20th October , 2021
Do awards help in business?
At the 2021 Cateys Awards held at Grosvenor House in London in September the Best Newcomer Award was presented to Barge East.
The Cateys Newcomer Award celebrates people in the industry who have taken a risk and seized an opportunity and made a name for themselves. According to the Cateys’ criteria, ‘the winner will own a business that has been operating for less than three years and have established a reputation for quality and service. This will be their first owner-operator hospitality-based business.’
Prior to opening Barge East, owner Tommo had forged a successful career as a small business advisor, with no direct experience of the hospitality business. He opened it with the help of childhood friends, Blandy, a physiotherapist and Ryan, a chef who, at that time, was cruising the world working on super yachts.
Of the award, Tommo comments, “Opening a restaurant is undoubtedly the toughest challenge of my life to date, to have my risk and hard work recognised and rewarded means everything to me and my team.”
Tommo talks to GS Magazine about his creation and the importance of winning the Award.
What is Barge East?
“Barge East is a magical 118-year-old Dutch Barge docked in London’s buzzing Hackney Wick, transformed into a unique, floating dining experience.
“The restaurant offers a selection of set seasonal and sustainable menus that utilise the finest British produce and homegrown ingredients designed by our Head Chef, Stefano Camplone.
“The barge has been configured to offer a variety of unique dining locations situated around the boat from the Captain’s Cabin to the beautiful Front Deck and Canopy that offer 360˚ canal-side views of London’s stunning skyline, or the Lower Deck where guests can watch the skilled chefs cooking in the Galley.
“During the past year the business has grown by expanding the adjacent land into its now thriving gardens and creating one of the largest outdoor drinking and dining venues in East London.
“The gardens offer a variety of casual dishes from the ‘Street Kitchen.’
“These include a range of delicious street foods including the signature panisses, as well as the new flatbreads offering, one of the first of this kind in London.
“With a variety of quirky covered & heated outdoor seating options available to choose from, the most popular is amongst the homegrown produce in our sensory gardens, where we grow over 37 difference types of produce from fruits and vegetables to herbs and edible flowers, all picked fresh for immediate use in the Barge East kitchens.
“This space provides a unique take on an alfresco ‘beer garden’ unlike any other in London.”
What is special about The Cateys?
“The annual Cateys Awards are known as the ‘Oscars for the hospitality industry’, won by some of the most prestigious names in this industry that we have admired for a long time.
“When we saw the opportunity to apply for the Best Newcomer Award, we wanted to showcase how proud we were of what we have achieved in the past two and a half challenging years, converting an old Dutch barge into a fine dining restaurant and creating one of the largest and most beautiful riverside gardens in London.
“In the gardens we now grow nearly 40 different types of produce for our chefs to use across their dishes.
“The judges seemed impressed by how we have survived the pandemic, making the best out of a bad situation whilst continuing to innovate and develop the business into one of the most unique and current venues in London.
“The award allows us to highlight our successes and reflect on the hard work and risks taken here over the past two and a half years.
“We also wish to use this prestigious award as a launchpad for more success over the upcoming months and we hope it will help to attract new faces to the barge to enjoy at least one of our many experiences.
“We look to the future with big plans in the pipeline to further expand the business and hope the award will help assist this.”
What makes Barge East so appealing to customers?
“Aside from our stunning waterside location in Hackney Wick, East London, with breath-taking views of London’s stunning skyline, Barge East has five food offerings and eight areas to book into between the restaurant and gardens.
“The produce that we use across our menus couldn’t be fresher for customers. Head Chef, Stefano Camplone, sources the finest British produce from the highest quality local suppliers while developing our garden produce seasonally all year round for our chefs to be able to pick produce fresh, while offering our customers a farm to table service.
“Our staff are one of our biggest attributes which is reflected through our ample positive reviews on TripAdvisor.
“Service is always with a smile and each member of staff embodies the ethos we have at Barge East.”
What do you see as the biggest challenge in the coming year and how will you meet it?
“The biggest challenge, not just for Barge East, but for many businesses in the hospitality sector currently is finding quality staff post-pandemic.
“Prior to this, Barge East grew into the most fantastic team of staff who all bought into the very ethos that we embody.
“Since the pandemic, however, many long standing team members have returned to Europe and neighbouring countries.
“We’re currently recruiting for various positions at Barge East, across our restaurant and gardens and as our team slowly grows again, so will our business.”
Who has had the biggest influence on you and why?
“For all of us co-founders I think it’s our fathers.
“They have remained our biggest influence, teaching us the skills required to run a business effectively and efficiently.
“No matter the position within a company, whether it’s from washing dishes, bar tending, serving customers with a smile or working behind the scenes in the back office, each role is just as important as the next to help the business achieve success.
“Our fathers taught us to work hard and respect each other.”
Winning a Catey is quite an achievement. It is testimony to the hard work and efforts of all those involved in the business. With the Newcomer Award it is also recognition that the original business concept was worthy, well thought through and well executed from the start.
Barge East is not a business model that will be easy to replicate. Much of its success is due to its unusual inner city riverside setting and the extraordinary converted barge that has become a magnet for locals and, as the word has spread, a destination for Londoners in general. Even so, they’ve built a strong business based on more than just an attractive venue. It’s vibrant, youthful and fun and the food is really very good.
So, does The Catey award have currency? In many ways it does. It provides publicity for the venue, bringing it to a wider public. It is something for the management and staff to take pride in: a pat on the back by achievers from within the industry. And, should the operators be looking for backers for a future project, it is an accolade that may well carry some weight; the people behind a Catey award-winning business.