The Gladwin brothers, founders of Notting Hill restaurant The Shed, prepare to bring West Sussex to the King’s Road, Chelsea, with their new venture Rabbit
When the Gladwin Brothers opened The Shed in Notting Hill two years ago, west London went wild for its perfect offering of rus in urbe. Now chef Oliver, front of house maestro Richard (and farmer Gregory, remotely) are bringing their particular blend of country casual meets serious grub to Chelsea, with the opening of Rabbit restaurant. Occupying 172 King’s Road, there’s a good chance you’ll already have happy memories of the location since this site was formerly Choys, a Chelsea institution that sadly had seen better days – a legacy that leaves the boys undaunted.
‘In the last three months we have turned the place upside down, so it will feel completely different,’ says Richard, ‘once people experience Rabbit, and realise what we’re doing, it won’t matter about the shift in cuisine or the history. We’re all about creating a great neighbourhood restaurant, free of pretensions and corporate noise, just like Choys used to be.’
With some form in this area – The Shed opened in the old Ark restaurant, another much loved local – the Gladwins are well matched for the challenge. But if weaning locals off their favourite Chinese is the first hurdle, then the next step is to have them embrace the Rabbit restaurant philosophy. Chef Oliver explains, ‘Rabbit is all about promoting wild foods and unusual ingredients that you can’t necessarily buy in the shops. Of course this doesn’t mean that every dish will feature Rabbit but we have lots of foraged ingredients – sweet cicely, lovage – on the menu, alongside meats such as woodcock.’
With Chelsea folk being a more traditional bunch on the whole, are they looking for this sort of menu? ‘Not necessarily,’ admits Oliver, ‘but they go to the country at weekends and we’re certain they will enjoy what we’re trying to achieve here. Besides, there will be more accessible dishes available too, with just a touch of the unknown.’
We’re all about creating a great neighbourhood restaurant, free of pretensions and corporate noise, just like Choys used to be
Besides, I’m told some Shed-loving Notting Hill residents even drop surplus produce at the doors of the restaurant, fruits of a long weekend spent at a country pile.
An all-day dining concept, there will be plenty of opportunity to sample the brothers’ vision; from breakfast and tea, all the way through until dinner, in a plethora of sharing plates and smaller dishes served tapas style. All-day dining is a departure from The Shed, which operates a traditional set up, and as Richard can anticipate only too well, this service style will bring its own set of challenges. The first of which, however, was getting a super-swanky piece of kitchen kit installed.
‘It was only once the oven arrived, that we realised it was too large to fit down the staircase,’ Richard laughs. Clearly the stuff of dreams for a chef, there was no way Oliver was letting such a minor detail prevail in the war for the ultimate kitchen. The answer? ‘We took the wall down, brick by brick!’ he laughs.
It’s this sort of dogged determination – with a smile – that has seen the Gladwins succeed, both in charming their guests and wowing their palates. But it’s making the most of British ingredients that the brothers are really known for, with third brother Gregory running the Sussex farm that supplies much of their produce as well as wine from the family-run Nutbourne Vineyard.
Their brother Gregory runs the Sussex farm that supplies much of their produce, as well as wine from the family-run Nutbourne Vineyard
A resourceful lot, these siblings are more than just restaurateurs, they’re a well rounded authority on our agricultural landscape, in tune with the seasons, our indigenous culinary potential and what it means to be working the land in Britain today.
Reflecting this, a more intricate explanation of dishes at Rabbit are proudly recalled by chef Oliver. ‘The launch menu features a venison and fig wellington,’ cue drooling, ‘as well as neat little dish of cauliflower and walnuts.’ It’s this dish that really demonstrates the level of skill you’ll experience in the Rabbit kitchen.
Oliver continues, ‘We use cauliflower three ways; purple, yellow, and white. Some are butter-basted, there’s a cauli-couscous, a purée, and slivers on the mandolin. This sits with elements of walnut – a pesto made with ground elder and wet walnuts pickled from a tree at home.’ There’s some smoking over walnut chippings and a shallot salt in there too, but I’m too busy getting my head around this incredible-sounding little dish – a complex triumph, and from such humble beginnings.
With this sort of story and imagination, it’s unsurprising that the brothers Gladwin have a cookbook out this year: The Shed: The Cookbook: Original, Seasonal Recipes for Year-Round Inspiration.
‘It’s a story of three brothers and what they do individually,’ says Richard. ‘Gregory’s voice runs through the book, charting his year of farming and his opinion of what’s going on with the land and the vineyard.’
‘And then there’s the recipes,’ chimes in Oliver. ‘In the last two years we have created something very special, and we wanted to capture the moment, so much has already evolved.’
An atmospheric read, beautifully shot and annotated, this is more than a recipe book – and would make a great addition to any kitchen. While Rabbit, I’m certain will have the same effect on Chelsea.
Rabbit 172 King’s Road Chelsea SW3 4UP, rabbit-restaurant.com
The Shed: The Cookbook (Kyle Books) is £19.99 from Waterstones