Neighbourhood restaurants are something truly special: they're everything a restaurant should be, from intimate, high-level service to utterly delicious food – but that means they're also damn hard to get right. But this is something that David Gingell (chef and co-founder) and Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim (co-founder) of Primeur have down pat, so much so that they've just opened a second site, Westerns Laundry, which is just a 20-minute walk away in Lower Holloway's Drayton Park. We predict it'll be a hit – not least thanks to the incredible baked lobster pasta dish. Here the pair tell us what's on the menu, what inspires them, and why they love North London.
What's the concept for Westerns Laundry?
JC-L: We fell in love with the building during a walk – we needed a strong architectural identity after our little garage conversion [at Primeur] and the Drayton Park building offered a chance to house a restaurant in a gorgeous, derelict setting in an unexpected part of London.
How does it differ from Primeur?
JC-L: Guided by the gentle but commanding tones of the building and David's native attraction for the sea, Westerns Laundry is more feminine, elegant and polished than Primeur, while hopefully retaining its raucously convivial qualities – but that's what our guests bring to the project, we only set the stage.
What is it about the food of the Catalan region and Asia that inspires you so much?
DG: I love that the food from both the Catalan region and Asia is so ingredient-led, with the quality of produce being the cornerstone for any dish. Quality produce is essential for us at Primeur and Westerns Laundry, which is why we change our menu daily depending on what our suppliers tell us is good on the day. My wife is Korean and we travel there regularly to meet family, so I've picked up techniques and new ingredients on the way.
We're currently serving a grilled mackerel dish with Doenjang, a Korean miso paste, and chilli. The savoury flavour of the paste pairs really will with the oily mackerel and heat from the chilli. My sister-in-law lives in Barcelona, so likewise we travel there a lot as a family and hit up the amazing restaurants around the city – La Cova Fumada is a favourite of mine.
You'll be using a robata grill; what does that do that a normal grill can't?
DG: This grill is great because you can cook at different temperatures – super slow on the upper level, which gets you that nice smoky finish, or coal hard and fast, directly over the coal.
What's your favourite dish on the menu and what does it say about the way that you cook?
DG: The baked lobster fideuà pasta is a favourite at the moment. We make a rich bisque from the roasted shells, add a chicken stock and bake the thin fideuà pasta in the stock with the lobster tail and serve it with a saffron aioli – it typifies the kind of cooking I love; simple, clean and honest but packing big flavour.
Dishes at Westerns Laundry – in pictures:
What's your favourite drink on the menu at Westerns Laundry?
JC-L: I think our house vermouth, which we concocted with Francis, our GM, and Dave, is going to be pretty special – a glass of 2014 Magma from legendary Etna wine maker Frank Cornelissen is definitely on the cards, and I'm getting a pretty strong vibe that William (formerly with Brian Silva at Balthazar) is going to come up with some cracking stuff on ice. And of course, a good cup of coffee.
Both your restaurants are in North London; what attracts you to the area?
JC-L: While in the same postcode, the sites are a 20-minute walk away from each other, and service two very different areas. We want to continue our ideal of providing a wonderful dining experience in an area where it's lacking. We also want to be close to Primeur so we can look after our team there and give them the support they need, as well as being present for our regular guests. There is a feeling of abandon when you move away from a first site usually and we want to be close by to make sure our guests and our team don't feel that way.
When did you realise you first wanted to go into food?
DG: When I realised I wasn't going to cut it as a professional skateboarder.
Which chefs have influenced the way that you cook?
DG: I trained under Chris Galvin for years so he's obviously been a huge influence on my cooking – I learned the nuts and bolts French techniques under him. These will always inform the way I cook now, though I've curbed my butter usage!
Which chefs and restaurants do you think are currently the most exciting?
JC-L: I'm a creature of habit: I love Jinkitchi in Hampstead, and Rafe's place in Maltby Street is always such an amazing experience. Jackson Boxer at Brunswick House is forever my cook of choice with his intricate gastronomic knowledge yet simple execution, with always a tiny ingredient variation that opens up a whole new range of possibilities. Watch out also for William Gleave and Anna Tobias, who I believe will feature strongly on the London scene shortly.
34 Drayton Park, Highbury East, N5 1PB; westernslaundry.com