A new bistro, the 10 Cases, is launching in Covent Garden. We caught up with co-owner Ian Campbell to find out more about the restaurant.
How did you get started?
The 10 Cases is basically 2 people. Will (Palmer) and I lived together at university and decided then that accountancy wasn’t really going to do it for us. Cooking at University for me evolved pretty quickly from spag bol to finding the best grouse and playing around with that instead of Descartes.
So, when we finished I came down to London and got a job as a commis chef in a gastro pub in Chelsea called The Builders Arms. Will went down to Bristol to do a graduate scheme in a hotel group.
I cooked for about a year and a half (including a short stint of unpaid work in a Michelin Star restaurant in France as an assistant pastry chef) and then came back to London to go front-of-house on a graduate scheme offered by Conran restaurants at Coq d'Argent (where our head chef comes from). There I quite quickly fell into the Sommeliers Department and loved it. Then I moved onto an assistant manager role at a local wine bar in Belgravia called The Ebury Wine Bar, where I got to write my own wine lists and meet suppliers.
In the meantime, Will was now manager of the Hotel he started working in 3 years before. He was now overseeing the hotel, the restaurant and the private members club. About 3 years ago I started looking for a site (financial crash etc - familiar story) while Will was still in Bristol. (He then went to the Solomon Islands for 6 months to help a local tribe - check out projectsolomons.co.uk).
Will joined the never-ending search about 8 months ago and here we are! Finally!
And what can you tell us about the 10 Cases
The basic premise - which you can read more of here - is that we aim to eliminate the frustrations of back-of-house life and the customer to something that's a bit more fair (there will be typos on the menu at 11.55, that sort of thing, so everything is hand written on blackboards).
We'll have no service charge - a weird London thing that I cant get my head around (the more I spend on wine the more I have to spend on having it opened?). There will be a small cash mark-up on the wines, and we do them all by the glass. I hate restaurants where theres a massive list and 3 rubbish wines by the glass. We don’t charge for bread or filtered water (although there is a £1.50 cover charge, which we think is fair - it's not white sliced Tesco value or anything).
And what can we expect from the menu?
The food is simple - 3 starters, 3 mains etc. due to a combination of factors. Mainly that we hate menus with 35 dishes on them. I come to a restaurant to talk, not read a book. We also want to make sure that there isn’t too much wastage. So the mains all come with a choice of 2 sides (which is included in the price - avoiding another pet hate).
The wine is the same - there will be 10 whites and 10 reds. We will stock 10 cases of each - so as to avoid having to look at a wine list that grows and grows until you have to use the index. That might be OK for high-end restaurants, but most of the time it's there to hide the ignorance or lack of care from the owners/managers and the mark-ups are juicy too, so they keep offering more and more expensive wines! Aarghhh!
Finally another reason for that style of wine list is so that if you're watching your budget and you like to spend 18 quid on a good bottle, you can do so. You wont always have to have that overpriced, headachey Chilean Merlot that's always on the list...
The 10 Cases is open for a soft-launch next week and fully open from 12 September at 16 Endell Street - find out more.
For more newly opened restaurants, view our full list.