Tooley Street’s enclave of corporate giants’ glossy offices, identikit sandwich chains and, erm, the London Dungeons is hardly the place you would expect to find a successful social enterprise which helps homeless people train and find work in the catering industry.
At first glance, Brigade Bar & Bistro blends into the area’s many “city boy” style boozers. How wonderful that the bar and restaurant venue is so much more. The surprisingly large interior of the former old Fire Station includes private dining, events and meetings spaces as well as a cookery school.
Brigade Bar & Bistro is also home to chef and powerhouse Simon Boyle’s charity, the Beyond Food Foundation, which helps people who have experienced homelessness move their lives forward through cooking and food.
To Simon’s enormous credit, he secured a whopping £800k grant via relationships with Pricewaterhouse Coopers and the Homes and Communities Agency to invest in his vision. Over the years Brigade and the Beyond Food Foundation have inspired over 400 homeless people, and are still going strong.
One of the reasons the social enterprise works is because the restaurant produces simply great food, with an emphasis on British classics using fresh, seasonal ingredients.
I had to go for the South Coast Seafood Cocktail to start – who can resist any dish which incorporates Chase Vodka?
As I waited for my main to arrive, doubt started to kick in – perhaps I should have ordered the perfectly cooked ribeye that lucky man is tucking into over there! Ooh, what’s that his friend has – not my favourite, confit of Gressingham duck!
But the hand dived scallop dish I chose quickly silenced any feelings of food envy. It was served with black pasta, radish and a dinky little saucepan of marjoram sauce to dribble over.
I can’t wait to go back to try the many other dishes that caught my eye on the menu, from cosy, classic comfort food like scotch eggs or Greenwich ale battered fish and chips to more adventurous offerings like rabbit fritters or salmon gateau.
It is heart warming to know that among all the bars packed with braying suits, there exists a place with real soul. You can taste it in the food.
I was invited to dine as a guest of Brigade Bar & Bistro