By CHLOE founder Samantha Wasser talks about coming to London, vegan fish ‘n’ chips, and further expansion.
‘Bleecker Street’ has some particular connotations with London eaters: the street food-cum-no frills burger joint of the same name is where one goes to worship a good patty. To American expats and epicures, however, it could mean something a little different – Bleecker Street in Manhattan being the birthplace of a few notable restaurant enterprises, including fast-expanding vegan joint By CHLOE. Though both purveyors of fast food, Bleecker holds up high dry-aged, pasture-fed beef from respected famers. By CHLOE shuns the consumption of meat entirely.
The latter philosophy is expected to be one of the key dining trends of this year. As if on cue, By CHLOE, 10 sites strong, is set to open its first of two sites in Covent Garden in early February, before it plants its flag near Tower Bridge in spring.
Success – depending on how you measure it – is no stranger to the chain, what with a revenue of around $40 million estimated for this year. So what brings ‘em here, then? ‘London’s restaurant scene has really flourished in the last few years,’ says Samantha Wasser, By CHLOE’s co-founder and creative director. ‘That, combined with the overflow of messages we received from fans asking us to open in London made the UK a no-brainer.’
This is their first foray outside the US, where the founders came along with the right idea at the right time. Ditto with London where, it seems, Samantha and co. have already set their hearts. ‘When I’m in London, I like to visit Detox Kitchen and Planet Organic,’ says Samantha. ‘From what I’ve experienced, [in London] there are some truly great options for those who want to follow, or want to try a more plant-based diet, and it’s my guess the options will only grow.’
With London’s first fully vegan-catered pub opening already this year, more fast food plant-based restaurants such as Purezza and The Vurger on the way, and as even some of London’s most meat-centric restaurants taking their cues from the vegan movement of late, you can’t say she’s wrong. But then, all the aforementioned setups have already built a strong reputation among the British public – their appetites, their tastes. What’s to say By CHLOE will appeal to Londoners, and people visiting the capital, in the same fashion?
Much like what other foreign imports, such as Shake Shack, have done for their new audience, By CHLOE are putting a British spin on the table. ‘We’re very excited to be introducing our exclusive menu at our Covent Garden location,’ says Samantha, ‘which involves plant-based takes on British classics. Including Fish N’ Chips, Shepherd’s Pie, Pea N’ Ham Soup, and Sticky Toffee Pudding topped with our coconut whipped cream. In addition, and similarly to the US, we will offer seasonally-rotating market specials.’ This is to go alongside their staple items, such as the ever-popular ‘Guac Burger’ (black bean, quinoa, sweet potato patty with corn salsa, onion, guacamole, tortilla strips, chipotle aioli, and wholegrain bun) and Mac N’ Cheese (sweet potato and cashew sauce with shiitake ‘bacon’ and almond ‘parmesan’).
Minutiae aside, it’ll be interesting to see where the brand goes from here. And how much influence it ultimately has on not just London’s, but the UK’s, restaurant circuit. Never before has the UK seen quite so much financial muscle come out of the vegan dining out scene, and in this sense By CHLOE could become one of the major players in Britain’s fast casual sector within the next few years: Samantha says they had ‘no hesitation’ when they realised a site was up for grabs near Tower Bridge, and even before these two London branches have setup shop – both in prime restaurant real estate – there’s a plan ‘to open several locations throughout the UK’ in the future. Should that be the case, By CHLOE’s ambitions will take them in the opposite direction to the current trend of chains amputating their branches. Then who knows how much further.