'When you're in it, you're in it, and when you want to do something, you just have to do it'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

Behind is not an easy restaurant to find. Tucked away on a side street of London Fields, surrounded by storage units and residential flats, it is about as inconspicious as they get. 

And yet, Michelin found it, after two brief openings between the lockdowns last year, and awarded it a star, securing its place on the capital's culinary map. 

Crazy as it might have been to open a restaurant in the middle of the pandemic, Andy had had his heart set on it, working as a teacher to save up enough money, he said, "to take out a stupid amount of loans."

"When you're in it, you're in it, and when you want to do something, you just have to do it." 

The result is arresting: the 18-cover restaurant, with a single group table next to the vast chef's table facing the open kitchen is everything he dreamed it would be.

The chef designed the space on a piece of A4 paper, he said, and it is "exactly how I wanted it to be."

"I'll sketch out a lot of my dishes," he explained, "I have them all from when we first opened; we work out what goes on what, then we start creating them.

"So when I started the design of this properly, I came about it the same way, as if I was creating a dish."

"It's all about the nice layers," he said, pointing through a feature wall made of wooden slats, which separate the space but keep it feeling wide and open, "as you look in, you see the different platforms and different areas to plate up on."

Once restrictions are lifted and people are free to walk around, these will give him the opportunity to make them part of the experience.

"I'll make it a bit more interactive," he explained, "where customers can come in and walk around the kitchen, have a glass of Champagne around the stove and give them more of an exchange.

"That's the only thing I'll change when the restrictions are lifted," he said, as the layout of the restaurant already gives guests more than enough room to breathe safely.

"The whole space is quite intimate, we don't want to cram people in. We want everyone to have their space." 

Oyster Taco with Gentleman's relish - Photo credit: John Carey 

The food at Behind 

"We don't do anything for the sake of it here," Andy explained. "We don't follow trends, we do what we want. We're quite minimalistic in that we don't put things on a plate that shouldn't be there. 

"Everything is quite clean, nicely well balanced."

"We work a lot with fish," making the tasting menu lighter than your typical Michelin outpost, because, he said, "I think it's what most people want to eat. It's quite hard to get your hands on really good fish produce and the price scares people off, especially when you don't know how to cook it, so it's an interesting approach for me to go down."

As for provenance, "we choose to stick around the British Isles," and, he remarks, "why wouldn't we? We've got some 10/10 shellfish here."

Serving only eighteen guests a night, he said, "if there are issues with supply, we can always work something out," and it also means that they can keep a beady eye on wastage. 

"If there are spare trimmings, we'll make white stock, fish tails we'll confit down and make one-bite fish pies, any cooking liquors we cook down because our food is quite clean and natural - we don't use much salt, we don't use too much dairy, so there's a lot of reductions in things."

Michelin star aside, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive for the short periods during which they have been open, he said. "A lot of people are saying how unique we are."

Menus are kept a surprise from guests, who are asked to refrain from posting pictures or videos of the service onto social media to conserve an element of mystery.

Though popular from day 1, Michelin did make a noteworthy difference to the volume of guests coming through the door, as the 18-cover restaurant sold out for dinner everyday but lunches were another matter - and this despite the 6-course, £42 tasting menu. 

"Sometimes we'd do one cover, sometimes two. But now that's completely gone, we're full everyday."

Chocolate, Ricotta - Photo credit: John Carey

About Andy

Born in Wembley and raised in Watford, 31 year-old Andy got a job as a plongeur when he was fifteen. 

"I absolutely loved it, I knew straight away it was what I wanted to do as a career. I had such a love of food." 

"I worked at a place that was quite interesting because it was ingredients that I had never seen before - I wasn't brought up on lobsters, oysters, fillets of beef, certain cuts that you would never have at home." 

As he climbed up the ranks, he witnessed the growth of institutions like The Ledbury and The Square, and keenly threw himself into the world of fine-dining.

Asked how he managed to get roles in what were then very competitive places, he said: "hard work does pay off. If you're committed and wanting to learn and working hard, you can do it."

"Approaching the chefs was differen then - now with social media, you have lots of people advertising on Instagram, but back then it was a case of visiting their website, careers email, you would have to write a really formal cover letter and attach your CV, set up a trial. That's how I approached most places." 

His appetite for working in the world's best restaurants meant that whenever he was presented with an opportunity, he went for it. "I'd always try and weasel my way into a kitchen to work," he laughed, recalling a stage he did in Chicago when he accompanied his partner on a business trip there.  

After working for the likes of Claude Bosi at Hibiscus, Michael Wignall at The Latymer and Phil Howard at The Square, Andy secured a position as a development chef for Jason Atherton - a role he thoroughly enjoyed, namely because it allowed him to work on the BBC's The Chefs' Brigade series.

"Filming was fine," he said, "but the best parts were off set, seeing local areas and eating amazing food."

As a development chef, he worked on pastry concepts with Jason, supporting Dale Bainbridge, the head chef at Pollen Street, tag-teaming with the people within the group.

"If someone wasn't there I would help fill in a spot, there would be development of dishes, it was a massive range."

Despite the long hours (which Andy calls 'chef's hours'), he was involved in large aspects of the group, which gave him more of an understanding of how to run a restaurant business, "without a doubt." 

"With Jason, he's so switched onto that side, as well as being an amazing chef - essentially one of the best in the country - learning that side and being a part of it definitely helped."

And so, after his stint as a teacher, he went his own way and opened Behind. And despite everything, despite the pandemic, despite the staff shortages, despite the bad weather, Andy is happy. 

"The food gets better every week, without a doubt, the food menu is a lot better, and every day we're improving on everything."

"It's all positive."


In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 8th July 2021

'When you're in it, you're in it, and when you want to do something, you just have to do it'