It has always been a treat and privilege to have guest chefs come to Wrights and takeover our kitchen, they give our customers the chance to taste food from all over the UK - over the last few years we have had Swansea born and bred Jonathan Woolway from St John, Sarit and Itimar from Honey and Co., Rachel Roddy from Rome, Jess Dennison from Edinburgh, Olia Hercules and local chefs Scott Davies from Strawberry Shortcake and the wonderful forager Matt Powell to name but a few.
I had heard of P Franco, a small wine bar in Hackney but only as we supplied them with wine and it was one of Joel’s favourite places to meet up with friends when he was in London, Anna Tobias was due to cone down and do a guest chef night at Joels invitation, I corresponded with her about the date and menu. P Franco specialise in natural wines and have resident chefs on 3 month residencies and I had heard great reports about her food.
Anna held an outstanding evening with us, helped with her kitchen prep by some friends who all stayed with us for a couple of nights along with the lovely Canadian Jesse Ober who was looking after the wines and at the end of the evening asked me when I was coming to do a guest chef appearance in London?
I thought, fuelled by a couple of glasses of wine, why not? We arranged a date for a couple of months later...
Then I started to worry as I do, me, cooking in London, in a place with an amazing reputation, I questioned Anna and was told just remember there is no kitchen, just two portable induction hobs, a bit of fridge space and all the customers watching you as you cook, but only space for around 18 at a time.
Two months later I went up to London with Joel and his partner Liv, the car precariously stacked with bounty including macaroni, braised ox cheek, pork rillette, leeks, salad leaves and most importantly wobbly custard slices. We arrived and I scoured the road looking for the P Franco restaurant sign to find a unpretentious old sign saying “Great Wall”, with a tiny P Franco etched on the window.
We unpacked and popped what we could into the limited fridge space, I checked out the prep space and got to work.
Service started at 6pm and soon filled up, I was delighted to see some familiar faces including a few of the aforementioned London guest chefs and the evening flew by, it was busy and so different from service at Wrights, the lovely Anna helped me and it was a real experience being surrounded by customers as I dished up bowls of Mac and cheek, salads, sliced up bread, grilled Welsh rarebits all finished off with numerous custard slices, it was a wonderful opportunity for me.
Anna has moved on to her own place Cafe Deco in Bloomsbury yet to open due to lockdown, P Franco is still open but with the current social distancing rules and tiny space is finding it very difficult, please, please remember wherever you are to support independent restaurants., it is now more important than ever before we lose any more of these treasures.