Cookbook author and T.V. chef Gizzi Erskine has parted company with Mare Street Market, the massive multi-use restaurant space in Hackney that she was instrumental in launching in the spring. Erskine had been slated to open her first solo restaurant at the market.
Erskine was originally billed as the market’s co-founder, along with Marc Francis-Baum (co-founder and owner of BarWorks, which owns 17 pubs and 10 restaurants in London), who owns the market, and Phillip Way, head of operations and co-owner of Flying Horse Coffee. As well as developing menus, helping to select traders for the market and steering the selection of products stocked in the deli, she was slated to open her first solo restaurant, which was billed as a 60 to 70-cover “London brasserie meets California kitchen.”
In an Instagram post on Monday, she announced that she would be quitting the project “with deepest regret and a heavy heart.” Comments are disabled. Back in October, Big Hospitality reported that Erskine’s restaurant was “no longer going ahead,” and that she would be working purely in a consultancy role. The reasons for this latest, final split remain unclear. “Time has been a great healer and coincidentally Marc and I are actually getting on OK,” Erskine wrote in her Instagram post.
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It is with deepest regret and a heavy heart that I’ve had to pull out of Mare Street Market on the 26th August 2018. (Since 26th August all recipes I have developed for Mare Street Market are being done without my guidance so I am no longer responsible for how they turn out). As with all these things it often gets complicated and I’m sure you will understand, that for various reasons, it’s been tricky for me to talk about it. I’m now very much immersed in my other projects with my latest book “Slow” being launched to acclaim and my sustainable burger bar “F!LTH” is set to open very soon. Time has been a great healer and coincidentally Marc and I are actually getting on OK. I’m grateful for the opportunity, I’ve learnt so much, in the months I was involved the food in all the spaces was celebrated and we opened the doors to THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of you and for that I am so unbelievably grateful. My team were so incredible from the off, and I have to thank them for working with me tirelessly on perfecting the food. We opened the space with over 220 recipes to learn and with me being a perfectionist, and you all went above and beyond in making me look fantastic. I cherish those times, and I am truly at peace with it all now. A little piece of me will always be in that place, because it’s a brilliant place and therefore there is inevitably a little sadness attached. I do wish Marc and everyone at MSM the very best for the future.
Erskine also indicated that she had had no hands-on involvement for three months, writing that, “since 26th August all recipes I have developed for Mare Street Market are being done without my guidance so I am no longer responsible for how they turn out.” “As with all these things it often gets complicated and I’m sure you will understand, that for various reasons, it’s been tricky for me to talk about it,” she wrote. Erskine’s proposed restaurant, The Dining Room, was to sit alongside The Open Kitchen — another all-day restaurant, which has been open since the market’s inception.
The Dining Room restaurant opened earlier this month, with dishes not featured on the list provided to Eater in the release for Erskine’s version of the restaurant. Given Erskine’s involvement in designing the recipes, promoting the dishes, and acting as co-founder of the market, the definition of either being “her” restaurant is hard to pin down. Erskine had been slated as executive head chef for The Dining Room, with a head chef running day-to-day operations under her direction: much like The Open Kitchen.
Visibility is key here, too: Erskine’s 152,000 Instagram followers are an instant-win audience, and the promotional benefits for Mare Street Market having her backing — as well as direction on food and restaurant operations — are considerable.
Erskine isn’t the first chef to have parted ways with Mare Street Market. It was originally linked to Taberna do Mercado and Chiltern Firehouse’s Nuno Mendes, who pulled out of the project in August 2017. In April of this year he opened Maos, a 16-seater dining space on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch. His proposed restaurant first became “some consultancy,” and then little else, much like Erskine’s progression; tellingly, neither Erskine nor Mendes were ever listed as directors on the Mare Street Projects Ltd Companies House listing.
Erskine, who trained as a chef at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, is best-known for her T.V. work, food writing and Pure Filth — a “healthy fast food” business that she opened in the Tate Modern art gallery, with the nutritionist Rosemary Ferguson, in the spring.
Francis-Baum later told Eater that, “The new chef [at The Dining Room] is Dom Moldenhauer. It’s his own menu and none of Gizzi’s recipes are being used. The exec chef is Dan Spence who has worked for me for many years. He is in charge of the whole space, responsible for the main open kitchen, the deli and getting someone like Dom in.”
Francis-Baum also suggested that the only recipe of Erskine’s still on offer at the market is the Korean fried chicken at The Open Kitchen restaurant. Erskine’s Instagram post, however, features dishes clearly identifiable on the current open kitchen menu; lentil and coconut dal with poached egg and naan; roast chicken with fries, watercress and gravy.
Erskine is yet to return a request for comment.