Rita’s Soho Restaurant Menu Comes From Gabe Pryce and Missy Flynn
Missy Flynn and Gabe Pryce are exceeded. Not by opening a first restaurant in central London amid well-documented supply chain issues, relying on hired stools, third-choice glasses and wondering where the tequila is, but by something more fundamental. Sitting on their outdoor patio, it looks like Pryce can’t believe he’s sitting in it. “All my life I’ve known that Lexington Street was a place of quality restaurants. A very special little stretch of the heart of London. And I’m still completely overwhelmed that we have a restaurant here.
They both point out that Rita’s Soho, which is open for dinner and will open for lunch when they’ve hired enough chefs to join Pryce in the kitchen, is both built on everything Rita has been in the past. nine years, and a break from the indifferent exterior roaming that has been (sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly) applied to what they do.
There were Dalston nightclubs, taproom residences and the famous Mare Street space in Hackney. But it’s something to grow up. “I want people to have dinner. Or for lunch. Come to the restaurant and have a meal without being confused. I don’t want them to know what awaits them. We cherish restaurants that are restaurants – you go and sit down with your friends and eat your dinner. Not a tiny bit of this, a tiny bit of that,” Pryce said.
Margaritas will always shake and natural wine will always flow; maturation does not mean there is no sharing, no hands, no mess. A tear-and-share garlic bread inspired by Parker House buns and drizzled with green-flecked butter puts that to bed immediately. But the rest of the menu — beef tartare; dressed oysters; a whole fish with black beans, a variation of salsa macha and tortillas; and a “steak dinner” with creamed greens and crispy fried potatoes – is about a restaurant that still dedicates itself to American cuisine as a point of reference, but does not let old ideas about its identity become too stale or comfortable.
Flynn says one dish fits that maturing perfectly: “There’s a really good dish of quail and grits that to me is very Rita then and Rita now. People loved the melty pasta and fried chicken and all that on Mare Street, but this particular dish is definitely Rita’s style of cooking.
Pryce adds that the dish now involves grinding your own kernels with traditional corn kernels from the UK and the US, and it’s even clearer that this edition of Rita wants to put some preconceptions to bed. “When you make an offer that people have considered, or have already considered…“Americana,” developing that has always been a pretty tough conversation to tell people how serious we are. People have misconceptions about why we cook cuisine from a certain place and what we cook. They both say using suppliers like farmer Tom Jones for meat and Max Onslow of Bateman Road in Chingford for vegetables grown on their advice is the kind of thing they’ve always wanted but they have never been able to do so far.
Their new home, a listed building, was delayed by COVID-19 like so many restaurants. But Flynn says it’s been as time-consuming as it has been stressful. It allowed them to build: first a team, despite the constraints of a staffing crisis, then a restaurant, in line with the requirements of the space that houses it. When it comes to staffing, she is both realistic and proud of the current situation: “I hope we have created a company where people really want to work, instead of trying to fill positions with just anyone . We want to create opportunities for people that are more than jobs.
The space fuels the feeling that the duo want to challenge who people think Rita is. Both return often to Mare Street, the Hackney restaurant that established it as one of London’s liveliest dining venues, and temper the nostalgia with how much is determined by little things like… Toilet paper.
There’s only one bathroom in the whole place, and Pryce says that “the things we used to do…like the black sauce chicken wings on Mare Street, it was great.” But if you had them here, they’d probably ruin your night. You should go home and wash up. The Mare Street basement basically looked like Roman bathhouses of teenagers washing tar off their fingers, and we can’t do that here.
“It was one of the first projects we did when we had time to think of things as a sequence of events, and the building is a key part of those events,” Flynn adds. And it continues in the design, with canvases by LA artist Michael McGregor featuring their deviled eggs, and a certain aversion to what they call “a CAD machine set up to do” what a restaurant should look like in 2021″.
Nor is it set up to be an east London restaurant that wandered west and ended up in the middle. Flynn reflects on how “Soho has this perception of being chainy and elitist,” then on the other side of the story: “That may be true, but it’s also a neighborhood. It’s not as isolated from reality as people might think.
It’s a fine declaration of intent for a duo who set up shop at the same time as their restaurant took root. Both grew up in central London and they moved to the area to be closer to the restaurant when it was clear the delay would be long, and Pryce is getting used to the change in environment outside of work. “I’ve always been the person who yells out the window at people on the street when I’m trying to sleep and I don’t anymore. It’s just nice to see people in Soho now. Now they hope to see them at home.