After a successful career in the City, Marcel Faulstich had decided it was time to do something different. His wife was working for a local charity; his first thoughts turned to teaching. But the opportunity he has seized is one of south-east London’s landmark restaurants - Chapter One.
It was a restaurant that Faulstich knew well. He had enjoyed the cooking of his old friend Andrew McLeish there often enough.
The Michelin Star-winning McLeish was the executive chef of a small group of restaurants in the south-east of London. However, a change of ownership was in the air and McLeish was keen to secure one of the restaurants - Chapter One, a landmark large mock-Tudor building in Farnborough Common in the wooded outskirts of Orpington.
The two of them met in a pub and got their calculators out. They didn’t have long before the venue was due to be snapped up by another buyer.
After a frantic and stressful few weeks and with the assistance of a third partner in the deal, they took ownership in June 2017. The chef had his restaurant; the banker had a new career to learn.
“We were not looking at this being a single piece of business,” says Faulstich. “It’s in an affluent area, close to the centre of London - it’s only 15 minutes on the train to London Bridge. We saw the potential for growth in Chapter One.
“We have an excellent reputation in Kent and south-east London. People know us. You have to book well ahead to get a table here on Friday and Saturday nights, and our Sunday lunch is extremely popular. We get fantastic online reviews and ratings. We can expand and develop from that base. Our long-term plan is to roll out Chapter Ones into the surrounding areas.”
The first stage of the plan is to extend the existing venue - the current brasserie is set to gain an additional 50 covers - and lengthen its trading hours to attract a younger clientele.
With all its advantages, Chapter One faces various growth challenges. The expansion plan will involve adding 20 more people to the payroll, which means competing for quality staff in the context of Brexit uncertainties as well as the allure of central London. The duo are determined to keep their prices as “affordable, but not cheap” and to source even more produce locally, while facing steep increases in many ingredient costs.
“There’s an endless list of things to do,” Faulstich smiles. “It’s a challenge - but it is the one I was looking for!”