food + drink Hackney Central people

Interview: James Ramsden, Pidgin


Blogger, podcaster, writer and author, as long as it’s related to food, James Ramsden is your man. Having broken out into the restaurant business, first running the acclaimed Secret Larder supper club, and more recently a certain little place in E8 called Pidgin, which just happens to have earned itself one of Hackney’s first Michelin stars

Were you always slightly food obsessed, even as a child?
I wouldn’t necessarily say food obsessed and my parents certainly weren’t foodies, but me and my three siblings grew up on a farm in Yorkshire, so there was always plenty of good stuff around to have a go at. We weren’t fussy children, we’d eat anything, and certainly loved our food. It wasn’t until my late teens that I realised I wanted to do something involving food for a living, but I didn’t know exactly what form that would take. 

Your career has had several strands, blogging, podcasting, reviewing, writing. Do you intend to keep that going?
I’d like to, but most of my energy is going into Pidgin at the moment – it takes up such a lot of my time. Not that I mind, it’s been fantastic. Also, I can’t really write about restaurants any more in an objective way. I now have quite a lot of bias. 

Were you surprised at the success of Pidgin?
Yes and no. You always go into things with certain expectations and in our heads we wanted it to be this huge thing. And then quite quickly the reality sinks in. Looking at it now, compared to how it was 18 months ago, it has been a pleasant surprise to see how things have continued to improve both in the restaurant, but also with the recognition we are getting.

And what of that Michelin star, one of Hackney’s first?
It’s extraordinary being one of the first of two restaurants in the borough to get a star, with Ellory being the other one. When we first discussed opening this place, and then when we opened it, it didn’t even cross our minds that a Michelin star was something to aim for, never mind something we might achieve. That’s been one of the bigger prizes and it comes with its own challenges and levels of expectation. But I think we’re more than up to that.

What aspect of your restaurant business do you feel the most passionate about?
I’ve always liked throwing parties, and in a way having a restaurant is a sort of extension of that. I get motivated by the same things as I do if I’m having a party at home. I want things to be the best they possibly can be. In the restaurant that’s obviously the food, but also the overall ambience, the look of the place, the level of hosting. Getting all those things right is what makes the difference between a nice night out and something special. I feel very fortunate that my favourite hobby is my job – eating, drinking, being with friends and chatting.

52 Wilton Way, London E8 1BG



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