It’s time to meet the people that make East London special, from chefs cooking away in kitchens to young entrepreneurs taking the leap with their business idea and artists adding colour to the streets – there’s something to learn from each. Here, we talk to Kali Hamm and Memby Jago, the people behind Hackney salad bar Palm Greens, where lush greenery fills the space as well as your plate.
How did you get started in the food industry?
Kali’s worked in the food industry for many years, starting front of house before moving to the back of house. She left restaurants to cook for private clients. Together, we started hosting a supper club in our flat, before moving onto bigger venues.
What inspired you to open a salad bar?
We feel like there’s a shortage of good quality ‘fast food’ in London. Inspired by regular trips to both New York and California, we felt Palm Greens could really add something to the lunch options in London. We offer fresh, made-to-order, healthy food, and when I say that I mean food using whole ingredients that are nutritionally rich and full of colour, with texture from fresh vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
As well as that, we wanted to make it easy for Londoners to eat ethically and sustainably sourced food without having to really think about it; to make it more mainstream. We aim to do this by making food that is bold and interesting, that tastes great and is easy to pick up, even in a rush.
Why in Hackney?
We were offered the space in Netil House’s bar and it seemed like the perfect fit for us. Hackney is also extremely vegan friendly and local to us!
How are your roles divided – who is in charge of what?
Kali’s in charge of back of house: menu planning, developing dishes and social media. I [Memby] take care of front house jobs, such as design, websites, menus, choosing hot and cold drinks etc. We develop the wine list together.
What are your favourite dishes on the menu?
That’s a tough question! Obviously we love them all as Kali created them. I think we, as well as the people working with us, go through phases of their favourites. At the moment, Kali’s on Kale Caesar and I love the Miso Mushroom. A lot of our regulars eat the same salad every day! The Mexican Tostada bowl is a firm favourite.
Palm Greens plays host to events, workshops and more – how important is community to you?
Community is really important to us. We love that we have regulars, we look to work with people who are local and who we can build relationships with – especially in London where you can often feel so disconnected from your neighbours.
We aim to source as locally as possible and build relationships with our suppliers. For example, our kale comes from the wonderful Wild Organics on Broadway, our tempeh from the lovely guys at Club Tempeh, along with Jarr kombucha – both based in Hackney Wick.
Favourite East London spot for brunch?
We’re regulars at Lardo! They use really beautiful fresh produce and a seasonal menu, plus amazing drinks to match.
Som Saa is a firm favourite! Memby used to work there so there’s always a friendly face, but the food is also perfect for us.
What do you think is the secret to running a successful food business in London?
A belief in your product. We always go back to that. The pitfalls of starting a new business are countless, but we always go back to the belief we have in the quality of what we create.
NT’s bar, Netil House, 1 Westgate St, Hackney, London E8 3RL
By Siobhan Gunner.