A Michelin star-winning chef wants to create a world-class restaurant on the banks of London’s River Thames. So far, so 2015.
The difference this time is that he’s offering diners at his existing restaurants the chance to invest in the new venture via a crowdfunding website.
Chiltern Firehouse chef Nuno Mendes wants to raise £1.75 million from friends and diners, in exchange for a 33.3 per cent stake in his new restaurant. The minimum investment will be £10, contributed via crowdfunding platform Seedrs.
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Mendes, who oversaw Chiltern Firehouse's emergence as the celebrity hotspot of 2014, aims to open Viajante on the ground floor of Metropolitan Wharf, in the Wapping area of east London, in late 2016. The restaurant will have an outdoor terrace where guests can arrive by boat and will seat about 65 diners.
Portuguese-born Mendes says he hopes to make it into a worldwide destination. He will stay on at Chiltern Firehouse as executive chef.
The chef, a veteran of Jean Georges in New York and El Bulli, north of Barcelona, has an international reputation for his creative gastronomy. He won a Michelin star in 2011, less than a year after opening the original Viajante in Bethnal Green.
He retained that star until 2014, when he closed the restaurant and set up Chiltern Firehouse for Andre Balazs, the hotelier behind The Mercerin New York and Chateau Marmont in Hollywood. (Mendes said at that time that he planned to open another Viajante at some stage.)
"We could have done it with major financial backers but I want to do it in a democratic way," says Mendes, who opened a Portuguese venue, Taberna do Mercado, earlier this year. "I love the idea that anyone who has been to Viajante or liked Taberna or the Firehouse has the chance to participate."
The Rise of Crowdfunding
Restaurant and food businesses are increasingly using crowdfunding:
* Chefs Tom Harris and Jon Rotheram sought out £2.4 million via Daedalus Partners LLP to open at the Marksman in Hackney
* Oppo Ice Cream has raised more than £300,000 via Seedrs
* The platform was also used by Mike's Fancy Cheese and Chapel Down wines
* In the U.S., Foodstart helps restaurants and food trucks raise capital online in amounts as small as $50
Mendes says he wants to create a restaurant with tasting menus that will win multiple Michelin stars and a place on the list of the World's Best Restaurants. (The original Viajante entered the awards' Top 100 at number 80 in 2012 and rose to 59 the following year.) He also plans to invite guest chefs from around the world to cook one-off dinners with him, the restaurant's prospectus says.
The chef has worked with David Collins Studioto create a space that utilises the warehouse's original brickwork arches and industrial columns to maximise views of the Thames river. There will be an open-plan kitchen and a chef's table.
Cooking Up Creativity
Mendes first became known in London in 2006 when he opened Bacchus in a former pub on a rundown street in Hoxton. The menu featured dishes such as pork jowl in cinnamon-scented oil served with langoustine, leek and rosewater puree. At Viajante, options included salsify with spruce bark and black truffle.
"Taberna has made me look back at my roots in Portugal. Viajante will be very personal." — Chef Nuno Mendes
He serves more mainstream dishes at Chiltern Firehouse, a favorite of diners such as Bono, Daniel Craig, Liam Gallagher Bob Geldof, Kate Moss, Stella McCartney and Harvey Weinstein.
The creativity is still there, with a regularly changing menu. Mendes's crab donuts have become a signature, while even dishes as simple as Cesar salad and steak tartare are elevated by tweaks such as crisp chicken skin and chipotle spice.
At Taberna do Mercado, in Spitalfields market, he focuses on Portuguese cuisine.
So what are the plans for the new Viajante?
"Times have changed," says Mendes, who was born in Sao Jorge de Arroios, Lisbon. "It will be a standalone restaurant where we can fully focus on the menu and not have to worry about the hotel. Taberna has made me look back at my roots in Portugal. I've found a lot of ideas there as well as great produce. Viajante will be very personal."
Report by Richard Vines, chief food critic for Bloomberg