Two minutes with Ben Tish

Two minutes with Ben Tish

Updated on 20 September 2016 • Written By Neil Simpson

Two minutes with Ben Tish

If you haven’t read about it yet, St James’s Market is set to be one of the most exciting developments in London restaurants this year. A patch of land south of Piccadilly Circus, between Regent Street and Haymarket, has been given more nips and tucks than Dolly Parton, with a large pedestrianised area. Who’s taking advantage of all that alfresco space? That would be Simon Mullins and Ben Tish, co-founder and chef director of Salt Yard restaurants. We caught up with Ben over coffee to get the latest on the group’s Venice-inspired newcomer, Veneta.  

Ben Tish London restaurants

What can diners expect when Veneta opens in mid-October?

It’ll be a grand café, with the same sense of occasion as The Wolseley on Piccadilly; we also spent a lot of time researching at Scott’s in Mayfair. We’ve really wanted to open something grand in the Piccadilly area for a while. Based on the Spanish and Italian-style restaurants that we are known for, a Venetian-style restaurant in the mould of Caffè Florian on St Marks’s Square felt right.

Any highlights from the menu to look out for?

There will be a raw bar serving up crudo, where you’ll be able to sit and watch the seafood being prepared in front of you. At breakfast we’re going to serve Venetian-style doughnuts displayed on a silver cake stand at the bar, filled with the likes of saffron custard and chocolate ganache. For breakfast sip on fresh coffee alongside white polenta, raisin and cinnamon porridge with a crème brûlée-style top, or saffron custard-filled doughnuts.

How about later in the day?

We’re going to be using a lot of old Venetian recipes, which are often spicier than other regions due to the city’s historical links with the spice trail. So there will be squid ragu with vegetables, garlic, red wine and potato gnocchi, spiced with cardamom and cumin.

Would you consider taking the spice route any further?

I find spice a bit daunting at the moment, but I’d love to experiment with Moorish cooking somehow. The Arabic influence on Spain and Italy, all those Portuguese flavours, really excites me. My wife is half Indian so I cook a lot of curries at home. 

Veneta St James's Market Salt Yard Group Ben Tish Simon Mullins London restaurant Squaremeal Square MealVeneta St James's Market Salt Yard Group Ben Tish Simon Mullins London restaurant Squaremeal Square Meal

Why did you pick Jamie Thickett to be Veneta’s head chef?

I’ve worked with Jamie for seven years and he helped us to launch Opera Tavern. He’s a great chef and a big fan of Venice, so it’s a great fit for him.

Did you look anywhere else before you settled on St James’s Market?

We did, quite a few places. We were interested in 1 Regent Street, which eventually became Estiatorio Milos, but that was just too big for what we had in mind.

Are there any other openings which you are looking forward to in London?

Margot in Covent Garden. I know Paulo (de Tarso, formerly of Bar Boulud) and I’m sure it’s going to be very grand. I was at Margolis silver works in Dalston recently, shopping for Veneta, where they showed me some grissini holders that they’re making for Margot, each with a little silver daschund’s head on top – I think it’s going to be beautiful.   

Veneta is set to open in mid-October – find out more here. 

If you’re curious about what else is opening in St James’s Market, take a look at what to expect from Anzu, Aquavit and Duck & Waffle St James’s here. 


This article was published 20 September 2016