Jolene, London’s coolest bakery, will open two new satellite sites this year — one on Shoreditch’s “restaurant row” Redchurch Street and a second, not far from the original, on the corner of Essex Road and Colebrooke Row in Islington. They will be the sixth and seventh venues for one of London’s most stylish and progressive hospitality groups — businesses which have continued to trade throughout the pandemic, but whose co-owner said astutely in January: “The last 12 months have shown resilient businesses are built on decisions they make autonomously, on a controllable level for themselves.”
In an email to Eater this morning, when asked about the expansion, which will commence with the Shoreditch site in May, Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim wrote: “We’ve been working on this for a while and these two sites have come up fairly rapidly aided by the fact that some landlords lately have understood that jacking up the rent indefinitely just because it’s unregulated doesn’t translate into good business or tenant longevity.”
The availability of new sites at more attractive prices is a post-pandemic phenomenon which could yet completely refigure the restaurant and hospitality landscape this year and next. It is something which the chief executive of Gymkhana’s JKS Restaurants discussed with optimism earlier this year: in theory, at least, and until the market is allowed to spiral and fall in favour of landlords, there could be better properties, less demand, and lower prices attached to leases.
“So some private landlords have become more flexible in their approach to new leases which is unlocking the market somewhat and fees like somewhat of a spirit lift,” Cometto-Lingenheim said. “This approach, compounded with a relaxation of [a new amalgamated Class E (commercial, business and services) now allows for a change of use between commercial uses such as shops, restaurants [...] without the need to formally apply for planning permission] may create a dynamic landscape for new cool little spots opening across the capital.”
The conditions for expansion may now be better suited for Cometto-Lingenheim and his chef business partner David Gingell, but the pandemic has hastened it, not brought it about. “Our Jolene expansion was planned in phases since the inception of Jolene,” the restaurateur wrote. “Jolene brought the idea to life and explores the possibilities large scale regenerative farming.” It is this, the promotion of a more environmentally sound approach to agriculture, that the group has sought to advance since opening Jolene in 2018.
The integration of that ethos across the group, which includes Primeur and Westerns Laundry — the “second stage” as Cometto-Lingenheim refers to it — was to set up a Production bakery “geared up to supply multi sites with the same spirit of environment positive impact and direct empowerment of the farming community to create nutrient dense baked goods.” That bakery — Big Jo, one of London’s biggest hits in corona-time — opened last autumn.
The “final phase,” he said today, “is to give exposure to the regenerative movement by opening small Jolene satellites across the capital.” That will begin with a site on the ultra hip Redchurch Street — aka “restaurant row” — in May and will be followed with a small bakery in the former site of Natur House on the corners of Essex Road and Colebrooke Row in Islington.
About it, Cometto-Lingenheim said:
We are hoping it will elevate the movement within consumer consciousness and promote its positive impact on carbon sequestration and self immunity through soil health and can affect political legislature about farming practices in the U.K.
I know it sounds ambitious, niche and perhaps sermonising but we feel now more than ever, coming out of this health crisis, that we need to double down our efforts to instigate changes in our consumer choices that can help us resolve vital issues environmental, economic and health issues and engage the wider population with being part of the solution by simply changing their shopping habits...
And as you know, time is slowly becoming our most precious commodity.
The bakeries will be both be supplied by Big Jo in Hornsey — the group’s new central production site.
Cometto-Lingenheim has been candid, his businesses comparatively successful, throughout the pandemic. The crisis has just convinced him that his group’s pre-pandemic direction of travel was the right one.
“We are basically trying to make something that is essentially yawn inducing and yet crucially important into something sexy that most people can engage with proudly!” he said.