Nick Mosley chats with local restaurateur James Thomson of Wild Flor in Hove.
Your name, address and age and some background about you
We are Faye Hudson (32) Rob Maynard (28) and James Thomson (34). We are all live in Hove and have around 30 years collectively managing some of the leading hospitality establishments in Brighton and Hove. Opening a restaurant was an individual dream for each of us and something we were fortunate enough to be able to realise when we opened Wild Flor.
What is your restaurant called, where is it and when was it established?
Our restaurant is called Wild Flor and we opened in spring 2019. About the name, wine was always going to play a big part in whatever we were going to open – particularly for Rob. Sherry is a particular favourite of ours and Faye suggested 'Flor' – a naturally occurring layer of yeast that the wine ages under within the barrel – when we were deciding on names back in 2018. Then we had a really rubbish week when we not only had a deal on another site fall through, but one of our favourite restaurants announced the opening of their second site, calling it Flor. We spent weeks trying to think of something else, then read that Wild Honey – another favourite of ours – was closing, so we nabbed 'Wild' and bolted it on.
Tell us about the food you serve…
The dishes we serve honour what it means to us to be a neighbourhood restaurant; comfortable and familiar, always highly seasonal, using the best and most responsible ingredients all cooked with classic technique. We serve a two or three course set menu at lunch or dinner, always with several options per course. This allows us to ensure we are able to feed our guests a really balanced meal, that starts with our freshly baked bread and recently-harvested crudites – picked by our own chefs –, before moving on to starters then main courses which are always served with one of the thousands of delicious crispy potato recipes in our repertoire. Then the option of a sweet or a mainly British cheese course from Neal's Yard Dairy. We favour a European cuisine, which during the summer drifts towards Mediterranean dishes.
How many on your team and who are they?
We have at most 14 to 15 team members. In the kitchen there are currently three chefs: Fraser, Will and Conor. They are all highly skilled, and dedicated professionals,… and always positive. Slawek and Matt share duties in the engine room of the kitchen. Out front we have Lily, Josie and James who all bring great customer service experience and are eager to pursue the eternal world of wine and deliver that enthusiasm to the table. They're supported by Jonny & Frank, two skate-boarding icons who also tend the bar and say amazing things like “this Nebbiolo wine smells like forest floor” during after service drinks. One of James, Rob or Faye are always present in the restaurant too… mainly getting in the way.
How did the idea for your business come about?
Just really wanting to open the sort of restaurant we want to eat and drink in that we didn't feel existed in our home town.
How have you coped/adapted during the pandemic?
It has obviously been really difficult to build on any consistency. We traded for just ten months before the first lockdown, fortunately to great acclaim locally and nationally. Thankfully, every time we have been allowed to open our doors, we have been really busy and somehow we do feel like we have been able to use the gaps to fine tune and develop the business model as we go along. For instance, we were open for eleven services each week in March 2020 but currently we’re only open for six services from Thursday evening to Sunday lunch. Partly because of staffing, partly because it brings a better work/life balance and is better for the business.
What would you like to tell people about your business?
I would like people to know that our restaurant is where you can find the most delicious wine alongside the tastiest, most luxurious meal in town, and all without breaking the bank and without any pomp or pretence. We like to think you can have it all at Wild Flor, whether it's a special occasion, a business lunch, an engagement dinner, or simply a solo treat for one. Eating and drinking out is expensive, but we feel that at every price point we offer incredible value.
What are your plans/hopes for the future?
Just feeling established with a couple of years of consistent trading would be enormous. After that, there are other ideas for sure.
Wild Flor, 42 Church Road, Hove BN3 2FN