We were all hopeful for a while. But it is not to be.
Oscar’s couple Joel and Alina have decided they can no longer go ahead with their planned restaurant in the old Coral betting shop on Algernon Road in Ladywell.
They say the presence of the squatters who have held up the project for almost a year and the deteriorating condition of the building mean it has become too expensive for them to take on.
But they are keen to stress that they still want to open a restaurant in Ladywell and are looking at other options.
Henry Freestone, who was to be the chef at the new restaurant, is currently helping to open another new restaurant in Hackney.
Meanwhile the owners of the property Coombes are continuing to battle the squatters.
“Modern European” restaurant to open in former Coral betting shop
There’s never a right time to do this, says Joel, owner of Oscar’s along with his wife Alina.
Undaunted by the prospect of the UK economy diving into the doldrums again, they are close to embarking on their next Ladywell adventure – a 40-seat restaurant.
“It is something Alina and I have always wanted to do. And this opportunity was just too good to miss.”
If all goes according to plan Joel and Alina will take out a long lease on the old Coral betting shop, the landmark corner building at 228-230 Algernon Road, and turn it into a “modern European” restaurant
Helping them will be Henry Freestone, a top chef who won a 2021 Michelin Bib Gourmand at bistro-wine bar Peckham Cellars which offers a seasonal menu of small plates and an extensive wine list. He will be the third managing partner in the venture.
Joel is optimistic that all the nitty gritty details involved in taking on the lease will be agreed by the end of August and by then they will have their funding in place and an alcohol licence. “But there’s an awful lot of work to do to turn the betting shop into a suitable space for a restaurant. I think it will be early next year (2023) before we can open the restaurant.”
He agrees the “big picture” with recession looming does not “look great”. But they successfully navigated the pandemic and will have run Oscar’s for four years in December. Plenty, their wholefood store, will be one year old in November.
“We wouldn’t think about doing this anywhere else. We want to stay in Ladywell … it is just a 10 minute walk from our home … and there’s lots of support and goodwill in the local community here.”
“The building is also in a great position” on the corner of Ladywell Rd and Algernon Rd in a Victorian development once known as the Pavement. “There’s a small yard at the back and a basement. But what you see through the window is basically what we’ve got.”
Joel thinks there is just enough space for a 35-40 seat restaurant with an open kitchen. He also hopes to have a few tables outside.
Joel and Alina have known chef Henry Freestone, who grew up in Brockley, for a long time. “He helped us with advice when we set up Oscar’s … and we like the same types of food”.
After working in several kitchens, Henry gained recognition when he became head chef at Spitalfields restaurant Crispins.
In August 2020 he became head chef at Peckham Cellars and within a few months it had won a Michelin award. He likes “simple, ingredient-led dishes with no frills” served in accessible surroundings.
“We want to run the restaurant five days a week – Wednesday to Sunday – serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Perhaps on Saturdays it will be brunch and dinner and Sundays just brunch,” says Joel. “We will look at having a changing seasonal menu of small plates.”
“ We are looking forward to getting on with it .. and agreeing on a good restaurant name.”.