The story behind new cafe Grateful Kitchen could have been lifted straight from a romance novel.
When passionate French cook Abdou Elkholti met bubbly Irish accountant Emily Cheevers they quickly fell in love and he moved to Canary Wharf to be closer to her.
He arrived with big dreams and opened kiosk Grill’d in Reuters Plaza seven years ago serving up takeaway lunches to office workers.
But he always wanted to do more so when the retail space by the Post Office in Chancellor Passage became free he decided to go for it.
The 35-year-old, who married his sweetheart in May 2015, beat five other retailers to win the lease and the couple set about transforming the former News on the Wharf shop into a cafe. It opened a few weeks and serving up healthy salads, breakfasts, coffees, cakes and more.
“A lot of thought and time has gone into this, it’s not just chucking food on a plate, “ said Abdou. “We are serving restaurant quality food as a takeaway.”
The couple have also been coping with the challenges of becoming parents for the first time after welcoming baby Sami.
Emily, who is on maternity leave from Deloitte, said of her husband’s efforts:“It has been a long, hard slog for the last year and I don’t think he has hardly slept.”
Abdou responded: “You see things differently when you have a baby. “A little smile from him and everything is OK.”
Grateful Kitchen is one of the first independent retailers to come to the estate and Abdou said: “I have been waiting for an opportunity here. I know the area well and I thought there was a gap in the market. I think people are ready for something new and what we are offering is individual.
“Canary Wharf Group are very picky with who they let in and have been very supportive.”
Abdou’s passion for food comes from growing up in Annemasse, just across the border from Geneva, in the ‘gastronomy region” of France and he said cooking is “in his blood”. He goes to Billingsgate every day to get salmon, has vegetables delivered fresh every day and sourced woodfired, eco-friendly coffee from the Cotswolds.
“I won’t serve something I wouldn’t eat myself. I just want people to be happy and have a good meal.
“I think healthy, clean food is important. People want quality.”
He now has a team of 13 working for him and said of the cafe’s name: “Hopefully people are grateful for the food we are offering and we are grateful for them coming to us.
“We’ll be evolving the menu as we go along and finding out what people like and I’m open to suggestions.”
He added: “It hasn’t been an easy road to get here and to open is a big relief. But the next challenge is to get everything right.”
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