Iqbal Wahhab — a co-founder of influential Indian restaurant The Cinnamon Club — will open his own restaurant in Islington this year.
Atticus, named for the character in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, will open in The Angel Building, as reported by Big Hospitality. Wahhab has been looking to open a soul food restaurant in the capital since as early as 2015, after an influential trip to New Orleans that he documented for The Independent. The article includes mention of a pitch for a “£2m site in the City” which never materialised; it is reported that he and backers have invested £1.5m into this iteration of the concept, with the potential to roll out across the UK if successful.
The restaurant promises an all-day offering, dishes including eggs in purgatory (whose origins are, bemusingly, Italian), shrimp and grits, Bayou scramble and dixie cup, which is an apple-soaked pecan granola. The lunch and dinner offering reels off somewhat stereotyped ideas of what food from the American South is: po’boys; catfish; gumbo; chicken and waffles. There is no news yet as to whether anyone involved in the project will have genuine expertise or background in Southern cookery, nor on the proposed design for the site. Wahhab’s article from 2015 is riddled with worrying asides about elevating the limitations of traditional recipes: “the complexity and layering of flavours you would never imagine from the classic local broth” (mock turtle soup); “in any other city, you might imagine the chef would be aiming for Michelin stars”; “boudin here takes the French offal sausage and gives it a cajun twist by deep frying”.
On the flip side, Wahhab’s work has included initiatives to reduce ethnic minority unemployment in the past, and he has partnered with the charity Bounce Back to employ ex-offenders on the initial development of the restaurant. His involvement with The Cinnamon Club was short-lived and not entirely rosy: the restaurant suffered critically and financially in its early life, and Wahhab was involved in litigation with fellow investors before leaving the business. He also partnered in Roast at Borough Market, which opened 2005; he is understood to have parted ways with the restaurant since.
Stay tuned for any further developments.