London

All photos courtesy of Straker’s.

The RundownLondon

What To Expect at Thomas Straker’s Debut London Restaurant

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It takes some kind of hype for a tiny, 40-cover neighbourhood restaurant in West London to become near fully booked for months before it had even opened its doors. Such was the case for Straker’s, which launched in October on Golborne Road. Why the frenzy? Because Straker’s is the debut restaurant of Thomas Straker, a chef you’ll either adore or have never heard of; part man, part phenomenon.

A professional chef who worked his way up through some of London’s best kitchens, Straker found huge success on Tik Tok over lockdown with cookery videos that exhibited finesse and creativity beyond the vast majority of the cooking content that exploded on the platform. That it retained a home cooking focus made it feel accessible, and was part of the appeal of Straker’s videos, and now the chef is ready to step back into the kitchen with a namesake restaurant and a packed Notify list of hungry guests.

Here’s what you need to know about Straker and his first permanent restaurant.

For Straker, overnight fame came gradually, then suddenly.

If you don’t follow Tik Tok, you may be wondering who Straker is. The chef is a social media star, but his professional credentials are impressive — the buzz around the now 32-year-old professional chef had been building since long before he posted his first video.

Raised on a smallholding in Herefordshire, where he was hunting and foraging from a young age, he moved to London to train as a chef, putting in the hard yards at the Dorchester, Heston Blumenthal’s two Michelin star Dinner, and Phil Howard’s Elystan Street. In 2014, he helmed Tom Conran’s year-long New Tom’s pop-up. Later, his first executive chef role was at Casa Cruz in London and its 2016 New York pop-up (a precursor to the fancy pants $250,000 “private playground” that got the Upper East Side in a tizz).

In 2020, when the world went into lockdown, Straker had a private chef gig on a billionaire’s superyacht. The party retreated to said billionaire’s Connecticut mansion, where Straker whiled away his downtime making cooking videos for his then 900 followers. Fast forward to today, and the blue tick chef (1.5m followers on TikTok and counting) can do no wrong.

Straker’s will bring ‘East London wine bar vibes” to his West London neighbourhood.

Straker’s is taking shape nicely. It’s small – just 40 covers – and located in a cool spot just off Portobello Road at 91 Golborne Road (not Queen’s Park, where an earlier iteration of his concept, Acre, had been set to debut before Covid struck). The central feature is an open kitchen with concrete-topped eating counter, with staff kitted out in raffish, tailored workwear jackets – courtesy of contemporary British menswear supremo Oliver Spencer – gliding around guests in the dining room.

Note: it will be Straker the Michelin-trained chef at the pass, not Straker the media star. He’s already announced: “It’s not going to be a Top-10-hits-of-Thomas-Straker’s-Instagram. I want it to have the credentials of the River Cafe or a Noble Rot; known for its food, not who I am.”

How to get in? Reservations are released a month ahead. It’s nearly at capacity for November already. Try lunch. Or, for a dinner reservation, the Notify button is your friend.

The ethos behind the food at Straker’s will focus on “Food You Want to Eat”.

As a Herefordshire farmer’s son, Straker is all about seasonal, sustainable, good food. He says: “I want this restaurant to be a place where people feel at home and can relax with friends.”

“For me it’s all about using the best produce, so whilst the menu will be uncomplicated and unfussy, the techniques used in the kitchen have been carefully considered to really ensure each ingredients has its moment in the spotlight.”

His suppliers are first-rate, e.g., Huntsham Court Farm, Keltic Seafare and Wildfarmed, and early menus have nodded to the Mediterranean coast with plenty of ‘primi’ such as potato gnocchi with ragù, fresh crab ravioli, and a popular dish of taglioni scattered with chanterelles and slicked with lemon and parmesan. There are also grilled sourdough flatbreads from his Gozney Oven topped with cavolo nero and stracciatella or sweet, hand-dived scallop; wood-roasted oysters with seaweed butter and fermented chilli, and seasonal plates for sharing such as turbot with tender borlotti and pumpkin, or BBQ quail with smoked aubergine and spiced yoghurt.

The wine list has been written by Alex Percy of small-but-mighty natural wine specialists the Modest Merchant with a focus on Spain, France, and Italy. The house Negroni is made with a blend of vermouths made in-house.

One signature from the chef’s social media fame will be on the menu.

Straker may be the unofficial face of #ButterTok but don’t blame him for the butter board. Take a gander at #AllThingsButter for 50 variations on the compound butter theme; think shawarma butter, berry butter, coffee butter, bone marrow and chilli butter, and so on.

One of his signature moves is the quenelle; the ‘how to’ for which has amassed nearly 13m (!) views. Beyond butter, his ASMR-adjacent shorts and Reels make compelling viewing, a snackable sequence of slicing, sizzling, and whisking. On the menu, compound butters work harmoniously with dishes, such as a bowl of palourde clams with spicy ‘nduja butter, or a burnt chilli butter concealed within a gloriously puffed-up flatbread.

 

The success of Straker (the man) and the restaurant is sign that times are changing.

Aside from a prodigious Tik Tok following, Straker has also built his personal brand through brand partnerships (Gorilla’s, Gozney etc) and restaurant residencies.

Right Then, Straker’s lockdown takeaway pop-up at Carousel morphed into a sell-out 12-week run; meanwhile, tickets for his three-day takeover of Top Cuvée sold out in eight minutes. That Straker’s following is such that he can guarantee sellout evenings is not inconsiderable – and flows against the current of traditional restaurant media that has largely ignored Tik Tok as a place for genuine talent and discovery.

As Straker says: “Chefs would previously become known for their restaurants, but now we’re known for being us.”


Hilary Armstrong is a London-based journalist and editor. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Follow Resy, too.