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Good luck Tish, you'll need it

JC Editor Stephen Pollard on the prospects for a new Jewish food venture in the capital

    Above all else, one should wish Tish good luck. Opening any new restaurant is a gamble, no matter how experienced a pedigree the people behind it may have. And since the days of the late, lamented Six-13 in Wigmore Street, London hasn’t had a single upmarket kosher restaurant.

    But Six-13’s fate offers a warning. It was terrific. The food was superb, the service slick. It was as good as you’d hope, but probably not expect given the dire quality of so many kosher restaurants. And yet despite having zero real competition from other kosher restaurants — nothing else came close — it couldn’t survive.

    That was for two main reasons. First, it had to pay not only West End rent but a premium on top of that — kashrut fees. That meant that it was at a huge disadvantage from the start with its real competition: other non-kosher fine dining restaurants. Because Six-13 showed that the market for such a restaurant within the Jewish community isn’t big enough.

    We don’t yet know where Tish will be, or even what sort of food it will serve. But if it’s genuinely going to be top notch, it too will only work if non-Jews want to eat there.

    And thereby hangs a possible problem.

    Middle Eastern — specifically Israeli — food has never been more popular. Whether it’s The Palomar, Berber and Q, Honey and Co, Hummus Bros and — of course — Ottolenghi, there are literally queues round the block.

    But two key points emerge. First, they are all as far away from traditional fine dining as you can get. And second, popular as they are with Jews who don’t keep kosher, their success is founded on a non-Jewish clientele.

    Find me a kosher-style restaurant that’s successful outside Jewish areas like Golders Green and Borehamwood and I’ll point out to you that word “style”; in other words, it isn’t kosher.

    Again and again an upmarket kosher restaurant has been tried in central London — not just Six-13 but also the varying attempts to make a restaurant work at Bevis Marks.

    But, of course, just because it’s not yet worked doesn’t mean it won’t work next time.

    Good luck, Tish.

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