Francis Roberts, formerly of Westerns Laundry and Bright, and Tom Beattie, formerly of P. Franco, will open Cadet at 57 Newington Green Road in late July. Joining them are George Jephson, maker of architecturally immaculate paté en croute, paté de campagne, and jambon persille, and Jamie Smart, ex-Lyle’s and most recently resident chef at P. Franco. Initially open Thursday to Sunday, Jephson’s charcuterie will be available to eat in with a glass or take away from 12 p.m., while Smart will take over the kitchen come evening.
Beattie and Roberts lend their name to the import business they started in 2019, and they never actually envisaged returning to retail. But, as Beattie tells it, “we had the same idea at the same time, just without telling each other,” which ended up in a similarly serendipitous partnership with Jephson. While the duo had been looking at opening a wine bar and never gotten to it, Jephson had been seeking a hub for his developing wholesale business, and invited the pair to form a partnership.
“It’s a place where we can showcase his charcuterie, his food, as well as Jamie’s food — they will be working together, getting whole animals in from good farms,” Beattie says. Smart will be given an entire kitchen: a luxury for a chef who has just done a tour of P. Franco’s famed induction hobs, and Cadet will act as a headquarters for Beattie and Roberts as much as a wine bar and restaurant, in a similar way to Gergovie Wines at 40 Maltby Street.
Smart’s background takes in modern European institution Brawn; modern British (but of course, actually European) institutions St. John and Lyle’s; Pamela Yung’s kitchen at Flor; and Auberge de Chassignolles, the country cooking rite of passage masquerading as a residency that has been a springboard for the likes of Seb Myers, who is currently putting out some of London’s most compelling French food at Planque in Haggerston. Smart invited St. John to partner with P. Franco on a pop-up in late June, pouring wines and serving snacks at the Round Church across the road in Clapton.
Beattie says he is “one of the most exciting young chefs, and he’ll be leaning on all those influences in the cooking.” Cadet will, however, be a “multi-dimensional” space, something which Beattie and Roberts feel is vital now, thanks to the way that the last three years have changed not just the restaurant and food market, but also the way natural wine is received.
Natural wine is slowly shedding the shallow iconoclasm that its critics have levied more often than its exponents. Its popularity has seen whinging about barnyards and cat piss give way to acknowledgement of its actually serious problems, like preaching soil health while exploiting workers, the ease with which going against the grape tips into discrimination, and the need to decolonise an increasingly global taste — even if some local restaurant critics still love to wax lyrical about disliking something they didn’t actually have to drink.
London’s caves and bars are responding accordingly, and learning that with experience comes knowledge. Beattie credits the COVID-19 pandemic, in which many of the city’s best wine bars turned explicitly to retail, for not just introducing more people to more wines, but for expanding the depth of knowledge of those who already drunk it.
“People would come in on their daily walk for a chat, probably as a kind of therapy — but it would most often lead into talking more deeply about wine than we might normally have done. Everybody had the time,” he recalls.
Customers that previously might have asked for red or white or orange would ask for a specific domaine or producer. They spent the cash they might have done going out (or on the mark-ups restaurants and bars need to make money) on a slightly better bottle — or transitioned from pints in the park to bottles of Chin Chin. As it sells primarily to knowledgeable sommeliers and trade customers, Beattie and Roberts’s website for their import business sorts its bottles only by the people who make them: there is no option to filter by style or colour. But now Cadet will be a shop window for those producers too, and Beattie hopes to introduce that level of particularity when helping guests choose what they want to drink.
Alongside Veraison, in Camberwell; Hector’s, in De Beauvoir; and the reopened Provisions in Holloway and Furanxo in Dalston, Cadet is part of a new, old school of wine bar. It’s not just that they’re mostly serving ambient food: it’s the confidence and maturity to feel that “just opening a wine bar” is more than enough: a statement in itself.
Beattie and Roberts both worked at P. Franco and Westerns Laundry respectively when they were young pioneers, at the vanguard of something different that not everybody wanted to like. Now both are part of established groups, firmly part of the city’s culinary furniture and institutions that people look to for inspiration. A P. Franco collaboration with St. John might have once felt quizzical a few years ago: now it feels cosy and natural, even if treating them as oppositional is and was more a case of perception than reality.
Simultaneously, as the whizzbang cheaply pyrotechnical style of drinking food settles down more firmly at the pub, it feels like a new era of natural wine is here for London. Beattie hopes it will resolve with something simple: “we’ll be able to drop natural, and just say wine.” For now, it’s comfortable in its own skin, confident, and approachable: and it comes with paté en croute.