The owners of P. Franco and the group behind celebrated London restaurants Smoking Goat, Kiln, and Brat have told Eater that the next resident chef to take charge of the cult Clapton wine bar’s storied induction hobs will be Meedu Saad. Currently head chef at Soho’s northern Thai-inspired barbecue restaurant Kiln, Saad will begin cooking at P. Franco for two months beginning on 27 January.
The P. Franco residency will serve as a pilot and testing ground for Saad’s forthcoming debut restaurant, which does not yet have a name, nor location. It is unlikely that the restaurant will open before 2023, but it will feature cooking which speaks to Saad’s Egyptian heritage: the cuisines of Cairo and of the city of Ismailia on the west bank of the Suez Canal, where Saad spent the summers of his childhood years. It will also feature recipes and influences from the Arabic diasporas of north London, where Saad grew up.
“My father is from Egypt and since becoming a father myself I’ve been more and more interested in my cultural roots,” Saad told Eater. “I spent every summer growing up in Egypt and the memories of fishing and finding shellfish on the shoreline and visiting the spice markets in Cairo had a huge influence on me.”
Saad, who began working at the original Smoking Goat on Denmark Street as a chef de partie when that restaurant opened in 2014 and took over as head chef at Kiln early in 2019, said that spice mixes, baked rice dishes as well as slow-cooked vegetables and lightly cured fish will be a big part of the menu. So too will “exploring the use of different oils and fats in place of olive oil and butter and continuing to work with as many British seasonal ingredients as he can.”
The chef will open the restaurant with general manager Luke Pyper, Smoking Goat Denmark Street’s first employee.
Saad said he’d always loved the P. Franco space and that through the residency, he hoped “to learn and develop how to translate these flavours and memories from my upbringing and give people the same joy it gave me as a child eating on the beach at night, in my aunt’s kitchen, or on the busy street food stalls, also with a touch of North London.”
Saad’s residency follows a recent weekend stint on the hobs for Kiln and Smoking Goat founder Ben Chapman, a restaurant designer, former artist, and music producer who is now one of the city’s most visionary chef-restaurateurs — an operator who has put farmers and food producers at the very heart of his restaurant projects, working in symbiosis with them and their output with impressive results. Kiln and Smoking Goat are highly respected modern London restaurants, and attractive employers, while chef Tomos Parry’s Brat is one of the fastest London restaurants to earn a Michelin star.
Chapman, whose Super 8 restaurant group will back Saad’s restaurant project, said that Saad’s style is “homely” — and was full of admiration for the deceptively simple and “restrained seasoning” in the chef’s food. He said it will be food “you can eat every day, rather than pneumatic restaurant food.”
P. Franco’s induction hobs have seen a range of innovative and exciting chefs pilot ideas or cook between full-time roles over the last five years — earning it the title of restaurant of the year in Eater London’s debut awards . But this is the first medium-term residency the group has announced since before the pandemic, when chef Seb Myers brought some French country cooking to Clapton. Myers is now the head chef at standout 2021 opening Planque in Haggerston.
Before Myers, Tubio Logier’s residency saw an ambitious stint, which combined the chef’s Vietnamese heritage with the skills and practices of modern European fine dining. Before him it was Anna Tobias who opened Cafe Deco in 2020, who spent six months dispelling any notion that P. Franco had become too cheffy; she leaned hard into distinctly untrendy, often beige plates. Tobias had replaced chef George Tomlin who replaced Pepe Belvedere, after a rotation which had seen Giuseppe Lacorazza, Tim Spedding, and Will Gleave bring serious attention to a venue which had principally been a retail space.
Belvedere and Gleave together now run the kitchen at P. Franco’s sister restaurant, Bright, which opened close to London Fields in 2018. Gleave, together with Phil Bracey, co-owner and wine aficionado across the group, opened Peg on the former site of Legs, on Morning Lane in Hackney, in February 2019. Bracey, who still has a role with the group, moved back to Australia at the beginning of this year.
More soon from Saad at P. Franco.