My Neighbours The Dumplings: second restaurant to open this summer
PUBLISHED: 09:50 03 June 2019 | UPDATED: 09:50 03 June 2019
Lower Clapton restaurant My Neighbours The Dumplings are expanding. The Gazette went for a walk around the park with director Becky Wharton to talk about their second dumpling house: set to open on Victoria Park Road in mid-July.
They broke the news on Instagram, at the end of April. "So this is what stupid people look like," the post read, "two kids and two restaurants in three years!"
The messages of support soon flooded in. One reasoned "not stupid, just ambitious and driven," while another simply put "yay! Total superstars!" It's difficult to argue with either response.
First set-up by partners Kristian Leontiou and Becky Wharton in 2014, My Neighbours The Dumplings started out as a weekly pop-up held in the events room at nearby Palm 2. Now operating as a 'Dumpling House and Sake Bar', the brand has grown to become one of the more popular spots in Lower Clapton ever since.
"I am pretty proud of what we've managed to achieve," says Becky as she takes her one-year-old son, Dylan, for an afternoon stroll around Hackney Downs.
"It's a lot to do with our team. (Master Dumpling Chef) Carol has been with us since the pop-up days, and having that support has been invaluable. We've had two kids since then.
"We opened the Clapton restaurant in March 2016 and then my daughter (Matilda) was born on April 4. That was a crazy time. But we joke about how we managed to survive that intense period, and that's a pretty good, solid plan to cope with most things!"
My Neighbours The Dumplings 2.0 will feature a dedicated dumpling kitchen, visible from the street outside. It will also see a return of their former head chef Trung Nguyen - back from a year of working in San Francisco - and a slightly more creative and flexible menu.
"We want to use the new opening as an opportunity to improve the quality, (and) spend more time specifically on menu development," adds Wharton.
"There are places that open second restaurants which are a carbon copy, but we don't want to go down that route. There will be things that will be different, which I'm excited about.
"In terms of the menu, we wanted to focus more on development and moving it onwards. We want to change it - not completely - but change aspects of it every six to eight weeks."
Serving hand-rolled dumplings in a Dim Sum style of eating (ie lots of small dishes shared around a table), the original Clapton restaurant is also popular for its colourful design, charming garden and sake bar in the basement.
Juggling the upbringing of two young children and the management of two restaurants is an incredible feat, but Wharton is quick to divert praise towards her team.
GM Tom, for example, has been there for two-and-a-half years, and she is clearly excited for the return of head chef Nguyen. "There's a lot of solid support from people," she says, "who have been integral from the set-up to the running of this place."
Wharton admits that she and Leontiou could have waited for their children to grow up before expanding their brand - Dylan sits in on manager's meetings if he wakes early from his naps - but that it was too good an opportunity to turn down.
"We're always trying to evolve and improve things. It's important to never think that you're done. There's always more to do.
"So here we are. Two kids and two restaurants. We might be stupid people, but we wouldn't change it for the world!"
My Neighbours The Dumplings will open their second restaurant at 178-180 Victoria Park Road in mid-July. Keep an eye on their website for further updates.