10 minutes with: Mark Jarvis

The  Staff Canteen
Offering guests the opportunity to enjoy the finest alcoholic beverages alongside a variety of Japanese treats, it isn’t difficult to see why the izakaya trend has hit London. Offering a casual space to enjoy high quality Japanese-style dining, these restaurants have been embraced by many as the next era in after-work socialising. Newly opened The Woodstock Kushiyaki Bar in the heart of London perfectly epitomises the Japanese culture and cuisine that the concept of izakaya dining set out to reflect. Offering a selection of the finest sake, beers and spirits, as well as meat-skewers and other Japanese delicacies, the restaurant succeeds in its mission as an izakaya bar. We spoke to the owner, Mark Jarvis, about his history as a chef, the challenges he faced starting his new venture and his hopes to expand his culinary portfolio in the future.The Woodstock Although obviously boasting the skills to open a new business, Mark has only ever had jobs in the kitchen. Mark credits his love of food to his upbringing and his first job as a teenager. Mark said: “I started cooking in my first kitchen job when I was 16.” Working in numerous kitchens after that, Mark’s decision to pursue a career as a chef didn’t happen until a little bit later. “I think my first main career change was when I was working at Le Manoir at the age of 20. But I had already been working in a few kitchens before that”, said Mark. Speaking of his training, Mark said: “I did a two year apprenticeship and I went to Aylesbury College.” His career has also seen him work at The Thatch, under the wing of Raymond Blanc, and at the Michelin-starred Texture restaurant as a sous chef. Most recently, Mark has worked as an executive chef at The Bingham, Richmond, before deciding to fly solo and embark upon the opening of his new restaurant. Mark’s decision to open an izakaya restaurant was very much influenced by the various Asian cultures that he experienced whilst travelling. “I went to Singapore and Malaysia”, says Mark, “I was also in Penang, an island just off Malaysia.” image 2However, Mark’s experience with Asian food didn’t end there. “I was working at ROKA and I started to get a liking for this style of cuisine”, said Mark. “I read a lot of books into it and experienced it a lot whilst travelling. I like the idea of the service and the way that things run, so decided I wanted to bring this sort of thing to London.” The passion for Asian food shared by Mark’s friends and connections also helped shape the idea for his new restaurant. Mark explains: “I met a group of people who also wanted to be involved in something and we all sort of shared the same idea. That’s how it came about. “I’m from just on the outside of London so I wanted to do something that was near to home”, explained Mark. “I know London well, and so it was always going to be based in London” However, Mark’s home location wasn’t the only factor in this decision. “I think a London pub is pretty much like an izakaya bar anyway”, explains Mark who said that there is a “big gap in the market” in London. He adds: “It’s bad when you go to somewhere and the food is not that good. It means you have to walk somewhere else to get dinner. At The Woodstock Kushiyaki, the idea is that you can have a drink and relax, whilst still having the option of decent food.”image 3 Although seeing a need for an izakaya bar, Mark’s ideal choice of restaurant was something different. “I think it’s always been my plan to open something. I wanted to open a sort of fine dining restaurant but I couldn’t do that straight away”, said Mark. However, Mark’s aspirations to open a fine dining restaurant have never strayed far from his mind: “We spoke to the investors and said we would do something like The Woodstock Kushiyaki first, grow it and then move off in different directions.” Although describing his new restaurant as his: “biggest achievement so far”, Mark’s new role as a director hasn’t come without its challenges. He said: “It’s definitely a lot more challenging running your own restaurant. You haven’t got the safety net. You definitely get a lot more freedom, but this can add to the challenge as there is no one to say that you are doing it wrong. Small details can have a massive impact so you have got to be very careful.” The restaurant itself offers an “extensive Japanese led drinks menu and freshly made kushiyaki and kushiage skewers.” The menu includes traditional Japanese alcohol such as Kirin Ichiban, as well as wine, sake and spirits. image 1Mark is optimistic about not just the future of his restaurant, but also his future in the industry as a whole. It is clear that Mark’s first self-opened restaurant won’t be his last. He said: “Now that I’ve done this, the next thing I’m going to do is open more of a food orientated restaurant. That’s the goal.” The Woodstock Kushiyaki Bar can be found on 11 Woodstock Street, London. By Lewis Treleaven
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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 26th June 2015

10 minutes with: Mark Jarvis