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Behind the Scenes at Coal Drops Yard’s New Global Sandwich Shop

Bodega Rita’s is another — slightly new — direction for Missy Flynn and Gabe Pryce

Bodega Rita’s at Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross: Missy Flynn and Gabe Pryce outside their sandwich shop and deli Bodega Rita’s [Official Photo]

Bodega Rita’s is open at Coal Drops Yard, the King’s Cross development that has attracted a raft of established London restaurants and mildly irked reviews. Missy Flynn and Gabe Pryce’s new iteration of Rita’s Dining, the much-loved Hackney Americana comfort restaurant turned movable feast, promises “London’s smallest cave à vin,” a global repertoire of sandwiches, and, they hope, something new for them to build. Pryce and Flynn discussed stripping back a winning formula, the challenges of opening on a new development, and how studying anthropology’s links to food changes the way they think about restaurants.

What can you do at Bodega Rita’s that you can’t do at the Redchurch Brewery residency?

Flynn: Bodega Rita’s is a way stripped back version of anything we have done before. We’re on hand to chat, to share ideas, to suggest ways of using ingredients, cocktails to make with the spirits that we stock, open a bottle of wine if we feel like it. With such a small space, we can only fit a few people in at a time so the time spent with us is really important, even if it’s just a few minutes spent grabbing something for lunch. I think Gabe would like it to be Shopsins (the legendary New York corner store-restaurant.) Tiny but with 1000 things on the menu. We’ll do as much as we can.

Bodega Rita’s at Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross: deli sandwiches
Ready for lunch at Bodega Rita’s
Bodega Rita’s at Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross: deli sandwiches
The Highway Dan’ — hot bean devilled egg salad with celery and watercress
Bodega Rita’s [Official Photo]

Pryce: In terms of putting Rita’s out in front of the people, for people to get involved in, having our own space again is really important to us. There’s no way to really hold on to absolutely everything that’s important to you in someone else’s house — if your name’s not above the door you can’t go all the way. You can’t make someone else’s house your home.

Bodega Rita’s at Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross: the interior of the deli and sandwich shop from Missy Flynn and Gabe Pryce
Ingredients, sauces, and spice blends line the shelves
Bodega Rita’s at Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross: Missy Flynn behind the bar
Missy Flynn behind the bar at Bodega Rita’s
Bodega Rita’s at Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross: Chef Gabe Pryce
Gabe Pryce behind the pass

It’s early stages, but how has doing an MA in Anthropology and Food made you look at restaurants, dining, and food differently?

Flynn: Honestly, it’s been so transformative in my thinking about work. There are so many discussions that the industry is actively taking part in with regards to food supply, division, labour, and cultural appropriation. The restaurant industry is a hugely influential space where change can be affected, we are the frontier, the gatekeepers and the ones who decide how things are ‘packaged up’ so to speak for people to consume. It’s not enough for the restaurant industry to be introspective about itself, squabbling over top 10 lists and other trivial stuff that has become (for me) a little unrewarding. We should all be equipped with information about how what we do affects others (and the planet) I’m just really excited to know more and allow that to impact the way I / we as a business think and operate.

What changes have you seen in London’s attitude to food and eating since the inaugural Rita’s opened?

Pryce: More and more people are eating out than ever before. and more people care about good, interesting food every day, which is amazing.

More people care about provenance and quality than they have for a very long time which is also great but this message is being pushed heavily in restaurants and restaurants are expensive to be in and expensive to run, it’s all tied up with a high price tag so thats where it all sits.

Bodega Rita’s at Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross: Missy Flynn and Gabe Pryce
The exterior at Coal Drops Yard

What sort of wines do you want to serve, and how will evening dishes diverge (or not) from Rita’s Dining?

Flynn: There will be an emphasis on natural and biodynamic wines but won’t be putting any strict guidelines on that. It’s just what we drink. I’m working with my little brother Cam, who suddenly grew up and became a wine expert when I wasn’t looking, to filter through it all and make something that accommodates all the stuff we like. We want to provide a fun, ever-changing selection of things to drink in and to take home.

Pryce: The dishes wont be anything I hope you wouldn’t expect from Rita’s, they will just be a bit smaller and come from two induction hobs and the worlds smallest functioning oven. Don’t put anything on the menu that isn’t delicious and don’t put anything on the menu that is boring. We are cuisine-led, we (like everyone) are very into different cuisines from all over the place. And always tell people fusion is a bad word because you think it’s naff but it’s basically what everyone does. It will be a Rita’s approach to “cave a vin” style dining. Little things to eat while you drink nice wine and cocktails.

Bodega Rita’s at Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross: The Fat Tony deli sandwich
‘The Tony’ — Mortadella, provolone, pickled chilli mayo, giardiniera, oregano oil, and cheese dust
Bodega Rita’s [Official Photo]

Do you think there will be a) even more London restaurant developments like CDY and b) will those developments be (mostly) filled with new iterations on existing operations, like yours?

Flynn: It’s quite a weird concept on paper, to cram many food businesses together in such close proximity — looking back at 2018 we’ve got Old Spitalfields Market, Market Halls, Bloomberg Arcade to name a few. It’s a challenge because it’s very easy for places, usually new builds with lots of ‘concepts’ in them to feel soulless and corporate, or for the guest to feel they are caught in the crossfire of some fierce competition. More than ever you have to pick through a load of crap to find real, consistently good gems. Perhaps by centralising these we can build spaces where diners are promised something good, and every concept within that space has cause to live up to the expectations. For us, to have a head start with an established brand and name but take on a space with lower overheads and running costs than a full size restaurant feels like a good step.

Pryce: I think we always hope to avoid defining ourselves by an existing operation or a previous operation or stick to one thing. A new Rita’s would be great and I love the bodega and what it represents for us, I’d love another one somewhere else.

Bodega Rita’s at Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross: Missy Flynn and Gabe Pryce outside their sandwich shop and deli
Flynn and Pryce outside their new site
Bodega Rita’s

Old Spitalfields Market

16 Commercial Street, , England E1 6EW 020 7375 2963 Visit Website

Redchurch Brewery

276 Poyser St, Hackney, Greater London E2 9RF +44 20 3487 0255 Visit Website