Recipes For Success - Interview with Bonnie Gull



Standard Supplier 12th August 2014


Standard Supplier

Recipes For Success - Interview with Bonnie Gull

Alex Hunter swapped his day job in private aviation to pursue his love of food with business partner Danny Clancy. What started off as a bit of pop-up fun has turned into London’s answer to a seaside restaurant accessible for all, offering some of the best responsibly sourced fresh seafood in the heart of the city.

We got the chance to talk to Alex who tells us more about the Bonnie Gull brand and offers some of his best business advice.

1. Who/what inspired you to set up Bonnie Gull?

Bonnie Gull started off as an extra-curricular activity and bit of fun because both Danny and I have a passion for good food and drink. Initially, we had a pop-up restaurant to serve up the best of British seafood in the most humble of surroundings – an old Hackney pie ‘n’ mash shop. We wanted to create something that was more accessible for a wider audience so people could truly relax and enjoy quality fresh seafood without the pomp and prices that are typical of most London seafood restaurants.
As we did more pop-ups and the brand grew, I started enjoying it so much my aviation career ended up taking a back seat. We now have two permanent restaurants in London and are looking to open more over the next couple of years.

2. How do your locations influence your business? E.g. menu/community involvement/environment?

Our first site is a lovely corner spot in Fitzrovia with outdoor seating situated right next to the new BBC building. We wanted a central location in the West End but somewhere more relaxed and low-key than Mayfair so it fitted perfectly.

Our second site, in Exmouth Market, was more influenced by demographics. We specifically looked for a location that was busy, vibrant and full of a mix of people working in the area who were looking for somewhere a bit different to eat.

3. What is your unique selling point? What makes your brand stand out in such a competitive market?

Making seafood accessible. We wanted to bring the seaside to the city, to replicate the nostalgia of seaside holidays, albeit in a slightly tongue and cheek way.

We pride ourselves on the best ingredients, which are all courtesy of the British seas, perfectly cooked and simply served. When looking for suppliers we always look for quality first and price second so that our customers are getting the freshest and most sustainably caught produce. For example, we try our best to get fish from day boats rather than trawlers and use a network of suppliers which we have built up over time.

4. How do you react to the changing marketplace?

We try to remain true to our brand. It’s all about keeping it classic and simple without trying to be too trendy and letting our ingredients speak for themselves. By keeping things honest and straightforward we think that our food and brand are enjoyed by Londoners and tourists alike.

5. What would you say is the biggest challenge facing foodservice businesses like yourselves today? / How have you managed to survive the recession?

Margins. Staying competitive whilst still being able to offer high quality produce is a difficult balance. Over the past couple of years we’ve found that the key is to build good relationships with suppliers so that you get the best prices possible. Also, building regular customers is absolutely paramount to long-term success.

6. What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?

Focus. Focus on doing one thing at a time, do it well and then build on it.

7. What is the one piece of advice you would give to other chefs/entrepreneurs looking to succeed in the industry?

Be willing to tough things out because nothing ever happens overnight. If you believe you have something special then persevere and it will be worth it in the end.

8. What’s the best thing about your job?

Getting to eat lots of great seafood of course!

9. What are your food predictions for 2014?

I’d like to think that the market will start to veer away from ‘dude food’ and make room for some new cuisines such as Korean. Having said that I don’t see the burger craze slowing down any time soon!

10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

I’d like to think that I will still be doing things with Bonnie Gull and maybe have launched some other brands too. Hopefully we’ll have a few more sites in London and in the future we’d definitely like to build more restaurants outside of the city and possibly even abroad.

Quick Fire Round

11. What’s your signature dish?

Smash your own 1Kg crab.

12. When you get the chance, where do you enjoy eating out?

Honey & Co on Warren Street is one of my favourite places to go. I also had a great meal at Zucca recently which I’d return to in a heartbeat.

13. What would be your dream meal? (starter, main and dessert)

West Cost langoustines to start, with some lemon and mayo followed by shoulder of lamb cooked on a wood fire with some rosemary. Although I’m not a dessert man I think I have to say the chocolate parfait with candied popcorn at our Fitzrovia site is pretty special. No bias of course!

14. What are the three food items you’d take to a desert island…?

Langoustines, lemon and mayonnaise.

15. What’s the one piece of kitchen equipment you couldn’t live without?


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