24 July 2014

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Starter for 10: interview with Tom and Ed Martin


tom and ed martin - Tom-and-Ed_City-restaurant.jpgBrothers Tom and Ed Martin, owners of London gastropubs including The Botanist on Sloane Square, The Cadogan Arms in Chelsea and The Gun in Docklands, are set to open two new City venues this summer – a restaurant and a gastropub – both on Chiswell Street. The pair talked to Square Meal about childhood memories of mock turtle soup, their working relationship, and the celebrity siblings they most resemble.

What made you want to get into the pub and restaurant business?

Tom (pictured, left): A love of pubs. When we were much younger, our parents had a cottage in Kent and we would go every other weekend. We would always go to the pub for Sunday lunch, and we developed a great love of the social and community aspect of the pub.

You opened your first business in 2000. What changes have you seen in the industry since then?

Ed (pictured, right): First of all, there’s been a massive increase in competition. Back in 2000, there were hundreds of pubs that we could have bought.

Tom: And customers are more savvy nowadays. They can spot copycat gastropubs and know how to seek out a quality one.

What have been your career highs and lows?

Tom: The high point has been getting through this monstrous recession. We’re working bloody hard and we couldn’t have done it on our own.

Ed: The low point was at the beginning of the credit crunch and dealing with the fallout, which directly affected us because we were banking with HBOS at the time – it was the end of a long-term relationship with them.

Does being brothers help your working relationship or hinder it?

Tom: It helps, definitely. When we meet other brothers and sisters they say ‘Christ! How do you do it, working together?’

Ed: You’re bound to have disagreements, but it’s forgotten about in five minutes. Normal partnerships might not recover.

Tom: The reason we went into business together was because you can trust your family.

Could you liken yourselves to any well-known siblings?

Tom: The Galvins, I suppose, because they’re both in the restaurant business, so they’re quite similar.

Ed: I was going to say the Barclay brothers!

Do you have an equal partnership?

Tom: We divide the responsibility very clearly. Ed runs the bar side of the business and manages the wine list. And he’s totally in charge of the finances.

Ed: Tom manages the marketing, PR and advertising side.

Tom: And we share the design and creation of a new site. When we take on a new place we work really closely on how we want it to look and feel.

Why did you decide to open two restaurants in the same place?

Ed: Both sites came up. We didn’t know whether we wanted to do both. It was a great opportunity, so we decided to take them both because that area is so massively underserved.

Tom: The two places will be very different: one will be a restaurant and one will be a pub. We’re going to offer something different, food-wise: a giant grill roasting different meat and game when they’re in season.

What’s your favourite thing about London?

Ed: The choice and breadth of restaurants.

Tom: And the quality. I used to be a lawyer and lunch used to always be in a basement, with old ladies like dinner ladies doling out food.

What’s your idea of a relaxing day?

Ed: Going to the pub!

Tom: We shoot as much as we can – wild boar, deer, duck and pheasant. I also go skiing – that’s something I love.

Ed: And I like going swimming with my daughter. Tom and I also play golf sometimes.

What is your earliest food memory?

Ed: Mock turtle soup, when I was in a restaurant in Portugal. It was interesting to me because I’d never heard of it. And sardines! Ordering them in the pub and then being aghast that I had to eat the fish head.

Tom: Mine’s piccalilli – I was about seven and my mum was doing cold meats for Saturday lunch. There was this pot of yellow stuff – I tried it and was completely addicted.

Interview by Nicky Evans, News and Online Editor, April 2011.
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