Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim & David Gingell
(Photo: Jess Ellis)
Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim & David Gingell
Ally met David and Jeremie at Westerns Laundry where she was welcomed with a glass of homemade Kefir water (must get the recipe). Their handwriting is all over the place from the chalked menu and names of bookings on the tables to the open kitchen and wide opening front doors.
Westerns Laundry is their second restaurant and is, in their view, a more feminine take on what they serve at Primeur. The menu remains quite robust and bold, with both places having a nice domestic friendliness with homegrown flower arrangements and sweet smelling bathrooms. The AW17 Canvas bags were inspected in detail and passed the test of the two hospitable gents.
AC: Location and environment are obviously big parts of the restaurant experience for you. Are interiors and exteriors of great interest for you or is it a commercial consideration? Incidentally the loo in Primeur smells lovely always.
JCL: Each project we do starts with the location: instead of thinking in commercial terms, we think of regeneration & conservation. Most of the sites we converted were on the verge of being turned into flats and we always spend a huge amount of efforts to change the developers mind for a more community conscious project and use of space. We try to create restaurants for Londoners, inhabiting spaces where Londoners live and close to where David and I live.
Loos are so important to us and should look and feel very much as an integral part of the restaurant rather than an appendage.
AC: So Westerns Laundry, did you want to show another side to yourselves, if so can you describe what it is and why. You could have done a Jamie and rolled out Primeur?
JCL: We are not interested in fast money. I think this is clear from the sites we pick and the areas we chose to operate. We want our restaurants/projects to say something important about the people behind the scene: the farmers, the fishermen, the animals, the raw material, our staff. We want to build a business with real connection and organic narrative and this extends to our expansion too. We need to grow slowly, in a measured way, and with consideration.
AC: The food at Primeur is quite full on and perhaps masculine. I remember my first time there with Marina and Dave of The Gourmand. Marina ordered a big piece of meat for us to share... Would you say that is your USP?
DG: I would say it’s fair to say that the food at Primeur is quite masculine on the whole. Lots of butter and duck fat, fish cooked in butter etc. I wouldn't say this was a USP as such, it has just evolved that way over time. With Westerns Laundry we feel the food is slightly finer and more subtle which tends to lend better to seafood. And we think this lends itself to the building as well.
JCL: I describe Primeur as a peasant. It is meaty and porky and strong and muscular. Westerns Laundry in contrast is elegant and more refined, it is feline.
I think our USP rests in more facets than just the food and drinks offering. We create convivial spaces where sharing is at the center of everything we do. This is the way David and I and most of our staff like to eat and to us, sharing is always what a meal, at home or out, should be about.
AC: Sharing dishes and sharing tables- plainly people are meant to be talking and getting to know one another in your places. Hospitality feels to me like very strong part of the story, How about a little Hotel?
JCL: David and I agree that opening restaurant after restaurant feels too linear and stagnant. We have other projects in the pipeline which are very personal to us, and which will involve community, ecology, self-sufficiency, sustainability, agriculture and the celebration of nature. Beds will be involved.
DG: I’ll add that we think that a restaurant isn't just a place to go and eat and the act of sitting at a table is more than just having meal. A table is a place where we make up, break up, catch up, form friendships, its many different things to different people. Having sharing tables does well to create a real feeling of community even if it’s just for one night! Shared food? Well, I don’t think I would have dinner with someone I wouldn't want to share a plate of food with.
Photo: (L-R) Dean, Dave & Del, all part of the AW17 Canvas Group
AC: Jeremie, you are pretty outgoing and David, from reading about you I’d say you’re a bit more “gone fishing”. Is that fair and does that work for the business?
JCL: I think this is a misconception. Part of my job as front of house and host is to be what our guests expect me to be: in a convivial environment there is very little place to hide. In person, I’m pretty self effaced and reserved and value peace and privacy. To me David is much more of a natural showman and the kitchen is the real stage.
AC: David, how is life in the kitchen and how do you keep it all under control?
DG: To be honest life in the kitchen is fun! Sometimes it can feel a bit like being on a pirate ship drinking rum. Now I am a bit older with a family I try not to have too many boozy late nights.
AC: Tell us a bit about how the food gets from the kitchen to the table. How do you decide the menu and what goes with what? What would you say your personal style of cooking is?
DG: I would like to think that my style of cooking is uncomplicated and honest. We buy the best ingredients this means we only buy what our suppliers recommend and what’s in season. At the end of the night we tend to have a beer and chat about the menu for the next day using what’s available and good quality. I like to get input from the chefs who will be cooking it and have them be a big part of developing dishes for the next day. It gives them a sense of ownership over the dishes they will be cooking that day.