Well, we bloody did it, didn't we? Malt + Pepper is officially launched at The Bear in Camberwell, 5 days of 50% off food, three times the amount of people we expected to serve up beery food for, and a whole bunch of very happy/ tired/ emotional drained staff.
Dan and I have worked in this industry for a combine total of 30 odd years, and we knew the importance of a soft launch to refine our methods, get people eating the recipes we've worked on for months and to get used to being in a brand new space (to us at least). There were some bloody taxing moments, but the feedback on the food was overwhelmingly positive, and the feedback that wasn't positive was at least constructive, which is EXACTLY what we wanted.
As I took the first order on Monday, at bang on 5pm, my heart was in my mouth - I put that order through the kitchen and remember thinking "what the f*ck is going to happen next?". What happened was our first customers, who just happened upon The Bear on a Monday evening, got a bunch of food delivered, that they really, really, GENUINELY enjoyed. They were delighted to be involved in that moment, and I nearly cried actual tears of joy. The rest of service was fairly smooth, it has VERY busy, but smooth. We ran out of almost everything on the menu. Yikes. Better get in at 8am on Tuesday to prep from scratch - via the place it all began, The Crown & Anchor in Brixton, for a couple of celebratory bevvy's of course.
On Tuesday, with a bit of a thick head, we got in super early and prepped the entire menu again. We peeked at the diary and managed to be lulled into a false sense of security - "not many bookings here, guys. Let's get up on our prep tomorrow is the busy one". WRONG. The Camberwell masses descended. Another super enjoyable evening though, again the feedback was really good on the food, wait times were a little bit longer then we would have liked - but every single dish leaving the kitchen was spot on, and plates were coming back clear, what more could we want?
I'm going to group Wednesday & Thursday together for one simple reason... CARNAGE. Now the purpose of a soft launch is to iron out creases, mainly, what happened on these two days was overwhelming, exhausting and emotionally draining - WE WERE MOBBED. The masses, literally, descended, some had booked, some hadn't booked, some wanted to book but couldn't book, some were sure they had booked, maybe. The wait on food was long, we were running out of food, THE BLOODY TICKET RACK FELL OVER splattering food checks all over the kitchen, we were trying our best to cope but we just couldn't get the food out quick enough.
It's really tough, when you're doing everything you can to keep people happy, with a concept that you have poured your heart into and believe in to see people unhappy with you because of the delay on food, after all, it's a soft launch, it's busy than anticipated, and you're doing everything you can to get the bloody food out and you want people to be happy! Over the course of the week, maybe 4 people out of the nearly 300 we have served dinner to left unhappy. For me, that's 4 to many, but we did everything we could. The saving grace? The feedback on the food was INCREDIBLE.
In between the madness of Wednesday and Thursday night, we had the madness of 8am Thursday morning, when I received a call to let me know THE FUCKING CEILING HAD FALLEN DOWN. The "sales are through the roof" puns have already been done folks, so keep them to yourself. We had some emergency work to undertake, we got it patched up, we got open. WE'VE GOT THIS.
Friday was literally the perfect end to a week of madness, service was smooth, we did 55 covers, I managed to speak to every single table, have a lot of laughs with our guests. The feedback on the food was incredible, yet again. People were happy, I was happy, the atmosphere was perfect. WE DID IT, we launched Malt + Pepper.
I've got a bunch of thank you's I really have to include at this point. Firstly, thank you to Joseph for giving us the opportunity to launch M+P at The Bear - it's a step into the unknown for us both and we really appreciate it! Camilla + Ruben, who have helped Dan and I out this week, and without them, I really don't think we could have made it through the week. The staff at The Bear, who embraced something new, asked a tonne of questions and served the masses with a smile on their faces, gave recommendations on food and beer and were just generally awesome. Wadood, Kim and Eddie who were Dan's right (and left) hands this week implementing our recipes, and concept with skill, care and passion - you guys rock! THANK YOU to everyone who came down and ate this week, this would have been quite a different post without you, your patience, your intrigue, your feedback and your kind words have made the absolute madness of the past 5 days all worth it. And finally, Dan, my partner in crime - he's worked all the hours this week to ensure we've had a full menu each and every service, he hasn't done it with a smile on his face, but he's bloody done it! I'm so proud of you pal, and look forward to working with you forever more.