(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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