As part of The Switch I went over to Where The Light Gets In, a beautiful independent restaurant set up inside a former coffee warehouse. I spent three evenings with the team there and this is a short blog on my experiences.
WTLGI has a reputation for being difficult to find. Having never been before, and also having set aside time to panic about being late and/or lost, I arrived with plenty of time to get a pre-shift pasty to settle the nerves. On arrival I was introduced to the whole team, including Sam the owner and Emma the GM.
I was paired up with Adam, who was tasked with showing me how they set up the restaurant and prepare for service. One of the first things that struck me was their incredible attention to detail, even before service had begun. Their cutlery drawer is pristine, with spoon, forks and knives neatly laid up in rows like a surgeons toolkit! ‘Placing’ the cutlery as they call it, turned out to be a very satisfying activity and I’m already thinking of ways I can re-create it.
At 5pm we all sat down in the lounge for staff tea together, it’s a great thing they do there - no matter what shift you’re on, or when you started everyone takes half an hour to eat together. The whole team were super friendly and made me feel very welcome. One of the things I found most inspiring about WTLGI was that they have managed to gather together an amazing group of the talented, and extremely passionate individuals that love what they do and genuinely seem to enjoy spending time together. Cheesey, but true.
Emma kicked off the evening with a briefing, discussing the menu, the covers and the guests we were expecting that night. On my first service, I needed lots of instruction but by day 2 I felt like I got the swing of things! The biggest difference between WTLGI and Hawksmoor is the pace of service. Whilst my restaurant would do 140+ covers on a weeknight, WTLGI caps it at somewhere around 26. This means that every aspect of their service has been carefully choreographed and was super slick. From waiting at the table to pull out a guests chair, down to the relaying cutlery, there’s a particular way for everything – a bit like a dance. To clear a four-top of plates, Adam and I would approach it together, aiming to mirror our movements across the table. Their focus on being graceful was something I took back and shared with my team straight away. We’re now working on clearing large tables in one go, in pairs or threes.
Saturday was my final night, and I was lucky to see the restaurant lit up in Pink by the sunset as the first guests arrived. It was a slower start and so I had the chance to watch the chefs preparing a few of the earlier courses. As a food lover, it was really exciting to see new ingredients and how Sam puts those flavours together.
In summary, I hope this gives you a small taster of my Switch experience, although I know I’ve missed out loads! Big respect for what they do at WTLGI, they’ve created something special and I feel lucky to have been a part of it, even if just for a few days. Thanks for having me.