Missy Flynn and Gabe Pryce are overwhelmed. Not by opening a first restaurant in central London amid well-documented supply chain issues, leaning on rented stools, third-choice glasses and wondering where the tequila is, but by something more fundamental. Sitting on their outdoor patio, it looks like Pryce can’t believe he’s sitting there at all. “All my life, I have known that Lexington Street is a place of quality restaurants. A very special little stretch of the heart of London. And I’m always completely overwhelmed that we have a restaurant here.
They both point out that Rita’s Soho, which is open for dinner and will open for lunch when they hire enough chefs to join Pryce in the kitchen, is both built on everything Rita has been in the past. past nine years, and a break from outdoor roaming that has been (sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly) applied to what they do.
There were Dalston nightclubs, taproom residences and the famous Mare Street space in Hackney. But it’s a kind of growth. “I want people to have dinner. Or for lunch. To come to the restaurant and have a meal and not be confused. I don’t want them to not know what they are doing. We cherish restaurants that are restaurants – you go sit down with your friends and you have dinner. Not a tiny bit of that, a tiny bit of that, ”said Pryce.
The margaritas will still be shaken and the natural wine will still flow; maturation does not mean that there is no sharing, no hands, no mess. A tear-and-share garlic bread modeled on Parker House buns and sprinkled with green flecked butter puts that to bed immediately. But the rest of the menu – beef tartare; dressed oysters; a whole fish with black beans, a variation of salsa macha, and tortillas; and a “steak dinner” with creamy greens and crispy fried potatoes – talks about a restaurant that is still devoted to American cuisine as a benchmark, but doesn’t leave old ideas behind on its identity become too outdated or comfortable.
Flynn says a dish is perfect for this ripening: “There is a really good quail and oatmeal dish that to me is very Rita then and Rita now. People loved the melty patties and fried chicken and stuff on Mare Street, but this particular dish is definitely Rita’s cooking style.
Pryce adds that the dish now involves grinding your own kernels with corn kernels from the UK and US, and it’s even clearer that this edition of Rita’s wants to end some preconceptions. “When you make an offer that people have considered, or considered before… ‘Americana,’ developing that has always been a pretty tough conversation to explain to people how serious we are. People have misconceptions about why we cook a certain place food and what we cook. They both say that bringing in suppliers like farmer Tom Jones for the meat and Max Onslow of Bateman Road in Chingford for vegetables grown according to their advice is the kind of thing they always wanted but what they wanted. have never been able to do so far.
Their new home, a listed building, was delayed by COVID-19 like so many restaurants. But Flynn says it brought both time and stress. It enabled them to form themselves: first a team, despite the constraints of a staff crisis, then a restaurant, in line with the requirements of the space that shelters it. When it comes to staffing, she is both realistic and proud of the current situation: “I hope we’ve created a company that people really want to work in, instead of trying to fill a bunch of positions with it. anybody. We want to create opportunities for people who are more than jobs. “
The space fuels the feeling that the duo want to challenge what people think of Rita. The two frequently recall Mare Street, the Hackney restaurant that established it as one of London’s liveliest dining rooms, and temper nostalgia with how much is determined by little things like … toilet paper.
There is a bathroom all over the place, and Pryce says that “the things we used to do … like the black sauce chicken wings on Mare Street, they were great.” But if you had them here, they would probably ruin your night. You should go home and wash yourself. The basement of Mare Street was basically like teenage Roman baths washing the tar off their fingers, and we can’t do that here.
“This is one of the first projects we did when we had time to think of things as a sequence of events, and the building is a key part of those events,” adds Flynn. And that continues into the design, with canvases by Los Angeles artist Michael McGregor featuring their devil eggs, and a definite aversion to what they call “a CAD machine set up to do” what. a restaurant should look like in 2021 “.
Nor is it designed to be an east London restaurant that has wandered west and ended up in the center. Flynn reflects on how “Soho has this perception of being full of chains and elitist,” then on the other side of the story, “It may be true, but it’s also a neighborhood. It’s not as far from reality as people might think.
This is an appropriate declaration of intent for a duo that set up at the same time as their restaurant took hold. Both grew up in central London and they moved to the neighborhood to be closer to the restaurant when it was clear the deadline would be long, and Pryce is getting used to the change of environment outside of work. “I’ve always been the person who yells out the window at people on the street when I’m trying to sleep and I don’t anymore. It’s just nice to see people in Soho now. Now they hope to see them at home.